Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.


The last few years have brought many great advancements in technology and the upcoming years promise to bring more. As companies push to drive the costs of IT down while increasing productivity and output, many large enterprise initiatives have become high priorities. The chart below shows IT's top 10 Management priorities for 2008 (source: CIO Insight):

When you look at this list it is obvious that today's IT leaders need to be experts in more than just technology. They need to understand the business and they need to have good people skills. I created the following diagram which I call the leadership triangle. I feel strongly that IT leaders need to excel in all three areas: Business, People, and Technology.

Photobucket


From the business perspective, not only do IT leaders need to know how the business's products and services function, they also need to be able to speak in business terms. This requires MBA type skills in the area of Finance, Economics, and Accounting. When you produce your business case for initiating a large new technology project like SOA, Green initiatives, or ITIL you must be able to describe business benefits in terms of NPV (net present value), IRR (internal rate of return), and payback periods. When dealing with infrastructure projects like disk consolidation, virtualization, and others you should understand the different rules of depreciation, lease options, contract and vendor management. The list goes on.

From the people perspective, the IT leader must be a coach/mentor, great communicator and presenter, skilled in leading through change (organizational change management), a negotiator, a sales person, and a visionary.

From a technology perspective, IT leaders must have at least a high level knowledge of a variety of areas including architecture, security, infrastructure, regulatory/compliance, data, quality assurance, operations, etc.

It is rare to find one person who excels in these three areas. If you find one, good luck keeping them around for a long time because they are highly sought out. Some companies can accomplish this by assembling a strong leadership team that works closely together towards common goals. This requires the leader of this group to be exceptional from the people perspective.

IT must embrace itself for constant change.
The next chart shows IT's top ten technologies for 2008 (Source: CIO Insight):

Some of the key IT initiatives that could come from this list are SOA, BPM, Business Intelligence, Master Data Management (MDM), Virtualization, SaaS, ITIL, Portfolio Management, Social Computing, and many others. Each one of these initiatives requires people to change the way they have traditionally worked. Some roles and skills may go away and new ones may be created. Many of these initiatives require very specialized skills and demand more collaboration across different areas of expertise, including business SMEs (subject matter experts).

But the technology is the "easy" part. Getting the business sponsors to own and help drive the initiatives and leading people through change is where IT has a huge skills shortage. Many people in IT don't even acknowledge that these two things are important. I can't count how many articles I have read that claims SOA is a failure and is nothing more then hype. The same is said for enterprise architecture (EA) where recently EA has been called a joke. The joke is that companies try these large enterprise initiatives without relevant business drivers and without having an organizational change management (OCM) plan. Many think by simply having smart technicians, they can get any IT project done.

The future will drive even more change.
Over the next few years, cloud computing will become a key driver for reducing complexity, reducing costs, and improving agility. I recently made a short vlog (video blog) on this topic. Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) will cause a major shift in the way we think and work. There will be all kinds of resistance from the infrastructure and security staffers. Moving to a platform in the cloud is a threat to the current roles and responsibilities for these folks. Over time (5-10 years), PaaS will become mainstream and IT shops will likely become smaller and will definitely have a different technical makeup then it has today. People will have to retool and stay current with trends. Software will become a true engineering exercise that requires knowledge of distributed systems, security, data management, and networking. Drag-n-drop n-tier developers will become the Cobol programmers of our next decade. Globalization and social software will radically change the team structures. Project teams will be scattered across the globe. Rising oil prices will lead to more virtual offices. Ten years from now we will look back and laugh at the notion of cramming hundreds of people into cubes. Companies will be able to hire staff from around the globe and won't be restricted to local markets. Users will have the power to assemble their own applications by leveraging mashups and software in the cloud. How will we manage the future?

IT Leaders need to change with the times
So what does this all mean? When you add up all of the things I just mentioned, the role of management has become far more demanding. If your managers are struggling today, how will they survive tomorrow? Just think of the cultural and ethical ramifications of managing a remote team of workers from around the world. IT leadership will be even more demanding then it already is and we already have a shortage of leaders who excel in all three areas of the leadership triangle. So how will we solve this dilemma? Currently, many IT shops just "stay the course" and do not adopt any of these large enterprise initiatives. In the future as cost reduction becomes a matter of survival, many of these initiatives won't be optional.

Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to my own question. There is already a skills shortage in IT across the board. There isn't a shortage of people applying for management and leadership positions, but there sure is a shortage of people who are qualified! Where will the next generation of leaders come from? How many companies will recognize the importance of the leadership triangle? How many more IT projects will fail before somebody does something about this dilemma?

What do you think needs to be done? How will we overcome the Leadership shortage?

1 comments

  1. Samantha  

    "Many think by simply having smart technicians, they can get any IT project done."...I agree, cos had this been true there would have been no setbacks!

Post a Comment



Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)

My favorite sayings

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there"

"Before you build a better mouse trap, make sure you have some mice"