Using Technology to Drive Business InnovationBy Samuel Greengard Print
Building an IT organization that supports innovation, agility and growth is essential, and the right framework can unleash opportunities for business success.
Navigating today's business environment is a remarkably complex task. At some point, almost every road, path and route leads directly to information technology. But putting IT to work in the most effective way possible and maximizing results across an enterprise is a major challenge.
"The tools, techniques and cost structures that have traditionally surrounded a legacy IT environment no longer deliver the desired results in the digital world," says Michael Sutcliff, group CEO for Accenture Digital. "There is a new set of strategies and economics to confront."
Coping with this sea change is no simple task. As organizations juggle a growing spate of technologies—mobility, clouds, big data analytics, social business and more—it's critical to connect systems strategically and build an underlying IT framework to fully support the business. This includes higher availability and greater resilience, often through entirely different network designs.
Organizations that succeed, Sutcliff points out, transform challenges into opportunities. "They are able to build a business—and design products and services—that unleash a whole new wave of innovation," he says. "In the end, they are able to transform the enterprise."
To be sure, business and IT leaders must focus on a few critical issues: developing a strategy that maximizes the returns and the results from information technology; connecting systems and cloud services in a way that allows data, information and knowledge to flow through an enterprise; and tapping into the right skill sets for the digital age.
"Radical change requires organizations to rethink the nature of processes and information technology, and use the power of the technology to redesign the fundamental approach to business," says Didier Bonnet, global head of practice at Capgemini Consulting.
An inescapable reality of today's business environment is that change occurs at a fast and furious pace. Moreover, the nature of change fundamentally redefines processes and the way people interact. Building an IT organization that fully supports innovation, agility and growth is paramount. But, too often, the daily demands of the enterprise, along with the tug of organizational silos, undermine performance and torpedo results.
"Today, there's an opportunity to create a different operating model and IT model to unlock value in a way that wouldn't have been possible in the past," Accenture Digital's Sutcliff points out.
Connecting the Digital Dots
One organization that has focused on IT as a way to unleash innovation is AMN Healthcare, the largest health care staffing and managed services firm in the United States. It has upward of 1,600 employees and serves as many as 6,000 clinicians at hundreds of different health care systems on a daily basis.
The company has spurred digital transformation by identifying "cornerstone technologies" that fuel the business, explains Jeanette Sanchez, CIO and vice president. "At AMN, the focus is on mobility, collaboration and integration," she says. "We want technology to unleash performance—not become the slow cog in the wheel."
The company has traditionally operated under a build-versus-buy IT model. "We have focused heavily on internal custom development in the past," Sanchez explains. "But, as a result of acquisitions, we wound up with an aging platform and systems that didn't always work together well or scale the way we needed. There was a need to be become more agile and digitally responsive."
Among other things, that meant better connecting workflows across different enterprise systems, including ERP and CRM, and making data available when and where people needed it, particularly through mobile devices such as iPads.
With several lines of business and multiple service channels in place, AMN recognized a need to "introduce nimble digital business processes and create a 'wow' experience for clients, clinicians and others," Sanchez says. As a result, the company revamped numerous enterprise systems, built a private virtual cloud at one of its data centers, switched to a core .NET platform, added a spate of mobile and social applications that touch clinicians, and built out a front-end interface for Salesforce.com and other applications in order to better match health care systems with clinician candidates. At the same time, the company bolstered security and introduced single sign-on.
The result has been improved uptime across the network; the ability to access a broader array of data using tablets, smartphones and other mobile tools; and enhanced communication and collaboration—including higher levels of engagement on social platforms and job boards.
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