When I entered the IT world circa 1982, IT leaders were like “high priests” with almost total control over what technology got purchased and deployed. They had only to keep the lights on (actually not always that easy in those days) and serve the limited needs of the enterprise, chiefly transactional and financial applications. IT spending for most companies was relatively small, and governance was simple–the relatively few business stakeholders told IT what they needed, and IT delivered (or at least tried to).
Life was good. Then came PCs and 4GLs. Then LANs and WANs, Then the Internet and Web. And most recently, mobile devices, tablets, and Big Data. Life got more complex and the relationships between technology and business executives got way more complicated, yet in many companies, the process for deciding what technology initiatives get the go ahead is somewhat the same as it was in “the old days.”
In today’s world technology is not just a foundational element to a company’s business operations. It is (or better be) a key element in the company’s business strategies and operations. Almost all aspects of a business fundamentally depend on technology. And increasingly. customer touch points are manned by machines, not people. So, it is a bit surprising that, in many companies, technology strategies are a byproduct of business strategies, rather than a driver.
The problem with that approach is that by the time business units formulate their strategies, articulate that to the IT or product development folks, who then develop their plans which ultimately become projects, the whole world has changed. That sort of bucket brigade approach to planning is too slow, and it also misses a big opportunity–that of technology playing a transformational role in business strategy. I’ve previously written about technology as a business enabler versus as a transformational agent and I continue to believe that the latter is where the “bang for the buck” is.
So how does a business go about creating a more dynamic approach to business and technology strategy “co-development?” I think one big step would be to create a sort of “uber process” that sits above traditional project vetting and portfolio management that is based on agile principles of iterations, continuous testing and refinement, and time boxing, with shared ownership by technology and business leaders. Enterprise vision and mission (also subject to periodic testing and refinement) serve as the framework, and the planning process is a forum for continually raising new ideas and opportunities, testing and vetting them, and deciding which ones become projectized. Let me know what you think.