Peer to Peer Magazine

June 2011

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 67 of 143

to theEdge: Close IT’s Fight to Stay Ahead of the Curve But keep in mind that this is not the objective of alignment. The core competency of the organization is not a product or a service, but more often the way it supports an innovative business model for delivering its products or services. After all, there are thousands of firms that focus on family law. The right question is, “How do we use the skills we have in our organization and build the skills in IT to differentiate the way we deliver these otherwise undifferentiated services?” Notice how this is not in conflict with reducing costs on the commodity side of IT. For example, moving to the cloud can actually focus and free up IT to allow it to better align with the business. I’d go so far as to say that it’s impossible for any business to truly differentiate itself in today’s markets without substantial alignment of IT to support its core. IT Sheds Finally, and this is hardest of all, IT needs to accept that it has to be the one to commoditize itself by shedding everything that is noncore. As you move your focus to supporting higher levels of innovation and transformational business models, the assembly line of basic IT requests will accelerate well beyond anything you can handle internally. Innovations are like changes to ecosystems; they have unforeseen implications that will impact your organization and the market in ways that create even greater opportunity for yet additional innovations. This cascading effect is usually beyond anyone’s ability to staff adequately while also maintaining agility. It’s reminiscent of the classic scene from I Love Lucy. Lucy is stationed at the end of an assembly line for cakes, boxing them as they come. As the assembly line starts to speed up she tries to keep pace, ultimately making a mess of monumental proportions in classic slapstick style. Without a well-thought-out strategy for sourcing and scaling, I can assure you that your fate will be far less humorous. As is the case with any good portfolio manager, you need to define risk tolerance, take precautions and diversify. I’d suggest you start by sitting down immediately with your IT tasks and staffing and then segment your portfolio of both into five categories. Begin by systematically getting rid of everything but those tasks that add the greatest value and reskill as many people as possible to move into the Excellence and Transformation categories of the Capability Curve. The most basic problem in approaching this challenge is that the processes that make up the first three categories of the Capability Curve are almost always the most difficult to describe and the least visible in an organization, until they break! But this only furthers the need to move out of these areas as quickly as possible — otherwise your best resources and talent will always be abducted by the challenge of keeping the lights on. In a world of increasing uncertainty and complexity, organizations need to focus their best and brightest resources, as much as possible, on those things that will allow them to support their core and transform their business. Anything less dulls your competitive edge and shackles your agility. IT Can — and Must — Change Innovate, align and shed — simple, right? So why haven’t most IT organizations done this yet? If you’re in IT, you know the answer to that. Reskilling is tough work. Colleges aren’t doing a great job of it and neither are most firms. Besides, until recently, the risk of failure was just too great, the options for sourcing it too costly, and the rate of change too slow to justify. We can argue how or when that all changed but we can’t argue whether it has. There is very little in the way of basic IT services that you can do in-house that can’t be done better and cheaper elsewhere. If you’re feeling just a bit defensive when you read that, think about it this way: If you were to start with a clean slate and build your organization from the ground up, would you really build IT in the same way? Doubtful. And that’s your greatest challenge. New firms will be competing on an entirely different footing of cost and competency. How will you compete against that? It’s not just IT that’s being threatened; it’s your business. You are at a turning point. It is time to reinvest in those areas that will make your IT organization not just better at technology but in those core competencies and transformational business models that will make you and your firm great. Ultimately, it’s the only way IT will stay ahead of the curve. ILTA Tom Koulopoulos is President and Founder of Delphi Group, Executive in Residence at Bentley University, one of the industry’s six most influential consultants, according to InformationWeek, author of eight books, including his most recent, “The Innovation Zone,” and a frequent contributor to national and international print and broadcast media. Tom is one of the industry’s most prolific thought leaders –– his insights provide a beyond-the-edge view of the turbulence created by the collision of technology and business. He can be reached at Peer to Peer the quarterly magazine of ILTA 69

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