A Strategic EnablerBy Diana Mirakaj | Posted 2009-09-16 Email Print
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Anything that can be standardized, should be -- and that includes management practices. The paradox is that through routine and standardization we create an environment conducive to innovation.
In the beginning, a half century ago, business technology was simply added on to the way we conducted business. Nothing really changed in most companies; they just were able to do what they had always done faster. Today technology changes the way we work, the goals we set, the very nature of the organization. It creates entirely new business models, industries and markets.
In many companies, however, business processes and the technology that runs them are unmanaged, invisible, and unmeasured. They are executed haphazardly and inconsistently. There is no standard for their purchase, development or management. They do not enable decision-makers to detect and adapt to changing market conditions, and this blindness can be fatal.
Chief among the many reasons for this is that processes cross both internal and external firm boundaries as part of business networks. They therefore become the province of no one. In most cases there are no single-point-of-responsibility process owners. Although there are some recent exceptions to this in best practice companies (for example, supply chain management), few firms currently have managers in place for their key processes.
Business Technology Management, a management science, was created as a direct response to this. It fills the gap between advances in technology and slower changes in the management of it. BTM has been applied in leading corporations and government agencies, and it is constantly being refined on the basis of these experiences and through the research of leading academics. Three critical insights have emerged from this work. Note that each of the companies illustrated below are focused intently on the business, bringing consideration of enabling technology in at the highest level.
1. For many – perhaps most -- companies, alignment is no longer good enough. Some companies are now aiming for synchronization, while others are pushing beyond that to convergence. “We are becoming a converged company,” says Steve Matheys, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing and former CIO of Schneider National, the big trucking company. “The CIO reports to the CEO and is part of the executive team with a shared set of responsibilities. That brings the process and technology needs to the executive team unfiltered. It creates business-oriented discussions with the opportunity to do something with technology to change our approach in the marketplace. Those are intertwined conversations within Schneider’s executive team.”
2. Converged organizations are able to adapt – i.e., to move rapidly in response to events – and to innovate. This is because the two “sides” of the organization are acting in unison with full knowledge of what resources they have available and what they need to do to act on an opportunity or a threat. They can see every decision in the context of the organization’s overall business strategy. Being merely aligned suggests a less than strategic role for those who understand how technology works.
3. Convergence occurs in the establishment of organizational structures, processes, information flows and automation that unite decision-making from the boardroom to the project team. These are detailed in the BTM Framework, which the Business Technology Management Institute has developed and promulgated as a management standard.