How to Succeed in Balancing Day-to-Day Business with Innovation

Wie der IT die Gratwanderung zwischen Tagesgeschäft und Innovation gelingt

IT decision makers often feel like tightrope artists: The balancing of daily business, innovation and the continuous new requirements from the business are some of the most challenging acts for IT decision makers and their teams. We explain how to succeed without a safety net.

IT organizations in private companies as well as in public administration are not only dealing with the constant need for cost savings and making classical IT services available, they are also actively supporting the individual specialist departments in the organization. They must proactively develop solutions and innovations that add value to the business and help guarantee its competitiveness in the long run.

The business, and the users in the organization expect much from their internal IT service provider: They should be reachable at all times, and from everywhere; flexible and above all be quick in reacting to new challenges. High availability and short solution times are, of course, implicit. And if IT wants to turn satisfied users into enthusiastic end users, they need to go the extra mile.

Furthermore, digitalization, the Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0 bring brand new opportunities and challenges that both business and IT have to deal with – sooner rather than later. The growing number of connected, inter-communicating, devices and machines, alone, lead to continuously more complex services and system environments. Still bigger data volumes should on the one hand be controlled, and on the other be turned into useful information.

What Makes Life Difficult for IT

The task list of IT is long – and will only be longer in the future. Handling IT has developed into a real Herculean task in many companies and organizations. It is therefore especially problematic that in many IT organizations the prerequisites needed for handling the various tasks are missing.

A recent survey by the Swiss industry magazine Computerworld identifies the following as some of the issues that make life (even more) difficult for IT: tight budgets, shortage of qualified staff, too little support from management, outdated systems, weak organization, too many and ever changing requirements from the individual departments in the business.[1]

Many IT organizations have to balance between day-to-day business and the required development of innovations and effective solutions for the specialist departments. If they do not succeed, IT is often perceived as a bottleneck. When projects are set back, or the wishes from the other departments are not realized quickly enough, IT often goes from pushing innovation to slowing it down.

How can you then succeed with the balancing act? Where lies the key to success? The following action areas point out some possible ways of improving the situation long term:

(1) Cooperation

The way we cooperate in organizations is changing. In projects, we see more and more that inter-departmental and hierarchy-independent task forces are set in. It is a clear advantage that people from various departments look at the project from a holistic point of view and develop solutions together. In any case, trust and communication are essential parts of a successful cooperation within the IT department, as well as with the specialist departments in the company.

Specialist departments acting on their own in IT-related matters often spend a lot of money and cause complications. Problems quickly arise that must be solved by IT. In order to avoid such negative developments, both sides must move. Technically suitable IT staff are in an ideal situation to advise the department, listen to them, and take on their requirements – it is all about finding a common solution.

At the same time, a cleanly integrated internal communication ensures greater transparency and an improved perception of the IT service provider in the company. Regular information about projects, reached milestones, important strategic themes and goals make the load rate and the capacity of IT clear to the employees in the company.

(2) From IT Decision-Maker to Service Broker

With the increasing requirements, the role of the IT management is bound to change. In the long run, IT decision-makers cannot succeed in controlling everything and taking over all tasks themselves. Therefore, there has long been talk in the industry of service brokers who decide which services should be provided using internal resources, and which should be provided through external resources. This is the only way for IT to ensure that all new requirements are realized in due time – also in the light of the possible lack of human resources.

(3) Best Practice Frameworks

Best practice frameworks like ITIL or ISM can be helpful when dealing with a growing number of different requirements: They offer effective guidelines and help to a step-wise strategic (new) orientation of the organization.

When it comes to Enterprise Service Management, the frameworks offer, e.g., support over the entire service lifecycle: From the investigation and evaluation of customer needs, over the development of concrete services and innovative solutions, to implementation, operation and continuous improvement. Also, when it comes to efficient Change Management or the automation and optimization of different processes, best practices and relevant tools will help ease things.

Success is when everyone pulls Together

Many IT organizations successfully master the art of delivering classical services under a tight budget, while also developing innovations and supporting the specialist departments. Usually in these cases, the individual departments and IT work together, pursuing a common goal: To bring the business forward and secure its competitiveness in the long run. Perhaps that is what everyone, on all sides and throughout the company, have to be aware of. After all, a successful show is not made by one artist alone…

[1] Vogt, Fabian. Engpass IT-Abteilung. In: SWISS IT Nr 5/2017, p. 30 ff.

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