3 Ways of Rethinking IT to deliver more choice, faster, on a bigger scale
In conversation, Jim Fortner (VP of IT Development & Operations, Global Business Services, P&G), Gregory Simpson (CTO, GE), and John Dick (CIO, Western Union) all make it clear, IT is no longer an enabler, but a true business partner at their enterprises. (See: Rethinking IT to deliver Choice, Speed, and Scale)
“There is a new paradigm of leadership … a real strong business orientation in IT staff folks with strong executive management skills, business skills, understand the process, so it is retooling the organization to readily step up to the challenge. …business telling us we have such a tremendous opportunity to take on more scope and more work. They are looking for us to come back with more choices and strategies. (Jim Fortner, P&G)
“…we want a much more interactive connection with our delivery. We are working together with the business to deliver solutions that the business needs. That relationship has to be a true partnership where we are working together. … we flow out specific projects and we work with the business to understand which areas in those categories are most important, those are the imperatives around the IT functions, the imperatives at the company level are growth, margin enhancement. We tie our business objectives and our IT objectives together.” (Greg Simpson, GE)
“…we (IT) are in the perfect position to connect the dots. There are very few, if any functions in most companies that have the view of internal capabilities but also have the relationships and external perspective of what other providers and capabilities that exist around the world particularly technology enablers for the business. Part of the challenge here is that it is not that the business wants to move faster, it is that the business cycles are accelerating so there is role for IT relative to some of the traditional competencies we have to bring pragmatism to the table.” (John Dick, Western Union)
Each of these organizations has retooled its IT as a Partner to business. For example, both GE and P&G are massive enterprises and IT has been decentralized and adapted to better work with business. GE uses internal IT teams “…we have people who have lived and breathed our particular business processes and are able to really connect to our functional teams to understand how we can have the biggest impact and how we can apply technology to make the business more successful. …We might work with healthcare on a particular solution … but there are common elements of IT that scale that across the company. We are going to try to leverage those common elements in a way to gain scale, to gain speed and reduce the cost of delivery for a total solution of the company.” (Greg Simpson, GE) At P&G, “…we have flow teams, people that flow in (almost like a swat team effort). They attack a wicked issue for a period of 5 or 6 weeks, develop prototype solutions extremely quick and get that in front of the business partners to see if we are on the right track – what kind of value are we able to extract. Pretty quickly we start scaling it and going across all the markets that we serve with the end in mind of touching and improving more lives in more parts of the world. (Jim Fortner, P&G) In both cases, Technical solutions to specific business problems are leveraged where ever they can provide value. As for John Dick and Western Union, it is IT that sees the big business picture and is able to ‘connect the dots’ and bring ‘pragmatism’ to the dialogue with business as the company becomes ‘customer centric.’
Business for all these companies, GE, P&G, and Western Union have all reinvented themselves to be customer centric and focused on innovation. John Dick of Western Union explains it this way, “Our customers and agents in our sales force that are closest to what is happening out externally in the world, are usually the best sources of innovation for us. There really needs to be a multi-disciplinary approach to helping people make that change. I think there is no better way of doing that then providing an example yourself. Ensuring that my direct leaderships (reports) has those capabilities and are modeling them for their people and like-wise I do the same.” Jim Fortner of P&G talks about the changes, “… we are constantly looking at how to reinvent ourselves and create a frugal innovation type of mindset. “You have to have core measure which we all do, you measure your project implementations and the movement there is going away from delivered on scope and on budget more towards… (having) … extracted the business value from this. …we have the same number of people in 2003 but the focus instead of 70% on operations and delivering core capability it is about 30% and about 70% is about driving innovation into the business… so we have completely inverted the pyramid, we have changed what success looks like, we have retooled our people.” PG operates in 80+ companies, and is trying to reach 1 billion new consumers in the future. “How do you reach a billion new costumers? You have to leverage IT skills and you have to think about things much differently.” (Jim Fortner, P&G)
IT has long coveted a place at the management table. The trend to cloud has facilitated this by taking on the onus for commodity services that once was the traditional domain of IT. IT and with it, IT leadership, now has the mandate to evolve new capabilities and take on new responsibilities much more aligned with business needs. After all, with its comprehensive view into ALL business units/departments of the enterprise and a new-found accountability for Information (and analytics), IT is the perfect choice to lead the enterprise in developing new innovations, a better customer focus, and business growth.
How and in what ways has the IT at your organization worked to transform itself from an enabler to a business driver where thinking outside the box is de rigueur? Have you (or your IT leadership) identified specific changes that will enable IT to deliver more choice, faster speed, and greater scale for business? Who is leading these changes? What challenges have they had in disrupting the status quo?