Historically, IT departments consisted of large computers, located in air conditioned facilities, requiring specialized expertise to run, program, and maintain.
Given the complexity, cost, and difficulty of using these early computers, IT staff were the high priests and business users did not have direct access to the machines. In 1967, computer architect Robert S. Barton said, "Systems programmers are the high priests of a low cult."
Today, several factors have democratized computing and IT:
- Technology sophistication among business users
- Consumerization of IT
- Social media
- Universal connectivity
- Proliferation of powerful devices
As a result, business users expect IT to provide powerful, easy-to-use systems that get the job done efficiently. Beyond cost control, these users want technology to solve their problems directly and fast. Any tolerance for old-school, laggard CIOs is quickly disappearing.
This is part of a digital mindset that every CIO and IT leader must understand.
The digital mindset involves a shift from cost-centered thinking to delivering value and innovation. The correct term is actually co-innovation, reflecting the importance of close partnership between IT and the business.
Here are components of the digital mindset and their impact on IT:
Strategy: Efficiency and stability drove traditional IT. Although cost control remains important innovation and partnership with business users are now the goals. After all, no business ever achieved greatness through cost-savings alone.
Culture: Hierarchy gives way to flatter organizations and collaboration.
Talent: In the current environment, development talent replaces traditional IT skills like building server hardware configurations.
Technology: Cloud, mobile, and apps replace large, monolithic systems. Sure, ERP is not going away, but it is moving to the cloud and has become table stakes in many industries.
IT philosophy: We've all felt the pain of "default to no" as the standard answer when making a request of IT. Today, "default to yes" becomes the new normal.
Project management: Long, complicated waterfall projects are out. Smaller, iterative, agile projects reduce risk and get the business involved in deep partnership with IT.
Business model: Old-style IT provides service and support to solve specific technology issues and problems. A modern CIO develops partnership and relationship with the business. IT value flows from enabling the business to meet its objectives fully, completely, and fast.
Every CIO should evaluate his or her organization and strategy using this list as a reference. Ask yourself: "Does my team embody the digital mindset?" If the answer is, "No," then start making changes today. Your survival as CIO depends on it.