In many Chief Information Officer (CIO) organizations, there is a perception by customers that CIO capabilities can be very limited. In these types of environments, information technology (IT) is viewed more as a cost than a strategic investment. In these cases, customers may only work with the CIO organization for network issues of email problems. To the customer, the CIO may meet their expectations in dealer with an issue, but falls short in providing continuous strategic value. However, the modern CIO can take a lead role in changing that limited perception, moving the organization toward fully leveraging IT to provide real strategic value to the enterprise.
For the last 15 years, I have focused on identifying and building new solutions that solve unique problems for public and private sector organizations. In that time, I have come across many obstacles causes gaps and finger-pointing between business and IT teams. Many of these gaps have delayed or impeded progress, thus causing quite a bit of pain for team members, stakeholders, executives and even customers as progress isn’t being made on the tasks at hand. Below I outline the six reasons I believe are the top contributors to the ever growing gap between business operations and IT that are possibly holding back you and your company’s digital transformation goals.
1. Conflicting Objectives and Strategies
In most large organizations, IT and other company business groups evolve in separate but necessary directions in order to accomplish what that division is tasked to. The IT group focuses more on the basic IT hierarchy as it relates to the needs on the overall business (network, security, email, hardware, software, back and front office, etc.). Business groups evolve to solve the needs the customers (marketing, products, services ¬– e.g. consumer value). Based on this simple description, it would seem that both groups work together in a sort of layered or tiered model, with IT supporting the business and business supporting the customers. In reality, this is usually not the case. What you often find are silos where everyone is working on their own projects with little collaboration with other groups.
Business teams normally look for an opportunity in the market to increase revenue, decrease costs, or improve performance. This can take the form of a new or improved product or service. It can take the form of automating previously manual processes, or it could simply be to phase out redundant or legacy solutions.
IT teams normally look to balance IT stability with incremental improvements to their tech stack. This is where the divergence rears its ugly head and we begin to hear rumblings about IT holding the business back from its digital dreams. This stability is necessary in a functioning organization and without it there would be chaos and constant executive escalations.
2. Different Priorities
Business and IT inherently have different priorities given their perspective with the organization. IT’s basic function is tech stability whereas the business is focused on bringing new revenue and even disrupting current tech to make way for innovative ways to serve customers. This is where we typically see conflicts with the organization with finger-pointing on failed or delayed initiatives (“IT is holding us back” or “the business needs to understand this IT program is a critical initiative”). So how do we bridge the divide with not only different, but also conflicting priorities?
This is where strong digital project managers (PMs) can provide the most value as they have the deep technical experience and strong understanding of the needs of the business come in handy. Digital PMs are able to accomplish this through hands-on working sessions using the “post-it note” process to digital portfolio reviews that include stakeholders from both the business and IT to ensure priorities are aligned. There are many are tools that are available to digital transformation teams to bridge the gap which I plan to discuss in future posts.
3. Different Definitions of Measurement
Having spent a number of years in IT before moving on to management consulting and digital marketing of enterprise retail, I understand that different groups across an organization will define and measure success based on their own objectives within the organization. The IT team normally measure success in terms of the technology (uptime, page speed, bps) or project implementation (time, budget, scope). The business teams attempt to measure success in terms of business drivers cost reduction, revenue, leads, and profit. However, when IT and business groups come together to achieve a common goal such as digital transformation, their needs to be common criteria to define and measure success. From cloud migration to API implementation, success lies in the initial rounds of communication can ensure that end goals and KPIs are met.
In order to achieve communication success, the best approach is to properly onboard all necessary teams to the project so that they understand the business drivers of the project and can define IT metrics that can be tracked and support the overall initiative. For example, if the business driver is to increase customer account registrations by 50 percent over the next six months, IT would be expected to deliver a solution that removes a friction to the sign-up process (showing an increase in sign-up completions) and has been deployed to production (well before six months). Too often we see IT teams come to the table with a solution that takes six to nine months for implementation and is not focused on the business value (increased sign-ups in this example). By using an onboarding approach, both business and IT can have alignment on what is important (KPIs related to what should be tracked and measured).
4. Lack of Customer Understanding
Have you ever filled out an online survey or given feedback on the user experience on a website? If so, there is a very high probability that your feedback was presented to a few stakeholders in marketing, but never made it past that single presentation. When the planning for the next redesign or product iteration begins, all of that valuable customer feedback is either forgotten or deprioritized in favor of other stakeholder requests (executives, senior managers, and more). What is needed to solve this problem is a simple process to ensure that customer feedback flows into the release planning for the future enhancements. If these are paying customers, then their feedback should get pushed to the top of the list at least for a proper review.
5. Too Many Silos and “Fiefdoms”
Maybe it is my background of working with the military and law enforcement throughout my career, but I found myself accustomed to always have a senior officer, commander, or even civilian manager that could resolve disputes between two different but equal groups. In the private sector, this is a luxury that I sometimes miss dearly. The many siloed organizations; the fiefdoms that spring up to protect a manager or executive’s personal priorities are the very obstacles that block true digital transformation as these fiefdoms fight progress for the whole in favor of the status quo for the few. Until these silos are knocked down, true progress cannot be made to bring an organization into a digital 21st century. In many cases, the only option is to spin out a “tiger team” that is completely separate from the larger organization to is then capable of delivering the true promise of digital transformation.
6. Access to Data and Services via Simple/Easy-to-Use APIs
In looking at the success digital and tech projects that I have led and been at part of throughout my career, I can see a common thread across all of them: access to data via easy, simple APIs. This allowed our teams to quickly prototype ideas throwing out the bad and keeping what works for continual improvement. The APIs were available with simple web-based documentation, there was no need to set up a project to access the API, and there were no “gatekeepers” exercising an API tax (this is more common in larger organizations and one of the main causes of failed integration projects).
There are quite a few API solutions that are available that make this digital transition APIs to easier. But first there needs to be a top-down directive that all data within the organization will be accessible via API and there will be no “walled gardens” or project “taxes” to access these APIs. Amazon took this approach in the early 2000’s and we see the results. I am ended this post on this topic and the outline of the Jeff Bezos’ directive because I believe this is most critical point to digital success:
All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
There will be no other form of inter-process communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
It doesn’t matter what technology they use.
All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.
I will borrow one final bullet to this list from Steve Yegge’s Google Platform Rant that I believe is critical for anyone that reads this post, works in an organization that has not begun it’s digital transformation (or in the midst of transformation), and does not feel a sense of urgency:
I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the
closer we get to being Too Late.
Let me start by stating that I am a gun-owner and I believe in the right to bear arms. As a management consultant and digital technologist, I have developed a reputation for solving complex problems for public and private organizations. One of first things I look to do before diving into problem-solving mode is to identify and remove any obstacles that may block progress to finding a solution. I see this topic as an obstacle to solving real problems in this country and why I felt the need to write on this subject.
Every election cycle, we frequently hear conservative politicians, interest groups, and the media repeat the same line in every election cycle, liberal politicians will abolish the 2nd Amendment and only conservative politicians will protect the 2nd Amendment. This simplistic line is the one of the most predatory and insidious disinformation campaigns to ever be used on the public and is never combated effectively or explained to the uninformed citizen and voter. My goal with this post is twofold: 1) to explain how the U.S. Constitution is amended; and 2) to discuss why the 2nd Amendment will never be abolished in the U.S. As you will see, the U.S. President CANNOT:
- Abolish amendments via executive order
- Propose an amendment
- Vote on amendments.
The U.S. Constitution was created by the Founders to be extremely difficult to amend and change by future generations. Article 5 outlines the 2-step process to amend the Constitution: proposal and ratification.
Proposing an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The first option to amend the Constitution is that U.S. Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) can propose an amendment with a two-thirds majority vote. This is how all existing amendments have been proposed. Given the current politics in 2016, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that this would happen. The GOP has a majority in the House and Senate, so it is extremely unlikely that the Republican-run Congress will propose and amendment to abolish the 2nd Amendment.
The second option to amend the Constitution is that two-thirds of the states can call on Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention. With 44% of U.S. states having gun ownership rates of between 43% and 63%, this route to propose the abolishment of the 2nd Amendment is also extremely unlikely.
Throw in the fact that the NRA has given close to $22.5 million to politicians since 1990 and you can only come to the conclusion that abolishing the 2nd Amendment will never happen (at least in our life times). However, let’s play devil’s advocate and assume that by some stroke of chance, either Congress or the States manage to propose the amendment, the next step is Ratification.
Ratifying an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Once an amendment is ready to be ratified, how it was proposed (Congress or the States) doesn’t really matter; ratification can only be done through the States via one of two options: 1) three-fourths of states must approve the amendment via their state legislatures; OR 2) three-fourths of states must approve the amendment via ratifying convention.
Again, we are back to the reality mentioned above that 44% of U.S. states have gun ownership rates of between 43% and 63%, so there an almost zero chance that any amendment that comes close to abolishing the 2nd Amendment would ever be ratified by three-fourths of U.S. States. Not to mention that the 18th Amendment puts a time limit of seven years for states to ratify an amendment.
As you can see, the processes put in place by the Founders ensure the Constitution cannot be changed by the whims of a simple majority or current events. Not even a President has the power to take away your right to bear arms or any other rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
So the next time you hear a politician or talking head making claims about an opponent taking away your guns, just know that:
- They are LYING to you;
- They have NO CLUE what they are talking about;
- They want your VOTE; or
- They want your MONEY.
In closing just remember, no matter who is elected President, YOUR RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS WILL ALWAYS BE SAFE IN THE U.S.A.!
Daniel is a digital consultant specializing in IT advisory on technology strategy, investment, and implementation. He helps companies solve complex and strategic problems across multiple industries and domains. His drive to find solutions for clients and attain personal growth for himself are what keeps him at the forefront of innovation and helps him guide teams and organizations to cultivate amazing products and services. Given his thought leadership, engineering experience, innate ability to build relationships, and cultural interests, it’s not surprising that Daniel has been described as having “the mind of an engineer and the soul of an artist.”
Currently, Daniel oversees the Toyota Motors North America account for Beyondsoft Consulting. As Account Director, he identifies opportunities for new products, investments, and acquisitions in cloud, digital marketing, big data, and analytics. As a thought leader, he provides executives with strategy recommendations and effective solutions to core technology problems.
Most people think of Enterprise 2.0 of Enterprise Collaboration as a particular set of technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and profiles. Others describe it as simply the ability to share information or knowledge within the enterprise. However, these definitions are inadequate–Enterprise 2.0 is the ability to leverage business and IT strategy together to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of technology initiatives. Therefore, to establish Enterprise 2.0 means organizations must choose and measure IT projects on the basis of three criteria: 1) does it increase revenue, 2) does it cut costs, and/or 3) does it increase performance. Enterprise 2.0 is not simply a series of technology tools, but a transformation of the enterprise mindset to build strategy to address business requirements that realize cost savings, performance improvement and if possible, new innovative sources of revenue.