I get into some great conversations with readers of my blog – often, however, they are ‘offline’ – i.e., via email or by phone, rather than through comments on posts.  I’ve been in such an exchange that I’d like to bring to the blog.  It’s around the question of, “Who owns the IT Operating Model?”

What Do We Mean By “Own”?

The specific question I initially got from my reader was:

Who owns the IT Operating Model within the organization?”

My initial response got into the issue of what we mean by “ownership” of an Operating Model.

In terms of practical implications, I like to think of the IT Operating Model as being “owned” by the IT leadership team – often with specific responsibilities allocated by domain (e.g., strategy, governance, delivery) to individual members of the IT leadership team. If it means, “who is responsible for its creation and effectiveness”, I’d say it really is the CIO.

In a subsequent email, the reader clarified his question as:

Who owns and updates “the story” – the document that explains how the organization works.

He went on to give his view that:

This owner must most definitely understand the entire organization and be a “listener” for change because if something changes how the organization operates then the model must be adjusted. This owner must be at the table with the leadership as well. I thought whoever owns strategy and planning would be the most logical home for this information.

I thought his suggestion that the owner of Strategy and Planning should own the IT Operating Model was fine, but I added the following caveat:

The IT Operating Model owner must have the respect of the organization, passion around the IT Operating Model, and some good instincts and/or experience with managing organizational change.”

The IT Operating Model Is Not Just About the IT Organization!

The reader’s comment, “if something changes how the organization operates” runs the risk of missing the fact that an IT Operating Model should be a model for all aspects of Information Technology.  Increasingly, many elements of the model will be outside of the IT organization, so there is an important element of business access to and ownership of the IT Operating Model.  For example, self-service guides and policies around “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) lend themselves to being part of the IT Operating Model.

The IT Operating Model Is Not a Document!

But what really struck me about the reader’s questions was his clarification that he was trying to determine “Who owns and updates ‘the story’ – the document that explains how the organization works.”  In other words, the IT Operating Model should be expressed in a document.

Documents Don’t Work As Means of Expressing Operating Models!

Documents are a lousy way to express Operating Models!

  • Documents create organizational confusion!  Where is the document?  Is this the latest version?  Why is its content inconsistent with other documents?
  • Documents reinforce organizational silos!  Who needs to know this?  Who should own it?  Who should review it?
  • Documents proliferate and deteriorate over time!  Multiple changes that are hard to track, linkages that break, definitions and terms that become lost over time.
  • People are disinclined to “read” or “use” documents – especially at the “moment of truth” when they are most relevant/mot important/most needed!

Documents Don’t Work As Means of Improving Operating Models!

For all the reasons above, and many more, documents are a lousy vehicle for engaging people in continuous improvement.  That’s why Wikipedia chose a wiki as the ideal platform for engaging the world in its remarkable achievement in capturing human knowledge.

From Static Documents to a Living Wiki!

That’s also why my partner and I have been helping clients with IT strategy and/or Operating Model changes implement them through wikis.  As a wiki, everyone can participate in the use and continuous improvement of the IT Operating Model.  The model becomes elevated from an abstract concept to a management tool and capability!  For more on this, please check out the video presentation on this page.

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