Two Speeds, One Business: Balancing Digital and Operational IT
- Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric
Business has changed, and so too must IT. Customers demand immediacy of service and greater levels of information access, employees want unprecedented flexibility and new ways of working and enterprises are no longer facing just their current competitors but a host of ‘born in the web’ start-ups.
With all these factors landing at the feet of the CIO, the IT department certainly has its work cut out. It is tasked with keeping the lights on while being agile enough to deliver projects in timeframes of days and weeks. Digital now requires the IT department to facilitate a continuous stream of innovation at a pace and agility ahead of customers’ needs in the digital age.
Enter ‘two-speed thinking’
Offering a distinction between IT and Digital priorities, this movement has revolutionised the way organisations can approach technology investment and find a new value for the customer.
CIOs are used to running the IT department at operational speed but now they are being challenged to balance their traditional IT priorities, such as stability, reliability and efficiency, with digital speed activities - enabling innovations designed to provide more compelling and cutting edge services direct to the end-consumer. CIOs don’t necessarily need to lead the charge in digital speed but they play a key role in promoting and balancing two-speed IT thinking.
Finding this balance can enable a number of new models of working.
Agile as a Culture
DevOps, is a great example, encouraging collaboration within the application building process between the previously separate software-development and IT-operations departments. The end result is an application that can be brought to market quicker, is more suited to user needs and is, therefore, a better investment for the organisation. IT departments must work as a single unit to support the innovative, revenue-generating ideas with a robust and dependable foundation.
Agile as a culture goes much further than a development methodology though – it’s about working at pace, constantly refining processes and working iteratively to bring new capabilities to the business.
One of the most effective cases of using two-speed thinking comes from a leading education business. Working with Atos, the organisation’s IT department transformed its global IT estate to better suit its employees need for agility and flexibility by providing a platform, portal and security framework that would help enable improve collaboration. All users can now interact with each other irrespective of device, location or even platform. Business units have a choice between Microsoft and Google, both of which are interoperable across calendar and IM functions. The system offers simple, seamless integration, allowing users to collaborate more easily and helping to improve team relationships and business productivity.
Previously considered as a necessary evil to underpin business operations, the Digital Revolution has placed the CIO and its IT department at the forefront of business strategy alongside the marketing function and Chief Digital Officer.
Thinking in two speeds means being proactive on two fronts. Organisations now need to consider digital and IT speed as parallel streams of activity, balancing their strategic decision-making with short-term tactical trade-offs to achieve their digital potential.
In my next blog, I’ll be looking at some of the new business models enabled by two-speed thinking…