As I was evaluating the current role of Information Technology in our Industry I looked back and it seemed to be that there have been four distinct roles that Information Technology has played with business over the years
1) Recording and Reporting
This role focused mainly on Risk Mitigation. In the early years of computing, there was great value to be gleaned by entering data in a consistent way and minimizing errors. There was also great value realized by then having all the data in one location that could then be reported on to provide key indicators for the health of the business.
Information Technology implemented systems to record the current state or what ‘IS’.
Soon after Information Technology had implemented solutions to help in Recording and Reporting, focus turned to larger problems like:
1) Automation of workflows/larger processes
I often refer to this as the golden age of computing as we turned the power of the computer to problems that were much easier to scale and make more efficient using a computer rather than adding more people. The benefits were also realized in many workflow projects where Information Technology assisted people in guiding what they were supposed to do in the workflow process. In this phase, the increased computing power was also brought to the forefront to provide processing power that was only dreamed about 5 years ago.
In this phase, Information Technology implemented systems to take business beyond ‘IS’ and towards what business ‘COULD’ do with automation.
With the Agile Manifesto, Information Technology ushered in the new phase of Agile projects. Now we were focusing not only on the outcomes of the projects, but also HOW the projects were being executed to maximize value. This was done through reducing Cycle Time, Maximizing Client Engagement, and through Visual Project Management.
In this phase, Information Technology implemented project processes that showed how projects should be run.
These first three phases focused on improvement, refinement, assisting the business to get better. We are now on the cusp of the fourth phase where Information Technology helps the business grow.
There is much talk about Innovation and how people must innovate, but it remains somewhat elusive. What is clear is that Information Technology has a role to play in helping clients Innovate.
Information Technology is uniquely position to leverage visual tools like Innovation Games, Empathy Maps, Business Model Canvas to provide business the brutal visibility that Information Technology provided previously about the projects in the Agile phase. What is clear is that the trend that Agile started toward visual requirements must continue. Specifications have improved from Specification documents to Use Cases to User Stories to A Business Model Canvas. Each one more visual that the prior.
What is also clear is that asking people what they want and documenting the response in words is a very risky endeavor.
For the first time, Business Models can be captured on one sheet and what-if-analysis can be done like in the first spreadsheet programs to evaluate options and alternatives.
In this phase, Information Technology is analyzing and recommending business processes that show how business can grow.
We won’t just be helping companies to get better, but to be different.
Hang on… This should be fun…