Towards the end of the year, McKinsey releases its global survey on IT. In these surveys, they ask “executives across all functions, industries, and regions about their companies’ use of, expectations for, and spending on IT.” It’ll be interesting to see this year’s focus given how the big three new technology paradigms—mobility, cloud, and big data – are dominating IT mindshare.
Top of the list last year was the need for IT to continue improving both the effectiveness and efficiency of business processes, keeping a lid on costs while simultaneously serving up more information for decision making—unsurprisingly mundane tasks. However, we need to keep the lights on even while exploring the promises of the big three, which makes it challenging for CIOs to keep staff happy when they’re chomping at the bit to get involved in one of these new and exciting projects.
Of course, this is nothing new. The past two decades have given us client-server, the Internet, and Web 2.0. The difference now is we have three big revolutions in how we use and deliver information—all at the same time!
These are exciting times to be working in IT, so why wouldn’t CIOs want to jump on the bandwagon? But, these aren’t minor activities. The new paradigms are significant strategic undertakings. Not done right, organizations could face some significant business disruption and unplanned costs. We’ve seen this over and again with IT project costs spiraling out of control (see “IT Costs Are Going Up”)
So while these new platforms offer great potential in terms of innovation and growth—and plenty of compelling arguments for adopting them—they come hand in hand with several risks: big expenditure, high expectations, and high risk of failure due to the high stakes. How do you mitigate this risk? With a sound strategy and a strong focus on execution.
It sounds like a cliché, I know—but let’s consider what’s involved with cloud computing alone. Migrating applications to the cloud isn’t just about reducing costs (and switching from capital to the operational expenditures that CFOs like). It also includes outsourcing operations. The more CIOs can do this, the more time they have to focus on strategy and innovations—two topics that CIOs are most keen to spend more time on according to other surveys (2012 State of the CIO survey, CIO Magazine 2012).
But that’s not all. Migrating applications to the cloud isn’t a trivial matter. There are many considerations: access, data security, availability, system response, and cost. These strategic implications require some kind of project management tool—one that links this initiative to KPIs and objectives. Think performance management.
According to the McKinsey study, business executives continually ask IT to create more value by enabling business processes with technology. Having a well-defined process (see “A Case for Introducing Value Management in Your Organization”) that starts with a credible business case, backed up with sound key performance indicators and initiatives that hold both IT and business leaders accountable, will help ensure both groups get their needs met. The foundation of any major technology project needs to be solid performance management; otherwise, it’s reasonable to expect shaky results—which is, of course, unreasonable.