Traditional IT is wading through a massive sea of change as companies fight to stay relevant in an age when digital disruption equates to new, higher expectations from customers.
Driving the change is the shift from slow-moving and stable legacy systems to more agile cloud computing.
Research from Trustmarque highlighted that 81 percent of CIOs believe legacy infrastructures are having a negative impact on the IT department’s productivity levels.
Yet, it continues to be commonplace at enterprises. The whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage comes into play even when the system requires intricate patching and modifications for a chance to keep up with the changing needs of a business.
So what are the real-world implications of solely operating within a legacy system?
- Unable to adapt to a changing user base or workload -- challenging to scale a company
- Poor document management -- users spend more time searching for information
- Weak reporting capability -- unable to access information when you need it
- Lack of transparency between users and departments -- data in silos often resulting in duplicate work
- Loss of data integrity due to systems unable to communicate in real-time
All of the above points tie into innovation, or lack of it. As IT complexity has increased, the number of support needs from line of business owners has also increased. This in turn keeps IT employees focused on operational tasks, like keeping the lights on, as opposed to focusing on implementation of new technologies to support digital transformation projects.
This division of tasks can be tied to Gartner elevating the need for bimodal IT, known as the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration.
But early critics, including Forrester analysts, argue the clear seperation between IT departments and roles stifles transformation. Instead what CIOs need, Forrester analysts argue, is "a single, bolder business technology (BT) strategy to accelerate innovation and simplification, not a two-class system that adds more front-end and back-end silos of complexity."
The New Enterprise IT Department
"Static is out the window, discarded in favor of agile. Infrastructure capability will meet the normal: fast, cheap, and scalable," writes Bernard Golden for CIO.com. "If the on-premise environment meets those requirements, fine. If it doesn’t, nothing in the world will persuade those consumers to stick with an inferior offering."
While cloud could now be seen as a priority, the majority of businesses are having to navigate a number of transformation projects just to implement the technology to meet their customers' needs.
But even the best tech tools can’t solve the process problem. Without a restructuring of process, "adopting containers or a framework is like dropping a bigger engine into a car with flat tires," Golden writes.
IT will need to blend and create new roles and groups if they want to make a positive change, but not without some resistance from employees. Organizational transformation is one of the most difficult tasks for leaders, "far harder than improving the performance of an existing but suboptimal organization," Golden writes.
Mike Henson, Director, Cloud and Managed Services, Trustmarque, agrees. “Many CIOs struggle to balance the need to run business IT as usual, while at the same time delivering innovative new services to demanding users," he said. "Clearly, CIOs recognize the growing need for continued innovation within their organization – but also recognize that a lack of internal resources and skills can hamper this ambition.”
Cloud Becomes a C-Suite Issue
Technology decisions once strictly managed by IT departments is moving to the hands of C-suite executives in mid-market firms, especially in cloud and analytics, according to a report by Deloitte Growth Enterprise Services.
“In the middle market, technology really has become a C-suite issue,” says Stephen Keathley, national technology leader of Deloitte Growth Enterprise Services and principal of Deloitte Consulting. “The numbers are way up for executives that are actively involved in their company’s technology decisions.”
Between May 29 and June 15, 2015, market research firm OnResearch polled 500 executives at mid-market companies on Deloitte’s behalf.
Keathley notes that a growing percentage — 33 percent, compared with 20 percent in 2014 — say leadership is “leading the charge” when it comes to the adopting nextgen technologies.
A line of business leader and C-suite's unique perspectives and understanding of a specific area of the business makes them equipped to come up with innovative solutions to keep their companies competitive.
To keep up, Keathley says, CIOs will need to adjust their focus to best support the business.
“The CIO in a middle-market company has traditionally been a sort of a curator of technology,” Keathley says. “I don’t think that’s going to be adequate anymore. I think the CIO in the middle-market is going to have to evolve and become either the chief integration officer or the chief technology portfolio officer who oversees a portfolio of different services that need to be integrated to support the business."
Changing IT’s culture to be more collaborative and to become a true business partner can’t be forced from the top-down. It requires a change in mindset and behavior across departments. Focusing on these principles will put an IT organization on a path to being a powerful transformer for business leaders.
About the Author
Nicole is Director of Marketing at Kintone, with 10+ years experience in content strategy, campaign management, lead acquisition and building positive work cultures of empowered, purpose-driven team members. She spent seven years as a journalist, previously serving as a CBS San Francisco digital producer, NPR contributor, Patagon Journal deputy editor and reporter for several publications, including the Chicago Tribune. She's passionate about the tech for good space, social entrepreneurship and women leadership. On the weekends, you’ll likely find her putting her Master Gardener skills to use in at community gardens in Oakland.