Assessing IT performance

Mind the GapIt is interesting how sometimes a collection of apparently random events, articles or reports gel in your mind.  We are just in the process of finalising our revised internal IT roadmap for the next three years, with a more specific focus on what exactly we will be focusing on over the next two years and the programme portfolio for the first year.  So perhaps I was subconsciously more receptive that normal to registering content around maximising the value my team delivers to my company, how you might define high performing IT units (and their leaders!) and how that relates to the frequent use of the word “innovation” across business and IT trade press.  Regardless, I alighted upon an excellent report that was recently published by Accenture entitled “Mind The Gap“, providing insights from their third annual global research into high performance IT. A good deal of the content in this report resonated with me, in relation to my CIO role but also to conversations I’ve been having with fellow CIOs, including some of our clients.

The headline in the Computer Weekly article discussing the research was “Top UK CIOs admit their IT is behind the times”.  This was drawn from the fact that in the UK 90% of the CIOs interviewed for the research said that their systems were not sufficiently flexible whereas 67% took the same view elsewhere in the world.  Personally I don’t think that gap is necessarily real and, if pushed, would probably argue that the UK respondents may perhaps have been more brutally honest.  One gap that is clearly apparent from the research is that the gulf between the highest performers and the others is widening from one year to the next.  Now, no CIO wants to be towards the back of the pack so that certainly got my attention and prompted me to download the full report – and I’d recommend that you do too as is very interesting reading.

In the Accenture model they measure IT performance across three primary areas: IT Execution; IT Agility; and IT Innovation.  I thought these were excellent prompts for me in reviewing my strategy and the programme portfolio we are planning to execute.  Now we all have our trials and tribulations lurking within our deployed technology base and I’m not about to bore you with a self-pitying whine on my challenges. However, legacy system maintenance and refresh challenges aside, what I did was to compare what Accenture define as attributes of high performance IT to our plans, generating a checkpoint and some insights.  In summary our plans around IT Execution stood up to scrutiny given our funding constraints (I cannot help myself from complaining!), I found some improvements points in relation to IT Agility and, somewhat depressingly, I found us reverting to a technology-centric perspective truism on IT Innovation and not business value articulation.  It was certainly a worthwhile afternoon of reflection and approach review; and I’m not saying that to be a nice Accenture alumni.

Whilst on the topic of innovation, I recently read an excellent post by Gary Hamel on his Wall Street Journal blog, entitled “Who’s Really Innovative?” Unsurprisingly, given the author, this was an entertaining and insightful article which discussed the questions many of us have grappled with – what is innovative and, whatever it is, how would I embed the generating behaviours into my company DNA?  I need to think through which of his five types of innovators relate to my company and whether we have multiple in play.   It was certainly food for thought as Fujitsu are focusing one of our Executive Discussion Evenings next February on the question “Innovation at the sharp end: how can organisations turn good ideas into bottom-line growth”.  I’ll be on stage, sharing my views on the topic, along with Matt Kingdon (CEO at !Whatif?) and Marion King (CEO at Vocalink).  Find more details of how to request a seat at Fujitsu’s Executive Discussion Evening on 9 February 2011.

Image credit: © QQ7 – Fotolia.com

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