I’d like to begin examining and making explicit a theory of the case for “Next Generation IT Capability.”  By theory of the caseI mean to identify the major drivers behind increasing business-IT maturity, and lay out some basic principles of business-IT evolution – how today’s IT shops are evolving to capitalize on emerging technologies (e.g., Web 2.0, SOA, SaaS) and enable new and more valuable business models.

Let’s start by considering the drivers that cause Business-IT Maturity to increase.  I think there are 3 distinct types of driver at play here – Universal , Business, and Internal IT.

Universal Drivers (inevitable, mostly independent of industry or geography) include:

  • Organizational learning over time
  • Technological evolution
  • Social change (e.g., innovations in consumer use of technology)
  • Global change (e.g., growing “green” awareness and actions)

Business Drivers of Business-IT Maturity include:

  • Changes in the marketplace
  • Competitive threats and opportunities
  • Strategic pressures (e.g., shifts in business strategic intent)
  • Business leadership vision and ambition
  • Changes in talent situation (e.g., talent shortage, shift in workplace demographics)

Internal IT Drivers include:

  • IT leadership vision and ambition
  • Gap between business demand and IT supply capability
  • Competitive threats to internal IT (e.g., outsourcing seen as a threat)
  • IT strategic change (typically in response to business strategic change)

Clearly, the way these drivers (especially, the Business and Internal IT drivers) play out for any given company in any industry will shape both business demand and IT supply maturity.  Also, as stated in earlier posts, demand and supply maturity are ultimately mutually dependent – high supply maturity will increase the business appetite for IT.  High demand maturity will drive IT to increase its supply maturity.  While supply/demand gaps are common (perhaps inevitable?) the dynamic tension between them never allows them to get too far out of whack.  At a certain point, the gap is relieved by a replacement to the CIO, or through wholesale outsourcing of IT capability.

What’s interesting to note, I believe that IT leadership can view themselves either as “victims” of these forces, or as “amplifiers.”  For example, among the Universal drivers, IT leaders can accelerate organizational learning by using IT as an enabler (the Web 2.0 stuff should be a great asset here!)  They can accelerate technological learning by establishing some form of “IT technology research lab” or by partnering with (dare I say, collaborating?) their strategic suppliers.  On the other hand, they can be victims of these forces, dooming their organizations (business and IT) to “groundhog days” as they relive over and over again chaotic, reactive experiences common to Level 1 business-IT maturity, or through determination to be “slow followers” of new technologies (“We don’t need no Windows XP – 98 works jsut fine for us!)

So, just understanding the drivers (if you don’t like those I’ve highlighted, create your own) and thinking about how well you leverage them on the one hand, or are victim to them on the other might be revealing for understanding how fast an IT maturity trajectory you are on.