Strategic IT and you

Often at vendor meets I am told that corporate IT has to be a facilitator and an enabler for business and people ought to be able to use the technologies at our control and provide the best return on value and quickened decision making. The unsaid implication that corporate IT today is not. And corporate IT is a function of the geographical culture that operates the head quarters of that organization. American corporate IT operates with paranoia driving all decision making and best practice behavior. Europeans are free and far between with regulations and controls and believe in open systems and standards that are far better aligned towards serving as enablers and foster innovation and thinking out of the box. And not unlike geography and culture apart, there is also the industry that companies serve as part of their businesses that makes a huge difference in the way they perceive and approach corporate IT as a component of the firm’s business plans and processes. For a lot of manufacturers and product organizations, key but non core activities like manufacturing etc are totally outsourced to meet specifics of design and manufacturing standards. Non key and non core processes like Information Technology systems and management is usually haphazardly outsourced and there are usually no cogent strategic plan or outlook that when they put things together for the first time.

The strategic players who see in Information Technologies sustained competitive advantage work towards ensuring that this tool of management is used in the best possible way to derive the highest possible returns on the capital employed. It is all in the strategic bent of mind, a desire to make the investment actually pay instead of becoming a build out a scope of crawl where you have the technology and you have the means yet you have messed up in the implementation in such a way as to make the entire build out, the spend become a waste. To buy and invest and implement technology and business initiatives based out of technology it is necessary that the scope of what is being proposed and what is being expected are scoped out and aligned. Management and stake holders need to be today really clear about whey they are doing this and in simple terms what the value will be – what will be any advantage that they will drive out of it and how will it progress, next steps – what will be the scope of this technology things build out as it gets along? Today technology offers a very unique spot in the buying cycle – called he refresh – that one time in the technology and purchase life cycle where you need to accept what you have may be a fair lot woebegone and needs to be refreshed, bought anew and you throw the old stuff out of if you are any good you recycle and then get along with buying the new stuff. Manufacturers and tech vendors look at these ‘recycle’ the way TV and brown goods manufacturers that wait for festival weeks and months to sell their stuff in larger numbers than usual! Like at the festival times vendors try to build a lot of faux excitement around these events like it were Christmas! Some of the excitement catches on and a lot of people get into the evaluation mode and sales develop.

 

Buyers and customers understand or have been made to believe that refreshing or getting new stuff and doing
platform changes and a move up on the technology scale and more expenditure is a good thing. You get new laptops and gear and stuff and there are buying, vendors sales people spend on entertainment and social events to get a lot of people drunk and well fed. The long term validity and effectiveness of all this technology has been debated and naysayer academician like Nick Carr have gone out and agreed to what may seem like a counter intuitive concept but that there is no benefit and spend on IT gives no greater advantage than any thing else! But the economy being what it is – we need companies and enterprises to spend some of the money that they made so that the economy chugs alone fine, we need spending and we need production and we need to keep that fine engine running. Apple does not just make all the newer version and newer technology and shinier stuff and more bells and whistles just because they want to make more money, some of it is also so that you get newer and shinier stuff and get into the whole continued upgrade and long sustainable and ever lasting and replenish able deferred revenue stream. Giving the long term trajectory of the entire exercise it is very necessary that the buyers approach with a caveat in mind and attempt to derive total and more value from their purchase at a level that they can make this last longer if need be and thus defer the next renewal cycle a bit and thus somehow make the investment pay for itself without draining more resources and costing more to run than what was needed and could be sustained. It is a good place to be but not yet easy to reach. Most companies buy their IT in a knee jerk manner, they have to play catch up even if not out there against anyone but at least in their heads. To derive value since they are afraid that their may not gave to start of anything a value proposition at all they need to also but this cheaper than anything else. Trying to drive the prices down is a good strategy when everything is standardized but works less effective when it has to be bespoke – made to order and IT can never be a one size fits all as people do have common areas of what kind of problems they may have but the solutions always vary as per where the problems are. There are multiple thoughts and processes and multiple aspects that need be aligned and it is never an easy tackle and often compromises creep in and thus sow the seeds of this systems inevitable failure and blame cycle. What is needed at the very first step of the process is a clear and concise statement of purpose and what is that needs be achieved and what are the bare minimum standards and deliverables that will be provided as a result of this system rollout and adoption. If we know where we have to go as the purpose statement would provide us, we have a better chance of figuring out a way of getting there in the most optimal method. From this we move to the next logical step and figure out what this is going to cost and who the stakeholders are and who will be now responsible or own the process to get it to completion! Once we have the resources identified and allocated we need next a few small incremental steps and goals that we must be very certain to reach. We need to have a certain service level acceptance – a measure of how much service level deterioration is the last and final number in the scale that we have in place and is unacceptable. Enterprise IT and its strategic benefit can only happen when the services are available, just thinking them up and then implementing them aren’t the only measures of successful deployment and this is why setting a benchmark that you will reach is very critical to make the
project outlay deliver true strategic value.

 

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About Soumya
A technology enthusiast, forever enamored by all that it hath wrought and of course here is an attempt at making sense of it all and perhaps simplifying it!

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