Corporate I.T is the business

Corporate IT has become a cost conscious department over the years. I guess it always has been, but more so of late. IT aims to run itself like a business. Nothing wrong with that I say, but in reality if IT departments were businesses they would be unsuccessful and out of business.

So what is lacking? The fundamental basics, that’s what. There are lots we can learn from common sense and embracing the change that we in IT have been building for many years. When thinking of any business structure the following come to mind.

Branding– Over the years in IT, I’ve come to realise that IT people love to personalise their products, this is certainly true of internal systems. The lack of imagination in naming conventions bugs me sometimes, and the consequences are sometimes costly. Within the IT infrastructure of a corporate there are organisational branding of servers, networks, directories etc, as IT aim to build environments that are familiar and makes sense to them. Potential logic there, for administration and management, however the organisation may experience a merger or acquisition that demands a re-brand and therefore re-engineering of some of the most complex of infrastructure.

Branding is a marketing term and in IT we seem to ignore this and refuse to see the link between Marketing and IT. Marketing and IT are no longer worlds apart. Externally facing or internally facing IT systems must be aware of the market and the evolution of that market and product.

Strategy– Analysing the industry internally and externally provides a methods to constantly know where your products are and where they need to be heading for the next release. For example, Email systems were small isolated systems that grew into enterprise and global productivity tools within an organisation. As they grew the use cases changed and within each industry they became mission critical as part of the business. I tend to classify mission critical as a product or service that the business cannot function without. Many IT departments failed to understand the changing requirements in the user base and continued to run email as sideline rather than a core service, until their customers began leaving for free, ubiquitous services such as Hotmail, Gmail etc. The corporate IT departments have this competition throughout and cannot continue to justify their existence without marketing their services and certainly their value to the end user and of course competing with the external services.

Target Market – Within an organisation the target audience is looked upon as static or as static as the organisation is. IT meanwhile are usually geographically located away from the target market. The collaboration between the end users and the IT departments is almost non existence and furthermore creates a divide within the same organisation. For IT to understand the business goals at all levels effective management must be in place to provide this communication at all levels. Providing clear escalation paths and contacts between the business and IT is critical to understanding the needs of the customers.

Product Lifecycle-Many IT systems are evolved within an organisation based on the product lifecycle determined by the vendor. In house developed applications evolve in an ad-hoc fashion and are rarely superseded by something that provides new opportunities rather than additional functionality.

Cost– Cost cutting strategies have always been an annual event within IT, but rarely do the proposed ROI figures get proved throughout the product or project lifecycle. Ensuring that tangible savings are made or the proposed increase in revenues is gained is critical to gathering investor’s attention. It’s all about the track record of effectiveness and the ability to deliver proposed value. Fat too many times we concentrate on cost cutting and tend to develop loss-making projects that are complex and ineffective. When putting together a proposal for a new product or additional spend on an existing product it is important to understand the business level strategy. Look at meeting one of four objectives: Does the proposal:
1) Save Money?
2) Make Money?
3) Reduce Risk?
4) Regulatory Requirement?

Communication– Communication within an organisation is easy nowadays. We are now not just talking about 2.0 technologies we are actually using them. Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 is about communication and collaboration within communities. These communities have always existed within the organisation but they tend to be dispersed and therefore duplicated and as a result create competition within an organisation. Parts of the business are unaware that a technology exists that can help them perform tasks faster or easily and therefore employ consultants and developers to create a new product for them rather then investigate if it already exists. Communication is two way and requires both IT and the business to talk more often.

With the increase usage of internal blogs and wikis this helps, but far too often the majority perceive this as information overload and at this stage communication become ineffective. Getting the right information to the right people is target marketing and providing a platform where you can not only subscribe to the information you want you need to be able to search for the information you don’t know you want.

With more and more corporate services being created and offered externally, the competition is fierce and the Enterprise IT needs leadership that can inject the right business skills into it and work together to benefit the organisation and not just IT.

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