Doing More With What You Already Have

by drjim on January 7, 2010

You Get No More Resources, But Still Need To Find A Way To Innovate

You Get No More Resources, But Still Need To Find A Way To Innovate

As an IT Leader, you’ve got a bit of a challenge on your hands right now. There is probably no way that you’re going to be getting more funding or headcount in the immediate future (or at least not enough to make a difference).

Yet at the same time your senior management keeps talking about the need for the IT department to start showing some innovation. Sounds like you’ve gotten yourself into yet another bind. How about if we take a look at how you can exceed your expectations using what you already have…

It’s All About The Information

Eric Lundquist over at eWeek magazine points out that one way for an IT team to show innovation is for it to create new ways to leverage company information. Two ways of doing this include taking existing company information and combining it in different ways and the other is creating new information from resources that already exist.

Within IT we all know the dirty little secret: our systems don’t talk to each other. What this means is that we have databases that are stuffed with silos of customer, product, and operations information sprinkled throughout the company.

It does not take a genius to realize that simply by creating an application that has access to two databases that have not previously been connected an IT team can create a new information tool. By creating this type of data “mashup” multiple times, the innovation that has been requested can be delivered.

It’s Time To Optimize

Anyone up for more layoffs? Ok, so that’s not the type of optimization that we’re talking about here. Any company runs by executing processes. IT has the ability to help optimize those processes. The first step in doing this is to measure the processes as they exist today in order to be able to determine what parts of what processes need improvement.

In the old days, this type of process measurement simply focused on people and documents. Now we realize that there’s more than meets the eye here. If you look at the full infrastructure of what it takes to run a company and execute a process, then you need to account for things like electricity, air conditioning, physical space, etc.

Most companies that compete against each other end up with very similar processes. If your IT team can come up with a way to make your company’s process better / quicker / faster than the other guy’s process then that truly would be an innovation.

Risk Is What You Make Of It

Risk to a company comes in many forms. Most firms focus on making sure that they are complying with both state and federal regulations. Rarely does a company see risk management as an avenue to innovation and so more often than not they end up trying to do the bare minimum needed just to get by the regulators.

There is a different approach that you can take with your IT team. If you assign them the task of determining where the risk to the company lies, they just might surprise you with what they come up with. Once they’ve identified where the risks are, assign them to create solutions that will either minimize or eliminate these risks. You just might be surprised with the level of innovation that empowering your team creates.

What All Of This Means For You

Innovation is currently a popular buzzword both in business and in IT. As IT Leaders we are being asked to create innovation within our teams using the resources that we currently have available.

If we take the time to look around, we will find that we have three opportunities to make things happen using what our teams already have. The first is to bring silos of company data together in order to create information that doesn’t currently exist. Next we have the opportunity to measure existing company processes in order to find out where IT can help optimize the processes. Finally, IT has a key role to play in minimizing the risk that the company faces and by empowering your IT team you can uncover hidden risks.

Innovation is there, you just have to take the time to uncover where it is hiding. You need to move quickly, because there’s a lot more that your IT team needs to get done after this!

Do you think that your IT team has the ability to work with other IT teams to create company data mashups?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Sigh, if only we all could work for Google, right?  Hmm, but wait a minute, no matter how nice it seems, they’ve got to be dealing with the same IT Leader issues that we all are. Maybe it’s time to have a talk with their (former) CIO…

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