Digital Challenges to IT Operational Structure

IT and its partners are under pressure to innovate, develop and deliver solutions faster than ever before, while “keeping the lights on” efficiently. At the same time IT needs to find investible savings in opex, resources, skills, time and focus, while delivering sustained value to the business. Put another way, IT has challenges of business as usual, coupled with the need to be proactive in engaging with the business, to be agile in building new solutions, opportunities, efficiencies and value.

IT Operational Structure

IT has a key role and responsibility is helping with the digital transformation journey, which has implications on the way IT is structured, managed, budgeted and operated. To meet the challenges, there is a need to take different approaches in managing IT delivery across applications, infrastructure, development and maintenance for “running the business” and “changing the business”. One way of looking at the dual split personality that IT needs is to consider the two moving parts of the IT operations ilustrated below:

Digital Foundation

Comprising teams charged with “running the business”; those focused on reliability, efficiency, process discipline, adherence to policies and standards; responsible for stability, security and up-time, with rigorous testing and scrutiny. There is a compelling case that an effective and efficient digital foundation operation is more important than ever.

Digital Innovation

Comprising skilled experts, developers, analysts and business relationship managers focused on delivering innovative “change the business” solutions; charged with turning new requirements and functionality around at lightning speed, best served by an environment that facilitates agility, speed and flexibility.

Different forms of the model

In addition to structure, which may be dynamic, the teams are differentiated by more than skills and capabilities. The supporting management systems, vendors and providers, commercial and contractual mechanisms need to be fit for purpose.

The IT organisation which can successfully support the digital transformation journey needs both the teams and approaches. This allows it to raise the bar of expectations, with relative importance and size of the teams and budgets depending on the business priorities.

Even when such a structure is not formal, it can evolve informally. In either circumstance IT leadership has to ensure optimal contributions of each team, make certain of coordination, communication and highlighting the contribution of each team, while maintaining the holistic oversight of the service delivery model. Establish unique performance indicators for each team, while ensuring logical touch points between the two teams, to optimise innovation and ensuring stability.

Managing the two-team model within IT also has implications on the routine management systems, in terms of frequency, metrics and vendor performance management. It is critical for IT leadership to recognise the differences between the two teams, to establish boundaries, and to acknowledge the potential for strife, while at the same time realising the potential for magic to happen.

Capabilities and skills

In addition to IT structure and management, there are key skills areas to consider in getting equipped and setting up IT for digital transformation success:

  1. Enterprise architects to work in tandem with key business stakeholders, ensuring an adaptable IT architecture, which can remain robust but flex with changing business environment and needs.
  2. New skills development in data science, analytics, and visualisation to ensure meaningful analytics to guide decision-makers through a constant deluge of data.
  3. Process modellers to ensure that the complexity of the digital enterprise can be simplified with data-dependent efficient processes.

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