Why your IT function shouldn’t be based on one standard or framework

So how does a CIO ensure their department engine is running smoothly? This is where they need to think carefully about the operating model design i.e. what capabilities are needed, how they should be organised, how they will work together, and what they need to help them operate smoothly and deliver the IT and business strategy.

Often there is a tendency to focus on the people side of things and assume the organisational design is the operating model, however, as mentioned there are several components to an operating model and the first step is to identify what capabilities the CIO requires to help them deliver the IT and business strategy. These will form the building blocks of the operating model and each capability is effectively a set of common skills, which work together with other capabilities to collectively deliver the strategic, tactical and operational needs of both IT and the business.

There is often a temptation to base the capability model design on industry standard frameworks, but these usually tend to serve a very specific purpose rather than shape an effective and efficient IT function. Examples include: architectural frameworks to support Enterprise Architecture; the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) designed to help organisations embed best practice service delivery methods; project management frameworks to run and govern programmes; and then there is Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT), which is designed to identify what aspects of IT the CIO should be governing in order to maintain control and assure the business there is compliancy to both internal and external regulation. Some frameworks may easily be confused with the capability model, due to use of similar language, but we must remember these frameworks are developed by consortiums of IT people from diverse organisations. Therefore, in defining the operating model, it is essential to differentiate between the goal of these frameworks versus the operating model design, and, more importantly, how these frameworks fit into the operating model.

The IT function can be compared to an engine, where the design of the engine includes identification of component parts and what purpose they serve (capabilities in our context): how they fit together (organisation structure); how they optimally run together; and how they are controlled (ways of working and technology) so that the engine can run smoothly. The frameworks fit into and support an organisation’s ‘ways of working,’ and as the term suggests, ‘ways of working’ is specific to the organisational context, and should therefore be tailored to meet the  needs of IT and the specific business based on the capability that is required i.e. adapt and adopt frameworks for flexibility and agility by focusing and prioritising those elements that are most relevant to its needs. Now, there may be cases that warrant the adoption of an entire framework, but this should be determined by the organisational context and the specific needs of the business e.g. non-standard working practices across IT driving fragmentation, cost and customer dissatisfaction or rapid growth.

It must also be noted that to support effective ‘ways of working’ these frameworks are not mutually exclusive and can work together to support the CIO serve the business in the right way. COBIT, for example, defines areas of IT that may require governance, however this alone is insufficient for IT to deliver services. ITIL will define how services are delivered, therefore COBIT may sit above ITIL to provide the right control and governance over how IT is delivering products/services to the business

In summary, industry standard frameworks should not form the basis of the operating model design, but should be leveraged to support the operating model deliver services effectively and efficiently to the business.

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Author: Naveed Umar
Published: LinkedIn

Disclaimer – opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer or organisation.

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