Technology Leaders Discuss Roles & Expectations in the IT Department

[fa icon="user"] Patrick Emmons [fa icon="calendar"]  Oct 13, 2015 9:50:37 AM

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On September 30, 2015, a group of CIOs and technology experts gathered as part of the TEC Chicago “Agile Development & Business Process Management” Roundtable Group to discuss some of the roles and expectations of IT today.

This event was hosted by Patrick Emmons, President of DragonSpears, and moderated by Oliver Gorman, Principal of Digital Innovation at Underwriter Laboratories. The technology leaders met to discuss issues around the topic of Innovation, Agility & Strategy.

The main questions addressed during this discussion were:

  • What is the role of the IT Department…and what should it be?
  • How can IT leaders move from support to an innovation role?
  • What needs must be met in order for Agile to be successful?

What is the role of the IT Department…and what should it be?

According to the participants, the role of the IT department is expanding rapidly though perception has not caught up to reality. Organizational leaders need to get ahead of this change or IT will be relegated to an (even more) underfunded, reactive role. Sadly, participants posed that IT is often subject to the “85% rule,” meaning that 85% of the IT budget is spent on support, rather than on innovation or strategy.

While IT wants a ‘seat at the table,’ its role has not historically been seen as that of innovator or business strategist. One participant said,

“So many industries think that the IT leader is just there to make sure the network is running smoothly, buy software, and support it.”

According to the group, a growing trend is of IT becoming more like consulting organizations and “…involving people with non-traditional IT backgrounds and putting them in roles where they understand more about what the business is all about.” Consequently, one participant posed a very insightful question: “Do you want to spend money to train developers on business processes?” The realistic conclusion is that IT can no longer be isolated from the overall business objectives.

How can IT leaders move from support to an innovation role?

Can IT really function as one or the other, or must the role be more all-encompassing? The key issue was summed up by one business CIO: “Innovation means nothing if you do not have the basics covered.” And there you have it; IT must wear both hats. But can they do this, and if so, how?

There was agreement by the group that identifying the 85% (of budget spent on IT support), dividing this between core and non-core needs, and peeling off budget and time to drive innovation was the way to at least structure the problem, and begin to identify and move toward a better state. The concept of Bi-Modal IT, as defined by Gartner, “is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery - one focused on stability and the other on agility.” The group predicted that this was the direction IT would be headed in order to accomplish both functions.

What needs must be met in order for Agile to be successful?

Some of the roundtable members focused on issues including the lack of leadership collaboration toward a solution or their inability to realize it is a business problem, not solely a technology problem. A few others focused on how to help shorten the development timeline, mentioning steps such as: “Get rid of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality” and “create multi-functional teams combining the business and technology initiative under one budget and one leader.”

The role of IT is multi-faceted and, as the group discussed, their struggle involves:

  • combating antiquated perceptions about what their role entails
  • obtaining the time and budget to influence strategy and innovation
  • ensuring that stability is maintained while spending time on innovation

+ The notes from this workshop are available upon request by contacting Patrick Emmons at DragonSpears.

+ The next TEC Chicago “Agile Development & Business Process Management” Roundtable Group will be hosted at 120 S. Riverside Plaza Suite 1450 Chicago IL 60606 on December 9, 2015. To register, click here.


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