Analyst’s corner
Published in

Analyst’s corner

Artist: Sherri Lynn Wood

The Thread of Your Organization

Digital technology is woven into the very fabric of your organization’s processes. Tossing it into a separate department is like trying to separate the weft from the warp of a fabric: it doesn’t work.

The All-in-One Corporate IT

Where are your digital teams positioned within your corporate organizational chart? If you’re like all customers that I know, they are probably grouped under the oversight of a chief executive. That senior exec is likely part of the executive management committee and their title is most likely Chief Information Officer (CIO), or some variation of it.

Not Much Change on the Horizon

To be on the safe side, I combed through the publicly available financial statements of a dozen major organizations in both public and private sectors on three continents and in eight different industries. I took the time for this due diligence to make sure that I hadn’t missed a major shift over the past few years. As I expected, there was no change: my research showed that all medium to large organizations are still — as they were forty years ago — clustering all information technology skills and responsibilities under a single umbrella.

Then, as it often happens, I started to doubt my findings. What if the organizational charts don’t show that the IT skills and responsibilities are, in fact, spread across the organization? What if the CIO has delegated some portions of the digital pie to those accountable for delivering business value through the use of technology?

All-Inclusive Processes Too

But it seems that isn’t the case either. Below is not an organizational chart, but a list of the highest level processes of a major financial institution. If you are acquainted with the day-to-day business of a major bank, the chart below will look familiar. What’s most interesting about this chart is that the major processes related to information technologies (highlighted in blue) are all grouped together into only two processes labelled Provide, maintain and support IT services and Manage IT modes of operation. This is typical of what I refer to as the single-desk IT.

This organizing model doesn’t work very well, and hasn’t for a long time now.

The Single-Desk IT Model

The delegation of all IT-related tasks and responsibilities to one group may have worked in the olden days when the digital folks wearing white coats were operating machines in an air-conditioned, glass-fronted room in the basement. But in the 21st century, information technologies are now part of the fabric of enterprises. There are many issues with dumping too many digital responsibilities onto the same team, as I described in my first book.

The single-desk IT model is not the result of power-hungry geeks wanting to have it all and control every part of an organization. In fact, more than three decades of field observation have led me to believe that it’s actually the other way around: business people in most organizations are more than happy to toss any IT-related concern, task, or responsibility to someone else.

This is caused, in part, by a knowledge gap between those that have chosen different career paths. But of course, this will never change: most people in your organization aren’t attorneys, which is why you have a legal department.

But at the end of the day, it is not the legal department that signs on the dotted line of a contract. If there’s a lawsuit against your organization, someone owns the causes behind it and the effects it has on your enterprise; the friendly lawyers on the 7th floor just support the process.

Mass Delegation of Digital to One Team

You can find parallels with other fields like HR or Finance, but these have their limits because none of these departments have become so critical to the daily operations of all other departments over the last 30 years. The knowledge gap can be bridged to a certain extent, but most importantly, the mass delegation of all IT concerns to one department has to be recognized as dangerous to the health of your enterprise. Something has to change. And the larger your organization, the greater the danger to your agility as a business of delegating all IT tasks, challenges and responsibilities to one team.

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