Lite at the End of the Tunnel

Lite at the End of the Tunnel

IS Lite is about value not cost savings.

Want your OS organization to be agile and lean? You're not alone. What is surprising is that it's such a long time coming.

The idea of "IS Lite", a lean, focused and high-value-adding IS organization, was first proposed in a Gartner EXP in a research report four years ago. It promised greater IS agility and cost efficiency.

But what's happened in those four years, and what can we learn from the early movers? Why isn't IS Lite everywhere?

We recently conducted a survey of our members to find out. We wanted to see how IS organizations were meeting the challenges of implementing an IS Lite-organization. The results were intriguing.

But first some history. In 1999, IS Lite was seen as the culmination of forces that were reshaping the traditional federal IS structure. In a federal structure, IS units sit in the middle of a value chain - from external service providers (ESPs) on the supply side, to business unit (BU) customers on the demand side. IT activities take place in three IT macro-processes:

  • Driving innovation, which includes strategic planning, architecture design and business requirements definition;
  • Delivering change, which includes system development and support of user changes; and
  • Supporting infrastructure, which includes desktop support and data centre and network operations.

These three macro-processes are spread across central and local units.

Four trends were recasting this traditional IS organizational model: process-based working, outsourcing, specialization in centres of excellence and application development embedded in the business. As a result of these trends, IS Lite predicted that innovation would be retained internally and mostly centralized for coherence and exploitation across the enterprise. Delivering change would be mostly moved out to the business units to get the benefits of being close to customers, and the supporting infrastructure would be selectively outsourced under central control for cost and efficiency.

That was then. What we found from our research is that - unsurprisingly - IS Lite is more difficult to implement than it looks, but worth doing if you can. We've found that the foremost benefit of IS Lite is actually higher customer satisfaction, followed closely by improved IS service levels, better alignment with the business, access to expertise and increased IS flexibility - not cost savings as you might have expected.

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