by Chris Potts

The pain or gain from IT depends on the match between culture and strategy

May 12, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

A mismatch between an organisation’s IT-related business culture on the one hand, and the maturity level of its strategy for IT on the other, is likely to result in more pain than gain.   

I’m just back from a speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand, which included delivering the keynote at the IT Strategy 3.0 Conference, and my two-day seminar.  Events such as these are always thought-provoking.

For example:  how does the generation of IT strategy you are executing determine the way your organisation treats new IT developments? 

Take Web 2.0 as an example. 

A company executing a first-generation IT strategy (technology-centric) will simply incorporate Web 2.0 technologies into its IT roadmap.  An organisation executing a second-generation IT strategy (efficiency-centric) will also make sure that the Web 2.0 services it uses are reliable, and that the operating costs of those services are optimised. 

But the creative, value-enhancing energy in developments such as Web 2.0 comes from what people do with them.  Harnessing that energy requires at least a third-generation IT strategy (value-centric). 

However, not every organisation needs a third-generation strategy, nor is every business culture ready to execute one.  

Each generation of IT strategy has it benefits, and which is most appropriate depends on the organisation.   Strategically, the CIO’s work is most challenging when the organisation needs a particular generation of IT strategy but is culturally not ready for it.  This is true both ways.  An organisation may need a higher generation strategy for IT than its culture is ready for, or indeed a lower one.

What’s likely to be true, however, is that the interplay between an organisation’s IT-related business culture, and the maturity level of its IT strategy, will result in more gain than pain only if the CIO keeps them both in step.