How I.T. has you hooked on all the wrong things

This is a bold statement and I’m sure you will immediately deny it. However, how else can you explain your acceptance of the ongoing failures of your IT department to meet not only the needs of your people and your clients, but the pace of change, and advancements in technology itself?

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say a large consultancy has suggested that the lack of ability IT has to deliver is due to the fact that your Target Operating Model (TOM) is out of step with the business.

They are not completely wrong, but their suggestions will translate into you spending vast sums of money without seeing any major changes or reaping any benefits. They are trying to convince you that what you need yet again, is IT transformation. They may latch on to the latest buzzword and call it ‘digital transformation’, but no matter how they sugar the pill, what they are selling you is a repetitive, redundant and expensive cycle, perpetrated by consultants, the industry and your own IT department.

The first stage will be an expensive yet spurious requirements exercise which will identify the blueprint for your next TOM. Although aligning your TOM to the business sounds like a sensible plan, it isn’t. In fact you have now defined a set of requirements based on where you are as a business at a particular moment in time. Between the consultants, your IT department and your procurement team, the next step will be to spend a minimum of nine months going to market for a partner to deliver your new TOM.

You would assume they know what they are doing, but history suggests otherwise. The IT and procurement teams will ignore the obvious — that this path is sheer lunacy. After all, why on earth would you design a static TOM that by time of implementation is at least 18 months out of step with your business, your people and your clients? And that’s as good as it gets.

Remember, that when IT transformation is not aligned to the business’ goals, it will fail to deliver on its promises, and the company will be lumbered with technology that is nearly obsolete by the time it has been rolled out. Even worse, your organisation will be locked into a cumbersome, ill-defined contract that stifles innovation, and holds the business hostage to requirements it defined over a year before.

Regardless, your IT and procurement departments will happily sign this five, seven or 10 year contract with extension clauses that lock you into this archaic approach. This is guaranteed to see the same cycle repeating itself at some time during the contract period, and so begins again the cycle of pain and disruption, and the end result is your business ends up no closer to being aligned to technology in order to stay ahead of the game.

The problem grows, as over the years complacency sets in, and you become accustomed to the idea that IT is, and always will be, out of step with the business. Your IT guys will insist it’s far more complex than it is, and say that you won’t understand what is involved. They will bandy about terms such as compliance, security, legacy and throw in a few obscure acronyms for good measure, until you accept the path of least resistance. This is why you are setting your business up to fail, and fail hard.

And you might think it’s not too bad, because if you are in this position, chances are your competitors are too, and some might well be. However, new and hungry players in the market are most certainly not. These disruptors are forcing well-established organisations to change the way they all do business. And your older, established competitors are listening, and are waking up to the fact that they can’t keep up unless they adopt a totally different approach too.

Even today’s largest and most successful businesses are sick of large, costly and disruptive technology changes, that never deliver the benefits they promise. They jump on the bandwagon with little to no understanding of what they are really trying to achieve, and how these changes should work to transform the business.

Now for the good news. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a new, proven, referenceable approach to aligning technology to your business.

The first step is firing anyone who is trying to convince you that what you need is a TOM. After that, speak to a partner that champions an agile, iterative approach to transformation. A partner who will force you to co-create with your staff an aspirational and challenging vision. A partner that focuses on user needs and knowledge transfer, so that changes become embedded. You may think it will be too costly or complex. It won’t. And it will be aligned to you as a business, your people, your clients and the ever changing pace of technology. You have two choices here, keep on setting yourself up for failure and risk being left behind, or end the vicious cycle of expensive transformation you find yourself trapped in and embrace the huge potential of technology.