The IT Imperative – Making effective use of IT always brings complex challenges and changes to organisations, but now there are not only growing numbers of options available from technology, but also increasing commercial demands and constraints on the business. Ensuring that IT explicitly meets business needs has never been more important.
There are many items adding to the stress levels of IT projects, and most of them have little to do with the technology itself.
Far more pressing are the constraints on skills and resources, and the difficulty in articulating and linking the IT challenge to the requirements of the business.
These, coupled with any internal politics can often undermine the control necessary to drive projects through to successful completion.
Technology – Rapid innovation opens up opportunities, but also challenges as change impacts longer-term investment decisions. New technologies have dramatic impacts on the way everyone works, heaping further pressure on other projects. Increasing volumes, velocity and variety of information can create opportunities for new business insight, but often result in a sea of unstructured and unmanageable data.
Skills – Recruiting, developing and holding on to those with the right skills is a growing burden. Specialists fear being left behind in short-lived disciplines and move to ensure their talent is best rewarded. Generalists add bulk to the budget, but can often be overwhelmed by the need for detailed expertise as projects become more complex. Balancing a workforce that can deliver in unpredictable market and technology change conditions has become much harder.
Business link – Cost control is always in the IT remit, but becomes more significant when projects struggle to gain or hold support from the business. In many work places, IT and the business become entrenched in silos, where a lack of common values and communications leads to a breakdown in understanding. Both need to recognise the direct link between IT investment and the consequent value brought to the business.
Resources – Budgets have always been tight, but all organisations are being expected to do more with less. IT is typically consumed by the fire-fighting task of keeping everything working, while at the same time facing demands for radical changes to meet new business requirements and the churn of legacy technologies. Justifying where resources will be deployed has become much more critical to survival.
Control – The constant power struggle within organisations means that IT is often seen as simply a service provider. If its control over business outcomes slips away, IT is in danger of being side-lined with consequent loss of influence and ultimately budget and jobs. To keep control, IT has to demonstrate its business value clearly and explicitly.
External influences – Security and privacy demands, along with increasingly onerous legislation make it even more important to have solid procedures and good standards of governance. For many in IT this is the most daunting challenge they have faced.