Abraham Maslow – the American psychologist better known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – once stated: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” I have certainly observed this phenomenon in more than one organization. Someone identifies a need and IT offers a computerized solution to address the need. What often happens is that in an effort to help the business IT takes an existing software solution and expands its capabilities. Usually this happens with applications that are highly configurable. Over time, the applications configuration becomes so extensive and complex that it becomes a burden.
Let me use an example to illustrate:
In an effort to support the Product Engineering organization’s goal to accelerate R&D and improve its chances for successful product launches, the IT organization decided to use an existing ERP platform to configure a number of “new” modules for product analytics. As you may know, ERP applications are very transactional in nature – process and order, issue the work order, manufacture the product, ship it to the customer, produce an invoice, collect payment. Even SAP and Oracle rely on Business Intelligence tools to run sales forecasts and perform data analysis.
Over time the ERP platform became bastardized. It became difficult to upgrade because of the amount of changes it went through and the Product Engineering organization became overly-reliant on the application, making it difficult to replace.
The company’s strategy throughout its 40-year history was one of making money buying and selling other organizations; they would buy a company and run it for its profit then sell it when it became no longer profitable. Ten years ago they decided to change their strategy; they divested from every business except medical devices. Whatever companies they were to buy would have to be one that either complemented or extended the company’s existing product lines. To execute this strategy the company had to be able to absorb newly-purchased organizations as quickly as possible.
If you were a member of the IT Strategic Development Team for the company, how would you align the IT organization’s strategy with that of the company’s?
Hint: think about IT processes, policies, procedures, services, standards, organization.