Technology is arguably the most critical component of business today. As businesses embrace digital models, innovate on new technology, and look for ways to get ahead of the competition, technology must take center stage. Business leaders are demanding more and asking for it faster than ever before.
In 2015, CEB released the results of our IT Clock Speed Survey, which polled 3,263 of our business partners across 17 business functions and five seniority levels. Respondents were from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The vast majority of respondents (77%) indicated C-suite priorities today rely on technology, and more than three quarters of respondents agreed quick delivery by IT is critical to their ability to meet business goals.
CIOs have historically responded to demands for speed in two ways. First, they have relied on standards to streamline IT, introducing enterprise processes and architectures and locking down requirements early.
Second, they have carved out specific teams or methodologies designed for speed. Neither approach has long-term sustainability. The first is hard to keep up in an era of fast-changing digitization. The second is hard to scale, and is slowed by interdependencies with other, slower parts of IT.
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These drawbacks are a challenge for IT. According to a 2013 article in the MIT Sloan Management Review -- which was based on a survey of 1,559 business leaders in 106 countries -- more than 60% of respondents felt their organizations are too slow to exploit technology-enabled opportunities.
To meet business-leader expectations for speed, CIOs must move beyond these approaches and equip their teams to be adaptive. In adaptive IT organizations, the entire team collaborates, flexes, and applies judgment based on context.
The result is faster clock speed -- the end-to-end pace at which IT understands business needs, decides how to support those needs, and responds by delivering capabilities that create value.
Our IT Clock Speed Survey revealed that 17 of the top 20 opportunities to accelerate IT speed occur in the early stages of a project, before any development activities. The opportunities include activities such as approving project plans, negotiating with vendors, and estimating the project costs and effort. Taking advantage of the top 20 acceleration opportunities (by employing the tactics suggested in the article) can cut up to five weeks from a six-month project.
Luckily, IT leaders don't need to do 20 things differently in order to capitalize on time savings. There are three common themes that cut across all the opportunities to save time: improving handoffs between different teams, streamlining bureaucratic processes and methodologies, and avoiding over-escalated decision-making. Progressive CIOs with whom CEB works are accelerating IT's clock speed by taking steps to do each of them:
These steps involve changes to processes and methodologies, but speed also requires changes in organizational culture. To drive cultural change, CIOs can use town hall-style meetings, newsletters, and scorecards to help their teams think about their contribution to overall speed, rather than simply trying to be as fast as possible. They can also encourage their employees to become comfortable with lighter-weight processes and avoid second-guessing decisions.
By reworking IT processes, and driving change in team behavior and mindsets, CIOs can position IT to make a great contribution to their company's competitive advantage -- and can do so faster than ever before.Andrew Horne is an IT practice leader at CEB, now Gartner, a best practice insight and technology company. Since joining CEB in 1999, he has authored studies on topics including IT strategy development, performance and value measurement, business intelligence and big data, IT ... View Full Bio