Tuesday, October 24, 2006

IT as an innovation impediment

I am on a flight to San Fran to attend the Annual Oracle World event. I just read an article "IT & Innovation: Out of Sync" in the Optimize magazine. It claims that, over the last few years, IT within large and mid-sized organizations has changed from being an innovation enabler to a significant barrier to innovation. It also points to a very small survey that innovators within organizations feel that IT is not very helpful in supporting them.

The message is loud and clear: we are doing a poor job of driving and supporting innovation. A couple of weeks ago, Walt Mossberg of WSJ stated that corporate IT is one of the biggest impediment to organizational success. The people charged with driving the growth of large corporations via innovation are more and more frustrated with IT.

Over the past 12 months, I have heard from many business owners within our organization about how IT constantly slows down the launch of new initiatives. IT's primary role has moved from being a center of innovation to that of maintaining existing antiquated systems. It is not all IT's fault. Several factors are in play here:
  • most systems deployed in the 90s are now antiquated and not well supported by vendors
  • the focus on cutting IT costs has led to bigger cuts in budgets for deploying new technologies and less cuts in maintenance costs. Training to better leverage new products has gone on-line and is less collaborative.
  • rate of technology innovation has picked up: web 1.0, SOA, Web 2.0, mobility, ... It is harder to keep up and quickly bring new solutions to customers
  • focus on security and compliance has made collaboration with external entities difficult. In some ways, the corporate workforce is becoming more and more isolated.
Business owners wonder how small (and even large) new companies can develop technology to support new products and innovative ideas in significantly less time than corporate IT departments. We need to learn from them.

I, being in IT, very well understand what we are up against. We have highly customized legacy systems to support, that the same users who now complain about inflexibility, pushed us to build. We just cannot quit supporting them to focus on innovation. However, if we in IT want to continue to enjoy the confidence of our customers, we must implement change fast. Application and infrastructure has to become much more flexible to allow our customers to innovate. Several of the new technologies hold great promise. The challenge is in delivering them to our customers and in helping them effectively leverage the new tools.

We have our job cut-out for us. The ones who succeed will see their organizations flourish, the ones who don't might perish.

No comments: