This post is prompted by the last entry in a list of 6 by @CIOnline, (link below) titled "IT is still relevant – but only if it adapts". The word ‘adapt’ seems a little too small in scale to understand the potential change required in a central IT organisation. And note there the use of the word central!
Adaptation is to take something and make it fit a new purpose, in this case IT, and since IT in most organisation is still a centralised function then the implication is that it must remain central.
This is perhaps just a poor choice of word by the original author [as he seems to be hinting in the right direction]. However, if I leave it there it would make for a very short post. Let’s consider the scenario if we broke the assumption that there needs to be a continued existence of central IT, in 6 main areas
As MuleSoft says, [in a rather different context]; “Let’s break IT”, or better put, lets decentralise it. Rather than central IT working in close alignment with the lines of business, and often spreading themselves too thinly, or in the wrong proportions, they actually become part of the lines of business. This can only happen if the things that IT produces are relevant to the business. We know that this is often not the case, as it one of the cited causes of ‘shadow IT’.
The most efficient model for IT is a central structure where resource and skills can be shared between the various business units. This has long been the mantra of those proponents of efficiencies of scale. But, with shrinking budgets for traditional IT those efficiencies are offset by woefully inadequate effectiveness. If IT becomes part of the business (1) it has dedicated skills that are directly relevant to its needs on-tap. They directly affect the revenue generation of the LoB. i.e they are a profit centre.
So we hive off parts of IT into the LoBs from where they are funded. But what if what they (can) produce is no longer the right thing for the business? Let competition lead the way. The choice of any supplier should be made based on their ability to fulfil the need. The bigger question is what should you do with these people that are not able to produce the right things;
Neither of the above looks like a particularly attractive option for the involved parties. We do however, have a third option. Pass the responsibility to the workers themselves. It is in their interest to reskill themselves to be able to compete. Essentially, this is the gig economy in action, where the workers are no longer employed by IT, they contract their services directly to the business. Or, potentially to the provider of the offering that has replaced them.
What then is the evolving role of the CIO, and the IT director? The CIO is to marshal this transition of central IT into a pool of accessible resource that can be allocated based on what they are capable of producing/offering. This may not, at first glance, be very appealing to a CIO with a large fiefdom to oversee, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, as we shall see later. As the organisational ‘structure’ becomes loosely coupled, similar to this picture by Dion Hinchcliffe (see his article here)
The IT director, as the executor of the strategy now has looser ownership of the people in his realm, they have no direct mandate over what work their ‘teams’ (this is handed out by LoBs). At best, their role is the corralling of working practices into a workable set of guidelines such that there is at least some consistency in the way in which things are achieved. But this is the role of an enterprise architect, is it not? At worst, and since there is autonomy between the technology groups does this really matter? In one clear case, yes. Security, governance over perimeter threats, and internal vulnerabilities is as important as ever, as is data sovereignty. The CIO does not want to get caught with his pants down in these areas.
Removed of the low-level drudge of trying to balance the books, the CIO now has a much smaller, but more impactful role in overseeing security governance (through architecture) and though the mediation of supplier selection (on behalf of procurement), both individuals and organisations. Plus a proactive understanding of the now and future needs of the business and advertising upcoming need to the wider market (gig economy included), such that they can more effectively serve your business. At the end of the day the clue is in the CIO title, make sure you have, and provide, information (and skills), the technology is just how you get to it, don't let it distract you
All the above is conjecture, but stems from challenging assumptions that are present in most viewpoints including this one referenced at the beginning of this post of people that are unconsciously protecting norms, (and often their positions)