Jill Dyché On How Technology Is Changing IT

I spoke with Jill Dyché, who is the best-selling author of The New IT and the Vice President of SAS Best Practices. Prior to being acquired by SAS in 2011, Jill was a partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting, where she combined the roles of best-practice expert, in­dustry gadfly, key client advisor, and all-around thought leader. At both firms, she has led client strategies and market analysis in the areas of data gover­nance, business intelligence, master data management, CRM, and big data. In the following brief interview, Dyché talks about how technology is changing IT, what the digitally-savvy workforce means for IT and more.

Dan Schawbel: How are new innovations in technology transforming IT’s role (innovation, integration, etc. as new responsibilities)?

Jill Dyché: Savvy CIOs and CTOs are using innovation to keep doing meaningful work, and to keep their organizations relevant. When innovation is IT-led, it exposes new toolsets, fresh ideas, and disruptive business models so IT and business units can collaborate more richly. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Nordstrom, and even Lego have introduced innovation labs, where IT and business people can tire-kick vendor tools, prototype emerging technologies, and run data discovery exercises. Bonus: when initiatives like these are led by IT, there’s a halo effect.

Schawbel: What does a digitally-savvy workforce mean for IT?

Dyché: It depends on the IT department. Sometimes the business is so far ahead of IT in knowing how it wants to deploy digital solutions that IT is left in the dark. It’s much easier for IT to engage and add value to a digitally-enabled project at the beginning than fight to be involved once a project is underway. IT either needs to help lead a company’s digital strategy, or decide to stay out of the way. In the latter decision, this might establish the precedent of business-owned digital technologies. But if IT is involved in the planning stages, it circumscribes people’s roles and ensures ongoing involvement.

Schawbel: How are these IT leaders transforming their businesses, showing innovation and improving value?

Dyché: It’s nothing less than an opportunity for IT to become—often for the first time—strategic. Digital is transforming business models. This isn’t just about pushing a new customer’s name and address to a sales rep’s smart phone. Digital is launching new business models. Consider how retailers are using beacon technologies in their brick-and-mortar stores, directing shoppers to items they might not have otherwise put in their baskets. Or geo-fencing technologies outside of those stores, which use GPS technologies to locate participating customers, and invite them in with targeted deals.

Of course there are tons of such examples across different industries and market segments. The point is to avoid digitizing existing processes for the sake of it and—as you said—show value.

Schawbel: Why are CIOs more important than ever to forming business strategy and planning?

Dyché: Because there’s shadow IT backlash. A few years ago new funding models collided with business disaffection with IT, and many business units assumed ownership of their own technology projects. To say this caused CIOs grave consternation would be an understatement. But fast forward a few years and many of those same business units have confronted the brutal reality of having to maintain those new applications, having to manage their own (tragically siloed) data, or having to work with vendors to administer contracts and SLAs. Suddenly, they’re complaining about the development and maintenance tasks. They want to give it all back!

Schawbel: How do they build and strengthen the role of IT in their company and what does the future look like for them?

Dyché: CIOs can proactively put the frameworks in place to manage all this. In The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age (McGraw-Hill, 2015), I talk to CIOs about what they should own, what they should shed, and who they want to be. I love what H. James Dallas, the recently-retired CIO of Medtronic told me: “I have no problem with shadow IT—as long as I’m the one casting the shadow.” Dallas and his divisional CIOs were very aligned with their executive peers and their business plans. As a result, they had a seat at the table.

Another executive, Eugene Roman—CTO of retail powerhouse Canadian Tire—has articulated his own version of e-tailing: “extreme retailing.” Roman explains that the future of IT’s value is “all about digital asset management in IT.” He’s guiding Canadian Tire toward a sophisticated mobile strategy.

Schawbel: What’s at stake if technology is not aligned with business strategy or if they’re not aligned? How are IT leaders working to ensure they’re working to co-develop or have a seat at the table while this is being developed?

Dyché: IT can get marginalized at the drop of a hat. IT leaders who are true change agents listen before they prescribe. Michael Smith, the CIO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, aligns his organization’s IT roadmap with the business plans of individual business units. He talks about how he makes sure he’s strategic. “We essentially created a one-page strategy ‘house’ structure. This resonated amazingly well with executives. I could tie all of our work back to my strategy house. We rolled it out more broadly in a video to the entire company.”

Likewise, Toyota Financial Services CIO, Ron Guerrier, has rolled out a one-to-two year Strategic Goal Prioritization to both internal business people and external suppliers. “We update it every six months, and we enlist our business partners each time. So there’s not only a reason but a value discussion around everything we’re working on.”

IT leaders who are true change agents understand the power of collaboration—and of leveraging that collaboration to work differently, and to deliver consistently. This in turn improves their reputations and the reputation of their teams. It makes it easier to attract and retain talent. And it increases their bargaining power.

Schawbel: What are the risks if IT chooses to lean on “citizen development” strategy for building new applications? What is to gain from leveraging citizen development in developing apps?

Dyché: What’s at stake is nothing less than the IT organization itself. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In The New IT I introduce six IT archetypes, and one of them is “IT Everywhere.” The IT Everywhere archetype means that technologies are dispersed inside and outside the firewall, managed via a federated model with a thin layer of oversight. This model obviates the need for a formal IT organization. Many “digital first” companies operate this way today, but it’s an increasingly compelling model for executives who don’t consider IT to be differentiating.

Most companies won’t be adopting IT Everywhere anytime soon. Which means they need an understanding of their prevailing behaviors beyond the so-called “bi-modal IT.” They need to honestly assess where they are now and where they want to be. But more than ever, they need to be honest about their internal brand.



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