by Forrester Research

Reallocate your time to deliver business technology

Jan 26, 20155 mins
IT Strategy

There’s so much more for you to do as a CIO today. To start with, you’re probably still bound up in legacy maintenance. Most shops will spend 72% of their 2015 budget on the IT agenda – the things your firm does with technology, systems, and processes to support and transform internal operations – but that shouldn’t be how you spend most of your time.

But what’s really important for you to address is the explosion of business technology (BT) – the technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. This is an entirely new agenda for you and your tech management organisation.

So how can you to make time for BT? It’s not a question of either/or – you must address both BT and critical IT tasks. And the number of hours in the day hasn’t changed.

Lead with the BT agenda

BTis about growth, the focus of most businesses. And today growth means digital engagement with your customers through customer-facing systems like sales, marketing, customer service, fulfillment, and product management. The effort to design, build, and evolve these systems of engagement needs to become tech management’s – and your – top concern.

But your time allocated to the BT agenda will be different. Because customer engagement is changing rapidly, you will continuously cycle through short, intense bursts of activity – not the large chunks of time you’re used to dedicating.

For example, you should help drive improved customer experience (CX), unified across all channels. And as CX comes increasingly from digital customer engagement, you should be part of the inner circle that is tasked with driving CX through the digital business capabilities that touch customers.

You also need to contribute technology know-how and innovation. Digital has unleashed the next wave of innovation, requiring changes to how work gets done – driven by the digitally empowered customers who are redefining how business is won. To help accelerate your firm’s growth, you must help digitally disrupt your own business – or face those outside of your firm who might have a better chance to exploit digital tools than you have.

But you can’t do BT alone. You must create business accountability for your budget – both opex and capex – to increase trust and involvement – as well as smarter, more informed budget decisions. Tag each investment with the business objectives it supports and use business services management to link business objectives to your operations spend. By aligning your overall budget with business objectives you can demonstrate how the tech management organisation delivers and operates customer outcomes faster, cheaper, and at higher quality.

Transform your IT agenda

Delivering on your BT agenda means giving up as much work as you’re taking on – or more. A new and greater focus on BT must be accompanied by significant reductions in the IT agenda work you’ve been doing. The good news is that much of what can be reduced or eliminated from your daily organizer is work you’ve been trying to get rid of for 10-15 years – consolidating, rationalising, stabilising, and standardising apps, systems, and processes. But don’t be confused. You will still spend time on those activities that are essential to maintaining your IT excellence.

For example, you should radically reduce customization of operational systems of record to deliver systems of engagement. Customer solutions built on these systems focus from the inside out. To optimise for the BT agenda, CX should be delivered as outside-in investments in systems of engagement.

Your pace of delivery will accelerate if you limit monolithic architectures to systems of record. These architectures will remain part of your IT agenda, especially when maximizing reuse, policy, and compliance. But stop wasting time trying to make a single, inflexible architecture fit everything, especially not systems of engagement – like the retail bank that can support only two releases a year, way too slow to match customers’ CX needs.

And don’t chase business-unit wish lists which focus on a specific application or organisation instead of on strategic business outcomes. These incremental investments don’t optimize for the BT agenda and should only occur when there is a need to transform internal operations to meet specific performance objectives.

How do you spend your time?

Take a moment to see how you balance your time in the changing mix of the IT and BT agendas, using the tool below. If your answers tend to be greater than 4, then you’re shifting your focus to the BT agenda. But if your answers tend to be less than four, you may be stuck within a culture that has yet to face up to its BT challenges, focused too much on the familiar – like being in an industry like life insurance that is still moving only slowly toward BT.

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Mature your tech management capabilities and cosy up to your CMO

Much of what you will remove from your daily schedule is there only because of your organisation’s adolescence. Growing up slowly has been OK for a while, but the BT agenda resets the urgency for you to mature those key leadership capabilities required to support the appropriate BT/IT agenda mix.

For example, the BT agenda can’t be pursued effectively through large waterfall projects but instead has to be managed as outcomes, enabled by rapid delivery cycles – enabled by agile development and DevOps production release – in order to respond to the changing set of market and business realities.

And you have to become a better partner with the other business leaders. This is especially true for the chief marketing officer (CMO), whose advocacy for customer experience across channels, across the entire customer journey, and across organisations will drive much of your new BT agenda work.

Bobby Cameron is VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research serving the information needs of CIOs.