Catalyzing Change Through IT Investments

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the triumphs and tribulations of the past year; however, it’s much more important to look ahead and prepare for the challenges to come. We must, as Hem and Haw learned long ago in the old fable, “Who Moved My Cheese?”, constantly anticipate and adapt to change, lest we wake up one day and realize that our complacency has created dire circumstances for our business.

However, while nearly every organizational guru and change management pundit tells us never to let fear or entrenched viewpoints keep leaders from taking risks and embracing innovation, how many of us really follow that advice? Uncertain economies and a rapidly evolving technological landscape can do much to undermine the bravery and foresight necessary to keep a business successful. Huge titans of industry – Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders and Motorola, just to name a few – have all but disappeared as a result of their inability to innovate and evolve.

For the IT industry, paralyzing pitfalls not only come in the form of outdated technologies, but also in outdated beliefs. For example, some perceptions that come to mind are: IT is an unnecessary cost; IT does not help us when we need it the most; IT will adjust on its own as the business evolves; and IT is just another term for automating “accounting”.

As a result of these beliefs, companies fail to include IT as a tool to execute change, much to their detriment. While the product or service that a company offers in the market may not have much to do with computers or software in and of itself, the role of IT in supporting or even producing that product or service is invaluable. Without data, metrics, analytics, processes and technology to back up a product or service (even if it is non-IT!), the business is going to feel the pinch and start to unravel rapidly.

Now, don’t get us wrong – we are completely sympathetic to concerns with cost, especially for risky change initiatives when the cheese supply (so to speak) is limited. But, as with any other business decision, “cost”, must be considered in terms of overall return on investment; a fixation on upfront spending is both paralyzing and impractical. IT Business investments should be measured in the impacts on the business, both tangible and intangible. An inclusive approach to quantifying the business value of IT initiatives will differ from industry to industry, but diagramming an enterprise “value chain” is a starting point that will help define and connect seemingly disparate processes and functions. This investigation is best done with the full buy-in and active participation of the enterprise as a whole. In our experience, Value Chain Analysis can be best achieved through the following process:

  • Graphing out activities from input (raw materials) to output to illustrate how the product or service gets to market
  • Categorize these activities as primary or support activities
  • Identify whether the company goals for all activities are aligned to compete based on the lowest cost or differentiation. Use these numbers to establish metrics and benchmarks
  • For each primary and support activity, list out:
    • Business Application used for transactional need
    • Applications/Tools for reporting needs
    • Applications/Tools used for workflow automation and event response
    • Manual processes
    • Dependency on other activities in the value chain
    • User Satisfaction
    • Total cost of ownership
    • Critical areas for improvement

In many cases, such an exercise will lead to a transparent and collaborative discussion of both corporate and departmental goals, potentially uncovering previously untapped partnerships and resources to achieve them. Most importantly, comprehensive analysis of the complete value chain fosters an understanding and respect for how systems, processes and people work together to create a successful enterprise. These collaborative summits can motivate corporate leaders to explore new areas of the technological landscape to stay relevant and ahead of challenges, inspiring a new-found respect for the power of IT to support the overall strategy and vision for a company.

So, shall we call this the beginning of a new “Find My Cheese” era? Let the cheese hunt begin – together!

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