Defining IT in Business Terms

Beyond being table stakes for doing business at all, the strategic position of IT has expanded from being an enabler of business process and a tool-set for productivity, to being a meeting place for thoughts, a collection point for corporate wisdom, and a connection maker for customers and staff.  One could say that IT is as fundamental to the organization as having a staff to do work and a place to do business. This puts a new spin on business risk and business value definition that many boards and executives are still catching up with.

IT as a Resource

The Process-People-Technology construct that was a rudder through the late ‘90s and into the first decade of the new millennium comes under scrutiny in the light of an emerging business definition of IT that looks more like…

 > People & Technology  (Resources)   >   Processes & Projects (Creation Vehicle)   >   Product & Product Delivery (Physical or Virtual) >

People and Information Technology must be kept in sync in order to be applied optimally as resources, through corporate processes and projects, to produce and deliver the products the company sells.  This synchronization has proved difficult to do, particularly with the speed of change escalating year over year.

When we think of IT as a resource that needs to be understood and developed and applied just like people, the risk management picture changes and IT starts to be regarded as something to be acquired, like talent – get the best there is for the money available, and considering the organizational capability maturity that will apply it. And also, the opportunity costs picture shifts - not maturing existing IT bears the same opportunity cost as not developing staff to meet marketplace demands.

IT as a Location

Comparisons between outdated skill-sets and outdated IT hardware and software aside, the business definition of IT can be expected to continue to evolve toward a point where it nearly replaces brick and mortar as the place where business is conducted.

The IT place-of-business houses the knowledge capital of the organization, and is a connection maker between physical locations and people; providing a meeting place for staff dialogue, collaboration, and creation of new thought as well as providing a consumer sales outlet and demand polling station.  IT leverages business reach and removes physical barriers to conducting business and to consuming and applying human abilities.

Many organizations already categorize hardware IT with physical facilities when it comes to managing risk, but software that connects people should be included, thereby keeping all aspects of the IT place-of-business synchronized.

Leadership Commitment

IT is an extension of place and an extension of people.

Understanding corporate IT well enough to change how it behaves is as complex and painstaking a piece of work as understanding staff sufficiently to change their behaviour to meet business challenges.  To express this in terms of risk: if not understood, valued and purpose-synchronized neither your IT nor your people can achieve the necessary magnitude and frequency of change for transformation to occur or to maintain the right level of agility to remain viable.

In accepting this reality, corporate leaders must re-evaluate and re-tune their strategic and ‘good-governance’ commitments to systems, software, networks and IT architecture, and ultimately match that commitment to the depth and breadth of the commitment they make to their people and their physical locations.

About Linda Miller

Linda Miller specializes in leadership and change intelligence development within corporations. She is in the business of mobilizing people’s wisdom and resources to adapt to rapid, unrelenting change, and to achieve new leadership abilities in the face of constant transformative change.