IT Is A Business Unit Too

This week, I talked with an IT group that had an organizational unit called “IT Business Management” with the charter to help IT run like a business. Well, it’s about time! I know a lot of IT strategists and consultants push the idea that IT should be an integral part of the business and shouldn’t be thought of as an independent organization. And that may be what it should be, but it’s not what it is today. Today’s IT is by and large a separate organization even when it is distributed across multiple business units.

In many companies IT is a large, complex business unit in its own right with a significant chunk of the business’s operating budget. When CIOs control hundreds of millions of their company’s dollars, shouldn’t they be thinking about what business value they are delivering on that capital? And isn’t a great way to do that by looking at and managing IT like a business?  

When I first started talking about building a capability model for IT, I received a lot of blank stares and comments like: “Why would anyone want to do that?” My question is: ”Why wouldn’t everyone want to do that?” IT execs spend a significant portion of their time managing business demand to fit current IT resources but very little time improving IT’s ability to respond to increasing business demand. An IT capability model provides an excellent starting place to view IT like a business and identify what is most important to IT’s success and where to invest the few dollars we have to make it better. Many architects I talk with are having real success with business executives using capability maps to focus the conversation and their attention on what parts of the business are most important. With an IT capability map, we can do the same thing for IT.

Building an IT capability map isn’t all that difficult. Last month I ran a building IT capability map session at our EA Leadership Board meeting. The group was highly energized and exceedingly creative. We created multiple perspectives of an IT capability model and then rolled them all into a common view. Of course the real value comes with getting the IT leadership on board and applying the model to real problems.

Later this quarter I will be publishing a report on building and using IT capability maps. Let me know what you would like to see in the report. Better yet, if you have already developed your IT capability map - let’s talk.