For all of the talk about IT playing a key role in innovation, those maintenance tasks that "keep the train running" don't leave much time for innovation.
IT leaders are waging an important battle every day. We’re expected to be at the forefront of innovation—influencing and compelling our organizations to move toward business transformation while also keeping the lights on. But innovation and growth initiatives are inherently competitive with IT run activities and, unfortunately, the latter seems to win every time. Consequently, we’re losing the war.
Think of your own IT department for a second: what percentage of your department’s time is spent innovating versus completing chore tasks? Many organizations spend as much as 90% of their time on such tasks. Even the best organizations struggle to bring their run below 65%. Most continue to lose ground as they increase efforts and expenditures to support the run of IT systems.
Most IT departments may be hamstrung by these day-to-day tasks, yet business operations also presume they can drive innovation.
In many ways, IT professionals are constantly searching for validation, seeking respect and striving for organizational relevance. They are on “The Road to IT Relevance,” only preserving significance if they drive market trends.
Let’s examine five core factors complicating the job of today’s IT professional.
1. Technology Consumerization. The modern IT world is incredibly different compared to 20 years ago, or even five years ago. Technology is in the hands of the consumer thanks to the rise of smartphones, near ubiquitous Wi-Fi access, mobile applications and cloud-based solutions. The consumerization of IT has made the end-user more tech savvy, while increasing both the demands of the technology they utilize and their expectations of IT. For instance, they may think building an enterprise ERP system is as simple as flipping the switch and moving to the cloud. Or, they might wonder why an IT rollout could take a year not two months. These contradicting beliefs and expectations can erode IT’s value to the organization over time.
2. Digitization of the Enterprise. Companies like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb have demonstrated firsthand the power of transformation. They are innovating on a dime, keeping the customer front and center, and driving towards evolution daily. The new digital era they’ve helped create has disrupted entire industries almost overnight, and changed the mindset that things don’t need to be done as they always have been. Today’s IT leaders face intensified pressures to harness technology and identify and develop talent to advance the organization’s digital ambitions. Yet the lack of available talent is making it harder to truly drive enterprise innovation.
3. Managing Modern IT. Years ago, businesses solely invested in on-premise equipment that would be stored securely in the data center. This was followed by a natural shift to colocation and then hybrid environments and now the cloud. These developments have created the modern IT environment, one in which data, tools, software and hardware are distributed anywhere in the world. One of the chief complications caused by this shift, however, is that we lack an optimal way to manage this environment with a single pane of glass—or a single set of tools. Instead, each environment has its own need for management. Today’s IT leaders grapple with how to manage this distributed IT environment that is no longer under lock and key, or under the four walls of the building.
4. Cost of Running IT is Rising. Running IT is more complex than ever before, but it’s also more expensive. Consider the cost of operating IT Operations Management (ITOM) or IT Service Management (ITSM) systems required to support this new “AlwaysOn” imperative. The expense of these tools -- coupled with the cost of implementation, integration and maintenance -- can break the bank. In addition, the cost to build and support an “AlwaysOn” environment is increasing. Previously, organizations may have had a few mission critical applications requiring 24/7/365 support. Today, it seems like all applications and systems have this requirement. IT operations are no longer confined to 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday schedule, and the manpower required to run IT has significantly increased.
5. Talent Deficit. Unquestionably, the talent deficit is alive and well. This crisis is so prevalent that we’ve witnessed dramatic increases in salaries, an extended talent search process and greater challenge in retaining our best. And when we identify top performers, instead of enabling them to set the strategic vision, they become glorified firefighters, extinguishing flames all day. Our IT teams are drowning in a sea of alerts, alarms, events, complaints and requests for help, all of which drowns out the important tasks.
It’s time for a revolution
With these mega trends complicating the success and relevance of IT professionals and their organizations, isn’t it time to stop the insanity? Isn’t time for a revolution?
IT leaders must transform the way in which they run IT. They need to reposition their top performers so they are focused on driving the business forward, rather than putting out fires. They need to set aggressive growth goals and make sure the organization is assembled in a way that allows the department to take a step closer each day to revolution. And they need to figure out how to run IT cheaper, faster and more efficiently than ever before.
For many companies, the revolution starts by repositioning talent to focus on strategic growth imperative. The notion of out-tasking — or outsourcing specific functions of IT — is growing in popularity so that a business’ in-house talent can get back to driving transformation and innovation
As IT leaders, we must reimagine how to run IT. After all, as IT, we are in the revolution business.
Tim Hebert, Carousel
As Carousel’s Chief Client Officer, Tim Hebert is responsible for cultivating and curating our corporate culture, defining and delivering the ultimate client experience, and investing and impacting our local communities. Tim is an influential role model leading transformation not only at Carousel, but in inner-city public education with the adoption of Rhode Island’s Academy for Career Exploration. He has taken significant leadership roles within the state of Rhode Island as a Trustee for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a Director of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, and a board member for several non-profits including Boy Scouts of America-Narragansett Council, Tech Collective, Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA), and Greenschools.
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