In a recent article I talked about IT Business Partnering and some of the pitfalls associated with the role. In this post I’d like to explore how the IT Business Partner role can be exploited to help large organisations fight off disruptive competition from new market entrants.
A recent LinkedIn post by Marc Dowd (You must become a disruptor) makes no bones about the fact that the pace of change brings many dangers for slower moving organisations. Harvard Business Review recently talked about executives expecting ‘moderate or massive’ digital disruption in the next 12 months. Lower startup costs and the proliferation of consumer IT contribute to a general lowering of barriers to entry to many areas of business, creating an extremely dynamic and ever-growing competitive environment.
The HBR article also calls for ‘Catalytic roles’, those that identify and champion improved or developed business models that exploit the changing customer landscape. These roles, or at least the behaviours, are needed throughout traditional “20th century” organisations. Every day that passes means the technology angle of dealing with employees, customers and suppliers becomes more critical, more part of the day to day world, and less the domain of a back-office support function.
IT Business Partnering can play a leading role as a catalyst for bringing disruptive thinking to a business unit that is served by a central IT team. This calls for the BP to leave the IT service provision to the core team and focus on what technological innovation can be leveraged to achieve business outcomes – whether serving the existing business model or through a shift to digital or platform thinking.
In order to achieve this, it is important to spend time with people outside the organisation or in similar roles in diverse parts of the same company – hunkering down with the team is sometimes comfortable but will not bring you any more insight! If the business doesn’t have its own capability for delivering new systems or proofs-of-concept then partnering with an outsourcer to lend that insight and explore the ‘Art of the possible’ can be a short cut to innovative thinking.
Easier to say than to do, right? This position isn’t going to be awarded by a grateful business. It has to be earned, by getting the core proposition right, exploiting the technology that is already in place, and understanding the aspirations of your leadership team.
When the BP then moves from offering and exploring new methods and technologies to achieve existing objectives, to helping to shape future strategy based on emerging trends, the organisation has a true weapon with which to arm itself against more nimble market entrants. CIOs wondering how to get ‘closer to the business’ should seriously consider introducing or revamping their business partnering function the make that a reality.