Staying in, Winning, and Changing the Game

Lot of travel lately — Walldorf, Singapore, and Bangalore back-to-back-to-back. 

I want to pick up a thread I dropped earlier, the idea that CIOs get too caught up in this idea that they have to be “strategic.”  For too many IT shops, this approach leads to several common mistakes:

  • Losing focus on the plumbing, thereby losing credibility to take on higher-order work.
  • Misinterpreting mere business alignment with strategic IT.
  • Wasting time on so-called strategic initiatives in an industry or process where IT has little leverage.

Looking at one’s IT capability and options as a portfolio helps manage this tension between operations and innovation.  One has to build a solid, repeatable process, which is even great for rote, commoditized operations.  Process can even promote systematic alignment with on-going, incremental business operations.

Differentiating one’s business activities — e.g., enabling the CSR that can up-sell based off of your buying, offer to change your service plan to save money, etc. — requires non-process techniques to emerge the individuals and interactions required.

CIOs, CxOs, and strategy

Frank M. at PM Think had a brief post on diverging business<>IT views of the role of IT.   This reminded me of many discussions with CIOs and our SAP strategy guys about overcoming this disconnect.

My take is that this issue has been driven by a basic conflict: CIOs see themselves as strategic when many of the businesses and operations that they support don’t need much strategic IT.  They spend a lot of time visioning, while their credibility erodes because they’re not spending enough time executing.

So we see headlines like CEO, CFO set different CIO agendas, The Slow Painful Death of Strategic IT, and my personal favorite: Happy CEOs delusional about CIO performance.

I’ll post about two models that I think are useful way to think about IT strategy: the Forrester IT archetypes and the McKinsey differentiated IT model.  (NOTE: The Forrester link requires you a subscription to download — the article is outlined here.)


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