A New Playbook for Enterprise IT: A Get Out of Jail Free Card

You cannot successfully transform your company into a true digital enterprise if you keep your IT Group under house arrest.

Image showing hands on bars in jail

The pace and magnitude of digital transformation disruption mandates that your company must figure out how to deploy technology-enabled innovation as a critical driver of new revenues and profits. This doesn’t mean you need to be the disruptive innovator in your industry, but it does mean that you need to figure out how to neutralize the disruptive innovation’s impact on your business/operating model quickly.

If you just look at your IT Group as a source of cost optimization whose primary role is to keep the lights on, then you miss the opportunity to leverage technology as a change-the-business tool in the new world of digitally mediated customer engagements. Simply put, you have to let IT play offense not just defense.

McKinsey & Company Survey Results:

That said, I found the dichotomy presented by the results of McKinsey & Company’s latest survey of business and IT executives both validating and troubling. Their findings strongly validated that when CIOs play an active role in shaping a company’s business strategy IT’s overall performance significantly improves. However, when business executives were asked how well IT supported key business activities such as entering new markets and driving new revenues, only 35% agreed IT played that role in their company down from 57% in the same survey two years ago.

If actively engaging the CIO in helping to shape a company’s business strategy works, then why are so many companies not doing it? My answer is that they haven’t found a way to free IT from the legacy mindset of its past. To do that successfully, I want to propose a prototype for a new playbook for enterprise IT which is highlighted below:

Over the past 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to well over 200 CIOs and senior IT leaders about the different operating and cultural challenges they face in gaining a seat at the business strategy table. Their input and ideas have contributed to helping me develop a Collaborative IT Governance model, a series of IT thought leadership forums and communication programs, a process to identify and redeploy trapped IT value, as well as other tools to help them evolve IT from a cost center support function to a strategic business partner role.

These multiple conversations along with some early use case studies have gone into the design of the prototype playbook model above. It is by no means exhaustive or complete but rather suggestive of the variety of capabilities, services and deliverables that represent the new business value IT can deliver across any enterprise. It is designed to enable IT to carry out its core “run the business” functions while still being freed up to deploy “change the business” functions.

Each component of this new playbook will contribute to allowing your company’s enterprise IT function to evolve from a cost center/support function to a service provider to a business enabler to eventually a full partner in shaping and guiding your business growth strategy.

What I have learned over the past 3 years is that to successfully create and deploy this playbook is a leadership challenge not a management challenge. This is not about just doing what IT has always done better, faster and most cost effectively. This is about changing the role of IT from follower to leader. This is about changing outcomes by changing legacy attitudes, behaviors and actions. Simply put, this about choosing results over rhetoric.

These discussions and dialogues will continue in the months and years ahead and I invite you to participate in them and contribute your ideas and potential solutions. These challenges are bigger than any one company or any one CIO can solve. But I strongly believe that as a community of open minded, forward thinking IT professionals we can collectively find a way to get out of jail.

get out of jail

As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspective on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me at

Why a Good IT Governance Model Is Essential to a Good Digital Transformation Process

I have previously stated that the ability of CEO’s, C-suites and Boards to transform their companies from analog to digital business models will be the defining leadership challenge of the next 10 years. When tackling a challenge of this breadth and scope, it is often difficult to gain the necessary alignment, support and commitment to make the right trade-off decisions that will result in the desired outcomes.

At this point in time, many of the early adopters of digital transformation are focused on multiple trade-off decisions:

  • How do we best accommodate the BYOD needs of our employees while still maintaining secure and stable access to and utilization of critical customer data?
  • How do we create “friction-free” customer engagements from multiple mobile devices while still maintaining the security and privacy of those interactions?
  • How do we effectively evaluate the trade-offs between a public, private or hybrid cloud structure?

The chart below highlights a number of other “trade-off” decisions that are primarily being orchestrated by CIOs and their senior leadership teams.

The Hybrid Stack

From my vantage point, one of the major challenges CIOs and their teams face in helping to move their companies into a digital-based business model is to lay out a compelling business case to support the redeployment of resources away from systems of record in the left column in the chart above to systems of engagement which are in the right column. Without a good decision-making governance model, it is extremely difficult to make good resource allocation trade-off choices between “run the business options” and “change the business options.” In most well-established companies, the legacy mindset trumps the innovative mindset.

As it turns out, my early work in this area has provided firsthand evidence at how critical an IT governance model is to a successful transformation process. The new Collaborative IT Governance Model shown below has proven to be a critical foundational element to break down hierarchal, silo- based decision-making processes and convert them to horizontal cross-enterprise decision-making processes. Simply put, good governance equals good decision-making. It has also been a valuable component to help CIOs and their teams build the necessary support and commitment to take the critical actions required to implement the digital transformation process.

The Collab. ITFor many companies who are starting to put together a digital transformation strategy, there is a tendency to get caught up in a series of silo-based technology infrastructure and application delivery trade-off discussions without the benefit of a solid governance model to enable a collaborative cross- enterprise decision-making process. Absent this governance model, these trade-off discussions often break down into individual fiefdom fights which ultimately result in the wrong decisions or no decisions at all. Needless to say that is not an outcome that is in the best interest for the long term success of your organization.

As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspective on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me at