Today’s dynamic business environment has forced forward-thinking IT executives to adapt their organizations through transformation and innovation. They understand this journey will require fundamental and profound changes over the next few years. An excellent indicator of how well IT is aligned with the business can be determined through an assessment of the organization’s application development activity—both the current portfolio of business applications and the backlog of new application requests.
Granted, the IT mission includes reducing risk, increasing reliability, and protecting the enterprise, but if your primary strategy has only been focused on cutting costs, you’re on the wrong track. Focus instead on delivering value and increasing the effectiveness of the users you serve, with the goal of becoming the best in your industry at capability enablement.
You do this by focusing on how best to empower your company’s knowledge workers to optimize productivity and enable them to more quickly identify and act on new opportunities. Having rapid access to the right information is a key ingredient for success. Worthy goals for IT should be laser-focused on keeping the business nimble, agile, and innovative. So, this brings us back to the question “How well does IT respond to requests for custom business apps?” The size and composition of an organization’s application development backlog tells a lot about the effectiveness of that organization. Improving your ability to satisfy requests for new business apps is key in transforming from a predominant focus on operations and maintenance to one of innovation.
Perhaps the largest group of untapped innovators is found among your line of business users, so IT should focus on providing access to data and tools users need to “help themselves” make better decisions.
As an enterprise IT executive, you should take a hard look at how to clear the obstacles that inhibit business folks from becoming more self-sufficient. Equip business users to build their own apps and innovation will increase dramatically. Rather than struggle with an IT bureaucracy that often takes weeks of meetings to address simple applications that could be built in a few days, some companies have already solved this problem by setting up a special business support group and equipping them with new tools to enable them to satisfy ad hoc requests for business apps in a more timely fashion. Shouldn’t an overworked IT department be eager to find ways to empower business users to do more themselves and become less dependent on IT? Consider how creative business users have been by simply leveraging simple tools such as spreadsheets and ad hoc reporting.
An understaffed and often overworked IT group naturally resists change to avoid risk of process and application breakage, so you may need to overcome resistance to the idea of empowering business users and allowing them to become more independent from IT application development. However, for this to be accomplished, the enterprise must deal with the plague of data scattered around on different servers, with different operating systems, and in different formats as well as systematically eliminating any other identified barriers.
In reality, politics frequently trumps practicality when setting development priorities. Too often, turnaround time for a new app is in proportion to the requestor’s rank within the company; apps requested by C-level execs are turned around immediately, requests from regional execs average several times longer, and requests from branch executives and those lower on the totem pole are quite often ignored. No wonder so many users and business management view IT as non-responsive, arrogant, or out of touch.
Have you heard about the cocaine-like effect of information? Do a better job of providing actionable intelligence to your user community and watch how quickly budgets can become unfrozen. Keeping apps current will always be difficult due to the complex workflow within business functions and the ever-changing nature of the competitive landscape, but allowing business users to help themselves is essential to exploit technology to deliver increased effectiveness and resulting value to the organization.