IT World Canada’s Executive Development Series, brought to you by IBM provided a “studious” perspective on the multi-faceted issues of IT leadership.
The series features the views and insights of professors from the University of Waterloo’s Department of Management Sciences who, through an ongoing series of features authored by IT World Canada editor Greg Enright, discuss eight topical issues. The series provides a unique perspective and brings a fresh approach to strategic IT issues.
The entire series is available at: http://www.itworldcanada.com/leadership
Here’s a synopsis of the stories that were featured.
IT and Business Alignment
IT is increasingly being called upon to steer strategic thinking. Aligning IT with the needs and requirements larger business has become one of this decade’s most pressing — and daunting — challenges for organizations of all sizes. Professor Rod McNaughton, Eyton Chair in Entrepreneurship, says the primary role of IT departments has moved well beyond that of merely providing internal support services to businesses. Today, it’s all about IT professionals able to see opportunities for great new customer services, he says. “The issue is about how IT starts to transform the organization and the way business models work.” – Rod McNaughton
The next breed of IT managers and executives are being educated in both IT and management skills. Likewise, many companies are realigning to create a more fluid connection between all aspects of business and IT, recognizing the importance and need to synergize and not allow IT to work in isolation.
“The issue is about how IT starts to transform the organization and the way business models work, as opposed to simply making something cheaper or faster or more efficient,” McNaughton says.
Change is never a comfortable or easy thing. Modern corporations face many more obstacles — and opportunities — that foist change upon them. Managing the deployment of new technologies that allows companies to achieve greater efficiency and competitiveness, and also take full advantage of new business opportunities presents many IT departments with a paradox. Deploying them, educating users about them, and ensuring these run effectively creates more and more responsibility for already overburdened IT professionals in business. But it’s also an opportunity for IT departments to move further into the waters of business success and be a more relevant and strategic part of the company.
But change isn’t just about the impact of new applications and IT-enabled business functions. In an ever-consolidating world, the merging and acquiring of companies sees individual IT department joining ranks to become larger wholes. Successfully blending disparate people and organizational traditions into an ultimately changed new and cooperative culture may be the greatest of all change management challenges.
It’s become an increasingly difficult “art” for IT professionals to bring in projects on time and on budget. It’s an already big problem that’s only getting bigger.
Professor Peter Carr says the need for more effective project management in IT departments and professionals will become an even greater imperative in the years ahead.
Projects are get bigger, more complex and costlier, he says. And the amount they cost and the time they take to complete is likewise growing. A project manager often applies “tough love” in managing through project tasks, but ultimate success hinges on the effective use of “soft skills,” Carr says, and quite frequently project managers aren’t taught these when they’re initially trained.
The key message: Never lose sight of the importance of managing relationships throughout the process.
Western nations can learn a great deal from countries in the Far East, when it comes to successful collaboration.
“One of the big things with [Japan] is how they collaborate with their manufacturers and suppliers,” says Carr. “And one of the things we’ve learned…is the idea that we have a smaller number of suppliers and we work more closely with them and we form longer-term relationships. What that’s based on is sharing more information together to improve how the whole supply chain works.”
There is plenty of IT tools available, designed to let people work in more collaborative ways. IT departments have an important part in driving collaboration throughout their organizations through the management and support of collaboration tools. But they’re also instrumental in helping business users realize the full function potential and value in these tools that enable information sharing and teamwork.
Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship and Innovation
Many organizations today are looking to infuse their already successful operations with more small-business feistiness and an increased willingness to take risks.
Professor Moren L