Back to basics: Why do enterprises need IT value creation now more than ever?

The answer to this question might seem obvious, but it is important to start the discussion here. All enterprises need IT because businesses are experiencing a digital disruption; they are all focusing on innovation, transformation, and the automation and digitalization of business processes. Therefore, IT has become the strategic asset that is meant to leverage business capabilities and enable them through various technological initiatives and projects.

The responsibility of IT

With that being said, there’s no need to stress out how critical it is for IT to succeed on its mission of providing value to the main customer they are serving – the business. If the IT strategy fails, the business most likely will fail. In other words, IT executives are now co-responsible for what only business areas used to be responsible.

In order for IT to be successful in its role of meeting business and customers’ changing requirements, and maintaining stable operations, yet leaving room (and budget!) for innovation – and considering the time, resource and budget constraints that are always present – executives need to define an IT strategic roadmap that leads to business success.

The challenge for IT will keep growing

Trends indicate that IT will continue growing on accountability on business success, and many IT managers fear that the IT areas currently do not have the maturity, capabilities or skills required to hold such a responsibility. Therefore, they are looking for new options that help them increase the chances of success through the development and enhancement of skills and internal capabilities. Cultural movements such as DevOps or Lean IT are taking over and are promising more mature and collaborative IT departments that will meet the goals and expectations of their relevant enterprises, but is that the correct approach? Or is that enough for meeting the need for business value creation?

Other more well-known frameworks such as ITIL emphasize the importance of having BRM (Business Relationship Management) processes in place to understand business needs and take the requirements to the development teams in order to come up with services that fulfill the customers’ needs—supported by other agile frameworks such as SCRUM or PRINCE2 to meet the need of being more dynamic and delivering outcomes faster.

But with all these available options for “improving” IT (which for many people means “complicating” IT), it seems hard to define what the priorities for IT executives should be, especially given the aforementioned constraints. Then the question is: What are the next steps that IT should follow? What should be the roadmap for the future that is already happening? Should we go with the trends and do what everybody else is doing? What should we do first?

Bottom-down vs Top-down approach

A common mistake that has been observed in the intent of IT organizations trying to adopt the newest frameworks, is that they first adopt generally-accepted and good practices (go with the flow), and then they try to find out and demonstrate what the benefit for the business from these initiatives is. Many IT initiatives depend on the benefits the IT department itself perceives from each one; rather, it must be the business value needs that determine the initiatives that IT should undertake.

So the ultimate recommendation is: Focus first on defining, in collaboration with the business, what the business (yes, business, not IT) objectives are, based on the value that the business is pursuing for the end customer, and then take those requirements down to IT, and identify first the services that will support the value creation for the business, and then identify the processes that will underpin these services. Then, study your IT organization and identify the gaps in knowledge, capabilities and skills, and decide on which frameworks will give you the highest value; and the most important thing, have a plan for business value creation built in collaboration with the business’ stakeholders as the main guideline for all your IT initiatives, since this will make your IT department more successful, through ensuring that everything you do in IT actually delivers some value to the business.

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