Gartner urges IT leaders to take ownership of business outcome

IT can drive business, but IT leaders must become leaders of the business to direct this growth, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner analysts said it is time to be a business leader first, and an IT leader second.

During the opening keynote today at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, being held here through October 12, Gartner analysts examined how IT leaders can drive growth for the business. They emphasized that this cannot be accomplished unless IT leaders understand the business of their company.

Attract and Retain Customers

Gartner analysts outlined how IT leaders need to attract and retain customers by taking advantage of an efficient, secure, always available communications environment. In the emerging strategies for communications, user control is critical. Communications in context, at the right time and place, makes a significant difference.

“We (IT leaders) can put communications in context to give people better information that they can actually act on, at the time they should act on it,” said David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner. “With intelligent filtering, location awareness, and automated presences management, we can identify the best channels to open based on inferred and learned behaviors. These approaches will not only make the workplace a more liveable place, they will also make it a more productive place. We can integrate our critical applications into our communications systems and reduce the impact of human latency.”

Maximize Profitability and Effectiveness

IT must also deliver an efficient, lean, and green infrastructure to maximize profitability and competitive capabilities. IT leaders must run an agile operation that can support the needs of the company as it evolves.

“Exploit technologies like virtualization to lubricate the gears of IT, permitting quick shifts,” said Carl Claunch, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner. “Apply automation; it not only helps cut down rising labor costs, but it accelerates responses to events and delivers consistent, repeatable actions. Operations must build a picture of the relationship of infrastructure and applications to the business process. You must embrace those business priorities.”

Improve Business Processes

A business is the sum of its process. Processes - what they do and how they perform – drive business value, and they drive differentiation. IT has addressed the majority of simple and straightforward processes – those that are predictable, repeatable, and neatly controlled. Advanced organizations will harness the most complex, most volatile, most dynamic, and multi-party processes.

“Find the most critical processes to improve,” said Susan Landry, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner. “Which ones generate the most revenue? Where can you create differentiation that can’t be imitated? Where can you eliminate cumbersome handoffs, costly errors, and duplication? Orchestrate those services and processes as you need them to power the more complex and highest value processes.”

Stop Deleting Opportunities

With the volume of all messages that workers receive—e-mail, text, instant messages, voice mail—the challenge for many is to delete as many of these messages as they can. People want only the right information all the time. Companies want the same thing, at the million document and billion transaction level.

“The problem is not just too much information, it’s too much bad information. The information is delivered unpredictably. It comes from every direction in unimagined forms,” said Whit Andrews, research vice president, Gartner. “Establish that information infrastructure. Focus on the opportunities grasping for air in the information flood.”

Build Innovative and Agile Organizations

It is not enough to be merely efficient. The business must also be agile in order to respond to changing demands. Organizations must find new ways to do better things. Business needs innovation, and that means moving beyond the activities that IT people have obsessed about. IT has been asked to reduce costs, tighten compliance and reduce or even eliminate risk, all while reducing costs.

“Now organizations are asking IT to help them become more agile, which means accepting some risk in exchange for innovation,” said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president, Gartner. “Rather than embracing some collaboration and Web 2.0 possibilities, most IT organizations have spent their efforts trying to prevent people from accessing them. How can IT leaders create an innovative and agile organization if they believe that the most innovative and exciting technologies and services have no business value? To embrace opportunity, IT needs to loosen up to allow good things to happen, safely.”

Managed Risk

IT leaders need to understand the risk related to the use of IT, and these people communicate that risk, so the business can make an educated and informed decision whether or not that risk is acceptable. It is not IT’s job to say no.

“Information security doesn’t mean zero risk, it means managed risk,” said Neil MacDonald, vice president and Gartner Fellow, Gartner. “Talk about what all these new technologies can enable, but in a context of a new approach to IT risk management. Help your business colleagues make educated decisions. It is not IT’s job to assume all IT-related risk.”

Be a Business Leader First, an IT Leader Second

The business is telling IT loudly that they want IT to be business leaders. More CIOs and IT leaders are coming from business backgrounds with no previous experience in technology.

“The business is telling us that they want IT leadership who looks like them, acts like them, and sees the role of IT as they do, as a business leadership role,” said Tina Nunno, managing vice president, Gartner EXP. “You (IT leaders) understand how the business processes really work, and where the key business information really is.”

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