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What is the value of a static IT strategic document or IT Operating model? There is no correct or optimal way of working but only moments of success that comes and goes in random. The only way we can master this scenario is to constantly challenge and re-design the organizational prototype – for example operating model or constitution of the management team.

The fact is that I have 10-15 years of experience in IT management and operational design – in terms of strategy, governance and leadership. During this journey I have been convinced of how strategies are developed, or how governance structures are developed. In the end, it is a change journey that needs to be supported to boost performance. But what if we oversaw the most fundamental aspects of IT management and operational design – the fact that we do not have a concrete question and answer to what the document is set to support. What is it that the operational design/strategy is set to solve? And, will the question be the same today as tomorrow? Probably not.

Most IT organization (also business) I have encountered has some sort of business or IT strategic document or operating model. It has been developed over long time in the management team with (often) support of expensive consultants that guide the team on the right path. The final product is often a lengthy document describing new goals, organization and important initiatives setting the direction for the coming years. What I find interesting is that IT management is trying to define an engineering problem where there is a clear answer to how IT or business should be run in a correct way. If we only get the structure right, then IT or business run in the correct way – because there is a correct way. It was worked before! That is what consultants want you to believe.

The engineering approach might be sensible in the pre-digital era when the business and market conditions were quite predictable. All unpredictable unknowns where eliminated and all focus was to build “correct” structures to optimise productivity. The optimal structure would then generate the right results tracked with KPIs. Easy as that! But today, the business and market conditions are more complex with high level of unpredictability and unknowns. To be honest, we do not have a clue of how the market behaviour will look like in a year. That is the true affects of digitalization. So, how are we kidding with the engineering approach?

Most of the business problems today are complex. We do not have a clear view of criteria for success or master plan as the conditions and pre-requisites are constantly changing. Answers and solutions (when found) cannot be re-used, as they are a product of the situation they were designed to master. Current problems are often human problems relating to experience and quite messy. Here we need a design prototyping, based on curiosity, where we continuously prototype and adjust to align our solution to the reality. For example, we can engineer design a car but we need to design prototype to design the user experience.

The point is that the current situation for many IT and/or business organization is that the situation is too complex and fast moving to engineer a solution or strategy for. There is no correct or optimal way of working but only moments of success that comes and goes in random. The only way we can master this scenario is to constantly challenge and re-design the organisational prototype – for example operating model or constitution of the management team. Continuous learning is the key but constantly evaluating the true effects your organisation produce. Why is that we have the same members of the IT management team year in and year out even though we know that different competence are needed over time? How long time is the current composition of a management team valid? Anyway, my point is that we have a view that there is a correct way to manage an IT organization and when that has been designed – then we stick to that. However, the changing environment would require the opposite approach with an ever-changing model based on learning, challenging, and adjustments. We are far from this approach!

When studying IT strategic documents or IT operating models, most of these documents have a good view of what they try to achieve – often enhancing productivity in some way. However, the fact is that in the digital era, there is no concrete questions, no ‘silver bullet solution’ or correct answer – only a hypothesis or idea that needs to be investigated. When we find a solution, the moment has changed. Most of the IT strategies or operating models take their starting point for a stable environment that will be equal for the next 5-7 years. Not good enough!

My recommendation:

  • (IT) Interact with business and find a new way of collaboration where you constantly change and update your way of collaborating. New prototyping of how IT contributes with customer value in a changing environment.
  • (IT) Throw away your old strategic document because they are useless. Build a strategic prototype for the next three months and then iterate it going forward.
  • (IT) Dare to re-shuffle your management team and supplier ecosystem each 3 months to take advantage of each moment of success.
  • Contact Hans Gillior – Digitalization Expert – to support your digitalization journey!

I have spent 15 years on IT strategy and governance domain – any it is now time to change views on my competence and way of working. To grow in your professional role in to question who you are and what you do. In that sense, need to use “competence design prototyping” to always be aligned with the new business requirements and boost moments of success. My old competence and experience will not guarantee any success in the future. Unfortunately!

Hans Gillior – Digitalization Expert/Senior Advisor