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You Must Industrialize IT to Secure your Organization’s Future

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Can you afford to continue wasting time and resources by re-inventing the wheel and firefighting? This is the question many IT leaders are asking themselves in light of a downturn in financial markets and pressure to get more from less.

Recent keynote addresses by companies like IBM and Forrester say that IT must move away from being a craft towards industrialization. A while ago, even I wrote about knowing your ‘craft’ as a means to build your career. I was wrong to say craft, as craft implies an artistic approach to delivering IT. The thing is, IT must come out of the dark ages.

In the 1800s, matches were made individually by hand, as were nails and pins. Each single item came out different. It wasn’t an industry – it was a craft. Since the birth of IT in the middle of the last century, IT has really been a craft too. IT service delivery wasn’t repeatable and scalable, even if we thought it was. In fact this served the workforce in the industry as it allowed us to create the perception of it being a black art that only a select few were able to deliver value, and with a high salary too.

Things started to change when some aspects of the industry began to be commoditized, such as support/helpdesk and IT ops functions. It’s no surprise that these were the first pieces to be outsourced when that took off. These services became more automated and measurable by developing toolsets allowing commercial arrangements to be established and SLAs constructed.

IT in general terms still remains a craft though. Individual disciplines, if you pardon the pun, would argue against that – Enterprise Architects will argue they use industrial-strength methodologies such as EA3, as would developers using rigorous tools, methodologies and coding practices. However, I can count on one hand the number of organizations I have experienced that deliver IT services consistently to standard to time. Business rarely allows it. If you’re not familiar with the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) then join the club, as very few organizations you’ll meet today will be compliant.

I’m painting a bad picture – but I think that’s the way it really is if you stand back and look at the IT industry in the way it’s applied in most organizations.

There is an answer, and that is industrialization. In other words its looking at IT like a factory with a well-oiled, industrial plant. If you’re in IT, it’s key that you look at it this way. IT isn’t a cottage industry. But what is industrialization?

In IT terms, industrialization is:

Why do I think this is critical to the future of IT and your organization?

Industrialization means efficiency : The cost of industrialization is far outweighed by the eventual savings. Once the scalable repeatable processes are established they become progressively cheaper to run as productivity increases

Industrialization means opportunity to outsource : Measurable delivery of IT means that commercial arrangements can be established with outsource vendors, allowing business focus rather than IT focus. Outsourcing is an inevitability that can’t be avoided – only economic fluctuations cause periodic delays in its adoption

Industrialization means maturity : A common language and a common expectation across the organization results in effective application of IT to standard

Industrialization means results : Business is results-oriented. IT industrialization gives organizations the confidence that results are delivered on time and on budget

But I said business doesn’t allow it. In most cases, this is true, because business people rarely understand the above points and what industrialization can mean to them. This is why building strong relationships within the business is important, and why many IT organizations are now looking at introducing Business Relationship Managers (BRMs) as a new role (google Business Relationship Manager and see what comes up). A CSC report said that the two main barriers to the use of IT in business is a) Business people’s inability to understand what can and can’t be done with IT , and b) the inability of business to change in order to take advantage of new capabilities . The role of BRMs is to bridge this gap and resolve these issues by creating awareness, discussing business problems and opportunities, and by bringing business and IT people together.

It’s really key that IT and business understand the opportunity in industrialization and consider it a key driver in business strategy going forward. Or else they will fail, period.

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