When we think of a typical IT guy, we see the guy maintains your laptop, installs Windows, and setups mailbox. People who interact with IT more know there are many businesses highly related to IT. The impact of IT can be tremendous. When do it right, the IT department can turn the company around.
I want to share my thoughts after reading The Phoenix Project. As an IT professional, the problems and suggested solutions in the book powerfully resonate with me.
The narrator is Bill, an IT manager in a component company. One morning, he got promoted and soon realized he has to handle a doomed project in 90 days. If he fails, the whole department will be outsourced. Bill worked with stakeholders across the organization with the clock ticking, including finance, sales, marketing, and product team, to streamline the objectives and processes. Finally, he transformed the company and also himself.
Financial metrics should align with business objectives, so do IT
Instead of focusing on financial metrics, the CFO focused more on business objectives, such as exceeding customer expectations, forecast sales, and choose the right market. The company could have the best account receivable but fall behind the market without fulfilling the business objectives. Bill hence understood that all his work should align with the company’s business objective.
Time to market and IRR are key metrics evaluating a project
Bill used to give the team more time until the project is perfect and ready enough. However, after a conversation with CFO, he realized the success of a project is time to market and IRR. In other words, if the innovation couldn’t test the water fast and break even in a short timeframe, it would be risky from the investor’s point of view.
Data accuracy and timeliness make significant impact
The product manager illustrated what a good day looks like for her: She can check the latest and accurate order information within one click. She will further use the data to plan the production and put the right product on the right shelf. Moreover, she can reach the right audience at the right moment driven by the data. Finally, boost the revenue and win more market share. In other words, if IT can deliver accurate data on time, the sales will have a tremendous improvement. Before this interview, Bill didn’t relate his work with the product team’s success so much.
Faster time to market and rapid obsolescence
The company needs to speed up the new product development because they are in a fast-paced industry. The marketer shared with Bill that if the company couldn’t manage the R&D, production, and go to market in less than six months, the chances are the idea would be taken from competitors. As a result, you will see a very similar product on the market, and the company will lose market share. This insight made Bill observe the current development process from a brand new angle.
The impact of system downtime is huge
If the phone system, order system, or MRP (Material Requirement Planning) system shut down, not only the customer would turn to the competitor and impact the sales and customer satisfaction, the sales, HR, and finance department also need to come up the compensation to cheer up the sellers. Otherwise, the seller might leave the company, leaving more time and financial cost for recruiting and training.
Information Security should align with the company’s objective
If information security does not align with the company’s objective, the company will spend a considerable amount of time on various paperwork and meeting. In other words, if a system doesn’t impact information security and integrity, then there’s no need for an information security check. Take the Point of Sales System in the canteen as an example. After realizing the system doesn’t save sensitive data, John, the InfoSec manager, decided to outsource it to save internal resources.
There are few types of IT departments I found in the daily business:
The department would evaluate the security risk with hundreds of security checks before discussing the business value.
The department would analyze the cost at the very beginning.
Consider maintenance effort first
The less system to maintain, the better. Even business user sees value on it.
Determined to transform
They expect the project to go live soon after delivered the MVP ( Minimum viable product). They want to prove themselves and make an impact on business users.
There are different reasons to curate this culture. Some are aligned with the company’s business model, such as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), focusing on minimizing the cost and scale the business. Some are the leadership style, such as Bill. He had an engineering mindset, which was about quality, accuracy, and schedule. After understanding the objective of stakeholders in the company, he soon realized there are some adjustments he could make to balance both sides. Instead of delivering a vast and complex phoenix project, he divided the project into different services based on business needs. He then introduced DevOps to accelerate the timeline. The result does not only help the success of the marketing and sales department, making significant revenue progress but also save the whole department and himself.
As an IT professional, you must have many to-do lists. However, don’t forget to look up, talk with people from different departments, and understand what they need and what you need from them to move your work forward.