I spent the last couple of days in Cardiff at the Effective IT Summit 2007, courtesy of Information Age, which featured an interesting mix of future gazing and the current realities of IT in business. Myron Hrycyk, CIO at NYK Logistics (a 17,000 employee, $3.3B logistics provider) gave a very informative presentation describing the approach he took to position IT as an enabler of business innovation at his previous employer (and which he hopes to follow at NYK).

In summary, he outlined four stages:

  • Achieve operational excellence
  • Credible project delivery
  • Strategic alignment
  • Business innovation

The nomenclature may be different but the objectives of each of these stages and the principles and disciplines which underpin them have a lot in common with the six principles and the roadmap we outline in the book. For example, Myron highlighted the importance of IT process improvement (in his case through ITIL), a common language, management of IT initiatives as a business-driven portfolio and effective relationships with strategic suppliers.

As well as the strong synergies with our thinking, there were a couple of other things I found particularly interesting. The organisation in question was heavily influenced by Japanese management techniques. So, for example, Six Sigma practices were followed; crticial problem solving techniques and communication cells (groups of employees focussed on particular tasks) focussed on resolving issues; strategic planning involved policy deployment techniques. Myron recognised that applying similar techniques to the way that IT operated would be an important part of establishing a common language so, for example, IT planning used the same policy deployment techniques.

The other fascinating insight concerned the “innovation process”. Like NYK, Myron’s previous employers was a logistics provider and they used a model of the supply chain to identify opportunities for IT-enabled business innovation. They modeled the supply chain – what’s so fascinating about that? It’s the fact that it was a physical model with warehouses, trucks etc etc and one, moreover, which was owned by the business not IT.

The presentation concluded with 9 recommendations

  • Get day to day operations running properly
  • Take to the business in the same language
  • Credibly deliver projects
  • Organisationally align to the business
  • Break down the barriers between business and IT
  • Find ways for IT to be proactive
  • Take a business view
  • Align IT to business strategy and objectives
  • Create and foster IT-driven business innovation

which are not a million miles away from the principles we derived from interviewing Myron’s peers across a range of industries, from financial services to public sector.

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