There are lots of things IT teams must do to support and enable business success in the digital world. But what’s most important? Running things?, changing things?, proving new things will work?, designing things? or keeping things aligned and connected?

We often end up going with a simple answer, dividing things into 2 camps:

  • Mode 1: Slow and steady vs Mode 2: Fast and furious.
  • Run vs Change.
  • IT vs the Business.

In the digital world, which demands a huge rate of constant change, simple dichotomies are not sufficient.

We need a much more integral, dynamic, networked way of thinking that recognises:

  • All parts of the IT value network are critically important.
  • Each part has an impact on every other part, and the network as a whole.
  • In order to optimise the network, give and take is needed between all parts, along multiple dimensions of time, resources, value, risk and cost.
  • The IT organisation will be on a continuous transformation journey, in tandem with the rest of the business (and in some cases way out in front).
  • IT is an integral part of the business and the business is an integral part of our IT capability.

We need to move from a stovepipe view of IT as a complex departmental jungle to a system view of IT as an integrated value network.

Collaborative engagement - Conceptual Modelclass=img-responsive
We use this 3D view to illustrate how a value network approach for IT can work

You can think of this model as a set of hats we shuffle through in distinct conversations about the work of IT, or as a metaphor for how IT can structure itself.

Here is how each role is positioned within the value network:

  • Owner

    The CEO and Governance Group who are accountable for successful execution of the transformation program and sustaining the existing business.

  • Pioneer

    Think tank for continuous improvement and innovation. Seeks out customer & best practice insights. Conducts agile experimentation and validation of new ideas.

  • Architect

    Incorporates validated initiatives into the future business blueprint and roadmap. Responsible for scheduling and release management of new initiatives.

  • Integrator

    Provides service level and project delivery assurance and enables effective communication across the ‘Business as Usual’ and transformation teams. Helps sustain energy and momentum.

  • Engineer

    Detailed design, build and delivery of new initiatives, as scheduled by Architect to the Pioneer. Supports business engagement and adoption of new initiatives by Operator.

  • Operator

    Responsible for successful operation of existing business in accordance with agreed targets. Takes on proven new initiatives with support from Pioneer and Engineer.

The key principle is that every role in the network must sustain a healthy tension in its relationship with every other role, and no one role should act unilaterally without considering the implications of their actions on each other role.

Another is the need to sustain ongoing transformation towards the innovative, value-driven, DevOps future state that IT must achieve to enable business success in a digital world. Key to governance of this model is the ability to define and measure what the business, its customers, and stakeholders, value.

We need a performance-driven, results-focused IT capability, rather than one that merely keeps the lights on and sticks to its budgeted costs. A highly collaborative IT team that is deeply enmeshed with the rest of the business, sharing a relentless discomfort with the status quo, rather than seeking to control or obstruct change.

The challenge is optimising value for each role in the network, in a way that supports optimisation of every other role, and the value network as a whole. For executives conditioned by many years of maximising the value of their own department, this is a profound shift in mindset and behaviour, requiring leaders to stand for each other’s success, not just their own.

But that’s the new normal – much more ‘soccer team’ teamwork than the ‘swim team’ individualism our outdated models have perpetuated.