Business consulting giant Accenture recently posted a video and podcast of their CIO Andrew Wilson and Managing Director Joe Cheung on how the role of the CIO has been changing within Accenture. What’s interesting about this presentation is that it’s a leading consulting company acknowledging that the very way we approach IT is changing.
We are increasingly finding that IT professionals looking at data driven projects such as archiving, compliance and eDiscovery take on aspects of consulting as they have to consider how these relate to the wider information governance and information management objectives of the organization.
No longer just “order takers” or service providers
The IT organization of the past was very focused at responding to the technology needs of running a business, and for Accenture, they scaled this into a billion-dollar consultancy. However, in today’s digital age, they realized they would need to look at the problem differently.
It’s not sufficient for IT to be technologists any longer, to respond to various business units’ needs by deploying another project, or bringing in another piece of technology. Why? The short answer is there is too much technology. There are too many choices, too many options, and many solutions preclude others. Accenture’s CIO found that unless he understood Accenture’s HR function and HR’s agenda, he couldn’t approach their challenges in an innovative way.
There were options and possibilities that went beyond what the HR department knew and understood. In the end, it was the IT organization that outlined HR’s business requirements along with a creative solution.
ITs responsibility is to be current with the “IT ecosystem”
Technologies are evolving at an ever-faster pace, and it is easy for someone outside IT to look at a new technology, say cloud computing, and assume that it will add flexibility or save costs without understanding what else needs to occur to leverage that technology.
Accenture found the simplest way to stay current with evolving technologies, as well as understand the interdependencies, the challenges, and other companies’ solutions, was through the “IT blog ecosystem.” Blogs, they found, contained a wealth of information that the technology providers themselves rarely offered. They could connect directly with other users, learn about their experiences, and apply that knowledge to their own strategies. They read all the vendor announcements, they attend webinars, and they continuously educate themselves.
Beware of vertical thinking
Accenture found that being able to think laterally about the changes their businesses were undertaking, and being focused on their clients enabled them to see better, more innovative solutions. They also considered how their IT staff could remain relevant in the face of new technology,
They found that it was often the user or client who was just as comfortable with the existing solution, or an existing silo of information and technology, as the IT professionals who set it up. That thinking is too limiting: platforms and agendas all change, and taking a path of “least resistance” by simply patching up the silo doesn’t really address the problem in a meaningful way.
In small businesses, the value of disruption may be greater
Accenture consults to industry giants, so just how relevant are their perceptions to small businesses, where the IT organization is a small shop tasked with keeping the business running? Surprisingly, the IT organizations in small businesses actually have greater latitude to implement change and leverage disruptive technology than larger ones.
We’re reminded of a seminar of IT professionals from smaller companies: one CIO/Director of IT noted that the COO was nervous about consolidating servers, and didn’t really understand the notion of virtual machines. Well, he said, I’m still going to virtualize everything else, because I can show the COO how it will save us money and simplify our operations, and I know from the community that my strategy has succeeded elsewhere.
IT as the consultant to the business
In small companies, there really isn’t anybody else to assume the role of technology consultant. Few individuals within the company will have the necessary understanding of both the advantages and challenges of technologies, how they can be deployed, and what will best suit their company.
In that role, other stakeholders will logically turn to IT – and while their requests and challenges might echo the “order taking” and service provider role of IT in the past, today’s IT professionals have the opportunity to be strategists, visionaries, and innovators. What Accenture learned likely applies to everybody.
The consultative nature of information management projects
When IT professionals look at data driven projects like archiving or compliance, how these relate to the bigger goals of the company, i.e. information management, takes on aspects of consulting.
For example, if a company is retaining documents for regulatory compliance, will the mechanism chosen support retrieval in the case of a regulatory challenge? If a company is undertaking archiving, have they also mandated a retention period and is that being built into the rule set driving that archiving? Data projects take on a whole different aspect when the business drivers are considered, and addressing those drivers will ultimately result in a better result. Just as Accenture pointed out, IT is no longer a service provider – they are a critical piece of the business strategy and agenda.