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Lite at the End of the Tunnel

Lite at the End of the Tunnel

What is the extent of restructuring around IS Lite?

Today, with the continuing pressure on IS to deliver even more for even less, interest in IS Lite remains as strong as ever, but change is always a challenge. IS Lite is being implemented, although unevenly. The survey revealed that all EXP members interested in IS Lite have adopted at least one of the four trends predicted. Of the four, process-based working is the most widely adopted, followed closely by outsourcing and then centres of excellence.

Process-based working means organizing people, operations and technology around end-to-end workflows - in the business or IS - rather than around functions, platforms or skill-sets. For example, order fulfilment might have separate functions for order entry, inventory control, shipping, billing, customer service and claims processing. In process-based working, a single team with the requisite expertise manages the entire end-to-end process - from taking the initial order to resolving warranty and billing issues. The result is that the entire process appears seamless to the customer.

Moving application development to business units is a different story, though. It hasn't happened in many enterprises so far and probably won't.

What's the explanation for these findings? The recent worldwide economic downturn has caused tremendous pressures to reduce IT costs. Centralization is the fastest way to get control of IT costs, and eliminate redundancies and overlaps. Even though this downturn is now receding into memory for most of us, it has left a legacy of caution and cost control behind that centralization plays to.

This centralization has spurred process-based working and outsourcing, while blunting the migration of application development to business units in the way that IS Lite envisioned. It's true that business unit executives are more involved with application selection and implementation now than four years ago, but there has been no wholesale migration of the actual development work because it opens the door to too many problems of maintenance and integration. There's also a recognition that issues like privacy and data security - each a key focus for CIOs this year according to another recent survey - suggest that these mission-critical areas are too important and too hard to be devolved.

What are the challenges in adopting IS Lite?

Two main impediments to making IS Lite a reality come, not surprisingly, from within IS.

Competencies in IS Lite differ from those of traditional IS. For example, behavioural competencies such as collaboration, team building and conflict resolution are much more important in process-based work than traditional technical competencies. Many current IS staff lack the competencies to make the new roles a reality.

IS resistance, the second challenge, is due mainly to staff concerns over outsourcing and changing work practices caused, for instance, by a switch to process-based working.

In addition to these two challenges, Gartner EXP analysts have found that the seemingly uneven uptake of IS Lite is probably due to the time it takes to shift from functions to processes or implement an enterprisewide sourcing strategy. Both can take years.

In IS Lite, there is relatively less emphasis on technical (know-how) competencies than in traditional IS and more emphasis on business (know what) and behavioural (know why) competencies While technical competencies can be acquired by straightforward training, business and behavioural competencies are relatively difficult to acquire. The five retained roles in IS Lite include IT leadership; architecture development; business enhancement, which involves business process analysis, project management and business relationship management; technology advancement; and vendor management. Filling these positions in an IS Lite organization is a significant challenge.

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