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IT organizations that successfully balance “keeping the lights on” with innovation activities are the most successful.

According to a recent McKinsey survey, there is a correlation between successful completion of core IT tasks and effectiveness at key digital activities. Respondents to the survey identified as top performers can balance investments into innovation with day to day tasks better than their peers and as a result, they execute better at both. The research supports the idea that the top IT performers are more strategic about utilizing cutting-edge technologies, investing and adapting talent to a changing business model, and require a CIO presence in business strategy and decision-making.

Regardless of how well they balance activities, companies are taking a risk by asking their employees to embrace new technology. These changes have a downstream effect on hiring new employees and re-training the current staff. The disruption that this creates leads to confusion about procedure and process. Finally, it’s impossible to understand ever-evolving enterprise initiatives without proper alignment of IT and the business. So, how do you strike a more perfect balance?

Three steps to help your organization improve innovation without taking on too much, too fast

Over time, companies have constructed silos of information that could be incredibly useful if given the proper visibility. It's becoming increasingly important to share an enterprise view across all vital initiatives and transformative opportunities – and to do so promptly. Whether it is to enhance or innovative business capabilities and IT functionalities.  Here are three ways you can help achieve quick wins:

  1. Understand your eco-system: Ironing out process inefficiencies and alleviating technical/process debt begins with a dynamic understanding of your ecosystem.  Technology, applications, processes, and business capabilities - should all be understood and committed to a common repository that both the business and IT may access. 
  2. Keep current on IT rationalization: When a greater IT/business alignment is achieved, you can discover redundancies in functionality and applications; creating low hanging fruit for rationalization. This maintenance could be crowdsourced, meaning the expert who knows that area of the business the best will contribute vital information to the repository.
  3. Conduct IT strategic planning: Once the repository has been populated you can then use views to gain clarity and understanding about the company’s motivations and strategy as well as its current and future states. This is how you prioritize innovation and maintenance activities that will help the business to both keep the lights on and more importantly, grow.

An enterprise vision supported by transparency and alignment between the business and IT is better equipped to take on both internal and external challenges which leads to successful execution.

Once these three steps are achieved and IT understands the requirements of the business and aligns their projects to business outcomes, it creates an environment for re-usability in different business lines across the enterprise.

This is especially important in a merger or acquisition.  There is usually a cache of different hardware and software all purchased with a different license or version in these scenarios. Generally speaking, there is limited visibility into the “IT basement.” From my experience in speaking with MEGA customers, there are many examples of times that companies appear similar only to find out, usually after an M&A event, that their operation models are quite different. Perhaps you've experienced the frustration of changing process and procedure every quarter as a company tries to figure itself out.

With a successful business and IT alignment, a company can balance innovation while “keeping the lights on.”  An enterprise vision helps define IT’s value and reallocate people, funds, and time to innovation activities, creating a key competitive advantage.