Jill Dyché, Vice President of Best Practices at SAS, and Argyle’s Scott Robbin discussed the evolution of the IT space and how companies are approaching what to put in the cloud.
Can you give us a bit of background on your organization and your role?
I run the Best Practices team at SAS. We’re a group of thought leaders dedicated to sharing “what works” with both SAS customers and to the industry at large. We’ve found that there’s a hunger for information on what makes organizations effective.
My team covers four domains: Big Data; Data Governance and Management; Data Visualization; and Analytics & BI. We find that there are common conversations that cut across these domains. What have organizations done to align business and IT around some of these activities? How does culture affect deliver? Who should own the effort? What is the role of an executive sponsor? We combine deep expertise in our domains with delivery experience. That’s given us plenty of real-life stories to share.
What immediate and gradual changes have you seen in the IT space?
From an immediate standpoint, I’d say certain trends are accelerating the pace of change in IT. Certainly the rise of the cloud, big data, social media and mobile technologies are all introducing new opportunities for companies to exploit new technologies, which drive revenues and cost savings.
This has, of course, meant a gradual realization on the part of IT leaders that they need to either support change or get out of the way. I’m writing a book right now on “The New IT” and I’m talking a lot to IT leaders who are out in front of business with new ideas for how technology can be game-changing for their companies.
In your conversations with these executives, what are some of their struggles?
Well, one of the more interesting conversations is about the emergence of shadow IT. Some IT leaders are fighting it, and some are succeeding in holding it off. I spoke to one manufacturing CIO who has authority to block any technology expense outside of IT. I like what James Dallas, CIO Emeritus at Medtronic says: “There’s nothing wrong with shadow IT— as long as you’re the one casting the shadow!” I love that!
“The rise of the cloud, big data, social media and mobile technologies are all introducing new opportunities for companies to exploit new technologies, which drive revenues and cost savings.”
How do you identify which items the business should own compared to what should be sent to the cloud?
That’s a decision that has as much to do with incumbent cultural norms as it does functional needs. A lot of larger companies have both a centralized IT organization as well as line-of-business IT functions. Typically, these companies have some sort of policy that says if your functionality or data isn’t shared across other organizations, go ahead and use your budget to go to the cloud. But if there’s a lot of overlap, let’s make sure we’re collaborating and everyone’s needs are covered.
What are the drivers that motivate organizations to implement IT governance infrastructures?
The above example about the cloud is really relevant here. The greater the extent that resources are shared across business functions, the greater the need for IT governance. This is something a lot of senior executives don’t understand. They see governance as nothing more than an academic exercise. But it can drive standards that, in turn, cultivate economies of scale. Governance isn’t just about managing the IT asset — it’s about fostering a common vocabulary across heterogeneous business units.
“The greater the extent that resources are shared across business functions, the greater the need for IT governance.”
What will new technology models look like going forward, influencing consumer behavior and organizational models?
This is a big topic in my book. We’re seeing the concept of “centralized versus federated’ being replaced with what I call “IT service lines.” The concept of service lines comes from healthcare: there’s an oncology service line, a cardiology service line, a pediatrics service line … They support a common vision and share oversight, but they are specialties, requiring different expertise.
In IT, capabilities like analytics — which has historically not been a formal organization but rather a development group or a competency center — are now being formalized into sanctioned IT service lines, where IT plays a role in deployment, but may not own soup-to-nuts delivery. What this does is ensures complete business support. The IT portfolio will be managed and prioritized based on service lines. That will clarify ownership boundaries and propel delivery.
And that, in turn, can lead to a host of business benefits, from faster product time-to-market, to more relevant customer interactions, to new ways of analyzing and visualizing data. And those are wins for everybody.
Jill Dyché is Vice President of Best Practices at SAS and the author of three books on the business value of technology. Her fourth book, The New IT, will be published later this year.