The #1 Cause Of Organizational Dysfunction

Nigel Fenwick

At some level, I see dysfunction in almost every client I work with. This isn't something new. There probably isn't an organization on the planet without some level of dysfunction. Perhaps a degree of dysfunction is acceptable or even desirable. But eventually organizational dysfunction reaches a point where it begins to impede the ability of the enterprise to function. One area where this appears to occur with great frequency is between IT and the rest of the business. In far too many organizations IT is seen as out of alignment with the business, or worse, as an impediment to business units. So why is this?

It's been my opinion for some time now that there is a root cause for almost all the dysfunction in organizations. The cause is metrics. Specifically, the metrics we use to measure employee performance. Sometimes we suffer from the unintended consequences of what appear to be sound metrics.

Take for example a conversation I recently had with a client in marketing with responsibility for e-commerce. He wanted to gain a better understanding of IT because it appeared to him they were making bad decisions. On investigation it turned out "IT" had taken the website offline in the middle of the fading day, much to the consternation of the e-commerce team. To understand why IT might do this you need to understand metrics. It turns out the help desk had received a call about a problem with SAP. In order to fix the problem with SAP, the database technician decided the fastest repair would require restarting SAP. Unfortunately the website was tied to SAP so when it went down, so too did the website. Had the help desk and the database engineer not been measured on how long it takes to repair a problem, they may have made a different decision.

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BT Strategic Planning: Upcoming Events

Nigel Fenwick

For many traditional IT organizations, BT Strategic Planning is a new approach to developing technology strategy. As such, it often raises more questions than answers. If you’d like to know how to get more answers then this blog post is for you (if not you can skip the rest).

To help you get stuck in and apply the strat planning framework in your environment, we’re scheduling a couple of webinars and a two-day workshop for this September. In the first webinar on Sept. 11, we’ll go into the best practices CIOs put in place in order to set up their teams for success in developing business technology strategy. In the second webinar on Sept. 14, we’ll explore the levers of BT value and how to successfully communicate BT value. While both webinars are connected, you don’t need to attend the first to get value from attending the second.  

And if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves some more, I’m facilitating a two-day workshop on BT Strategic Planning on Sept 25th and 26th in San Francisco. This open workshop builds upon the successful custom workshops we deliver for clients looking to apply Forrester’s planning framework. Over the course of two full, mind-bending days, you will go through the entire strategy planning framework and learn how to apply it in your organization.

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Does BT Need A New Report Card?

Nigel Fenwick

It's time to re-think the report card used by CIOs to report on BT performance – tomorrow’s BT CIOs must look beyond the traditional IT Balanced Scorecard (BSC). 

I realize this is sacred ground for many people in IT (and some of my colleagues here at Forrester), so let me explain myself before I receive a barrage of complaints. The philosophy behind Business Technology (BT) recognizes technology as integral to every facet of every organization – as such, IT is very much an integral part of the business; we can no longer talk about “business” and “IT” as if referring to two distinct things. I’m suggesting that in the age of BT, we need a new scorecard that better reflects the impact of BT on the business.

A great deal has been written and published on the Balanced Scorecard, including many great pieces of research  by my colleague Craig Symons, such as his recent report "The IT Balanced Scorecard: Customer/Partner Metrics Revisited." I'm not suggesting we throw this out by any means – CIOs absolutely need to use a balanced scorecard to run an efficient and effective BT operation (see fig 1).

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How To Get Beyond Alignment

Nigel Fenwick
 

It’s the perennial issue for many CIOs and often the No. 1 challenge for new CIOs: “How do I align IT with the business?” And while this is perhaps the most important challenge for IT groups struggling with a bad reputation across the business, it’s certainly not the most important challenge for IT groups with a solid track record of success. For these teams, the challenge is how to move beyond alignment.

In the report Beyond Alignment: BT Strategic Planning, I highlight how critical it is for IT to help formulate business strategy. The research suggests that how a firm develops and manages business strategy is pivotal to the question of how IT can move beyond alignment. Unfortunately, there are a number of challenges with this:

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Isn't It Time To Move Beyond Alignment?

Nigel Fenwick

It's strange, but some things about the CIO role change very little from year to year -- and one of the most consistent priorities for CIOs has always been achieving better "alignment" with “the business.” But should this really be a top priority?

I can’t help it, I really dislike the term “alignment” -- it suggests to me that CIOs are trying to bring together two separate and distinct things: “the business” and “IT.” But the really successful CIOs already know this specific language sets everyone up to perceive IT as something apart from the business. And we all know that every business has technology woven intricately throughout -- to suggest technology is not a vital part of business success is simply wrong. So instead of talking about aligning IT with the rest of the business, we need to focus on ensuring the business is using technology to achieve defined goals and deliver business results.

Unfortunately, for many companies, IT appears to be in the software development business -- responding to “orders” from “internal customers” and busily delivering applications. CIOs need to ask: “what business are we in?” For most CIOs, the answer will undoubtedly NOT be the technology business. For these CIOs, the most precious skill IT can bring to the organization is business knowledge and process understanding coupled with technology know-how. By helping identify how technology can change the business dynamics and move the organization more efficiently toward its objectives, IT becomes the foundation for competitive advantage. In other words, IT needs to be in the business of helping shape business strategy.  

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