Break free from lights-on IT by empowering the business

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IT empowerment model: Four concepts

Cramm laid out four key concepts that underpin the IT empowerment model:

  1. From direct to indirect control

This means controlling IT via policies, process and systems, rather than by people. Instead of appointing a project manager to ensure the project is managed correctly, define what project management is, define the skill sets required, form the rules and provide system or application support. Citing her experience as a CFO, Cramm pointed to the finance processes that ensure business people manage their own financial assets, including an annual budget process, a chart of accounts, financial accountabilities at every level of the organization, a rollup structure, ongoing reporting and performance reviews based on the actual results.

  1. Coach, don’t do  

CIOs will need to convince their IT staff to “put their hands in their pockets” when training business employees to take IT responsibility, rather than just doing it. Finding the resources to do the coaching will be tough. But CIOs have done it before, she said, when they moved to other models of delivering IT, such as embedding IT resources in business units. “You reduced your lights-on costs because you knew how important it was,” she said.

  1. Platforms, not point solutions

“These are tools to build tools, or tools to do what we formerly had to do,” Cramm said. She cited the data visualization and analytics tools deployed at many companies that “in some ways have put us out of that business.” The spectrum for IT empowerment will vary company to company. She recalled a recent conversation with a CIO at a professional services company who told Cramm that doing data visualization and analytics is “table stakes for her entire company,” because business success is tied to having those skills. 

  1. From fixed to variable costs

Cloud computing is a vehicle for moving from fixed to variable costs, and it is no longer something leading CIOs just talk about. “They are all in, and they are all in because of time to market and because it has saved money.” Another “thrilling” sea change, in her view, is the “return to sanity” on outsourcing. Companies and CIOs understand there are core skills that must be kept in-house. “We have to own our own architectures; it is our core internal experts who allow us to flexibly scale.”