Who is driving your ICT strategy?

By Carsten Larsen, Partner – CIO Advisory and ICT Strategy, Business Aspect

In my experience it is often dominated by end users demand for specific technology solutions, which the IT team is then expected to deliver. We need to see a shift in the conversation to get our ICT leaders working in partnership with their business colleagues.

In today’s highly competitive business environment, your technology platform is a key enabler of performance and productivity across the organisation. As well as supporting normal operations and user functionality, this platform needs to constantly drive innovation, improve business efficiency, and facilitate ongoing growth. That’s why it’s critical there’s a balanced partnership between the three pillars of ICT – Demand, Supply and Governance – to ensure your ICT strategy aligns with your overall business objectives. However, many organisations struggle to get this balance right. The business delivery and ICT supply functions often have different viewpoints and objectives, with no adjudicator to control the outcome.

Part 1 of this four-part blog series, talks about why we need to rebalance the three pillars of ICT. The remaining blogs will focus on each pillar.

Business example
I recently provided advice to an organisation where 40% of staff rated the provision of ICT services less than 4 out of 10. In turn, ICT described the operational divisions as “unorganised and incompetent”. ICT strategic planning was inadequate and there was no structured governance around the 149 ICT projects in progress. This disharmony and lack of control resulted in very low project completion, with most not delivering the desired benefits.

By re-balancing of the three pillars of ICT strategy, the organisation is now more focused on achieving shared, mutually beneficial outcomes rather than experiencing internal disconnect.

The Golden Circle approach
When it comes to successful and inspiring leadership, Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ approach is well known and widely lauded. This approach argues that truly inspirational leaders, be they individuals or companies, think and act differently to others. Rather than focus initially on the how and what, successful and inspirational leaders first look at the why; why do we exist and why are we doing this? After establishing and agreeing upon the why, individuals and organisations gain the clarity they need to then focus on the what, how and where from.

So how is this relevant to ICT strategy? In short, I believe that we need to adopt the core principle of the Golden Circle approach and start any ICT investment conversation by asking why?

Who’s driving your ICT strategy?
When you take a step back and look at your organisation, who’s really driving your ICT strategy and making the decisions concerning ICT investment? 

Often, the demand side (end users) dictates what needs to be done and how i.e. what will fix the problem and how do we do it? End users frequently push for investment in specific technology solutions, which the ICT function (supply side) is then expected to deliver. The right balance needs to be found between the demand side and the supply side, with why being central and the starting point to the conversation.

Sound ICT strategy formulation and management consists of three pillars:

1. Demand - Why ICT services are required and What functions they’ll be performing must be driven by the demand for information, processes and technology.

2. Supply - How to deliver the services and Where From must be driven by the supply of these services by the ICT function.

3. Governance - If and When investments in services should be made. Governance must be a shared activity between demand and supply to ensure the right investments are made and delivered, and the expected benefits are realised.

The importance of a strong governance framework
Successful ICT strategy requires a trusted partnership between users and the ICT function across all three pillars. Users need to trust that the ICT function can deliver what’s needed, and the ICT function needs to understand the overall business objectives and how technology can support these objectives. A strong governance framework around the why, what and how guides decision-making so that the right investments are made and all parties are working towards the same goals. Via shared ownership, communication and consultation, ICT becomes a highly respected partner for the business, making the right technology investments and delivering the services needed to make a real and positive difference to the operations of the organisation.

Like to know more?
To discuss how Business Aspect can help you structure the why, what and how of your ICT strategy, contact me.

Part 2 - Starting with the Why

Part 3 - Grand (ICT) designs

Part 4 - Mind the (expectation) gap