Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is the IT dept not interested in business innovation with IT?

Today, most enterprises would agree that IT is an integral part of their business. Business processes and sometimes even business models are based on the use of information technologies. What is more, much of the business innovation based on IT does not happen within the IT department – it happens on “the other side”, on individual and group level in the business. Business people that (rightly or not) were collectively perceived as computer illiterates by the IT people now sometimes are one or even two steps ahead of the IT department when it comes to seeing and acting on how modern information technologies can help to support and innovate the business. Business innovation with IT comes more often from trial and error and ad hoc adoption of new technologies and new ways of working by individuals on the business side. And it comes from breaking policies and rules that where defined without seeing the need for and creating the necessary space for innovation.

At the same time, some IT departments see as their main mission not only to support the business but also to govern it. Well, they see as their mission to govern the IT-based information system and all resources related to it, but in modern enterprises this is practically the same as governing the business. Despite initiatives such as service orientation and SOA, this poses a potential threat to how enterprises are able to use IT to innovate their business. Service-oriented architecture does not automatically increase the ability of an enterprise to innovate its business with IT. SOA is there to help the IT department to react faster to business changes and therby closing the gap that currently exists between the IT systems and how the business needs to be designed and operate. In short, SOA is about keeping the IT-based information system only one step behind the business instead of two steps or more.

I am not saying that business innovation with IT must or even should come from the IT department. In fact, it is a sound development that innovation actually happens more and more in the business, by the people that are close to the customers and revenues. And I am not saying that the IT department should not govern its resources. What I am saying is that the IT department must not forget to create space for innovation with IT regardless of where it happens. Top management and the IT department need to take trends such as the consumerization of IT and Web 2.0 seriously and look closer at what they mean for the business as well as for the IT department when taking the journey from Enterprise 1.0 to Enterprise 2.0.

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