Achieving social goals does not succeed without a good IT foundation!

By Joost van Lier

In the Dutch Intergovernmental Program (IBP), 10 societal themes have been identified, from climate to housing and from (regional) economy to migration. Meanwhile, we know that in realizing each of these themes, an IT component can always be found. But I think the IT component is larger than before and therefore the proposition is justified that ICT no longer supports the business but that the business is ICT, in other words ICT determines the success of the business. In this blog, I address the responsibility around digital innovation and the design of the IT foundation of your organization.

Transforming Business through IT: Building a Strong Technological Foundation

Several social themes are experimenting with new technology. Sensors in an IoT network collecting data that the organization analyzes directly using A.I applications in the context of biodiversity, mobility, air, water and soil quality. Another example is setting up data collections to notice changes in energy use. Important because we are increasingly using electric cars, solar panels and new smart heat pumps and boilers. All necessary steps to make the energy transition possible. These are just a few examples of new technology deployed to realize the nine social tasks described.

Responsibility for digital innovation shifts to business

The new possibilities and the use of IT within social issues are changing the role of the business in relation to the IT department. Business managers need to be more and more IT-savvy and better able to see opportunities and possibilities of technology and to make choices based on this. Business managers must and will take more ownership of data, systems and budgets. To achieve this, a move toward more digital leadership is necessary. A first step to this is increasing knowledge of digitization among the business.

But shifting responsibilities also has an impact on the IT organization. For example, this change leads to new organizational forms, responsibilities and agreements. For example, we have long proclaimed that ownership of IT solutions belongs to the IT department. But with the new developments, the ownership of IT solutions is coming to lie with the business. After all, with the new technology, the business must shape social developments.

Start by setting up the technology platform

The above does not mean splitting up the IT department again and distributing it among the business departments. The importance of a central IT department for the organization lies in the realization of an organization-wide technology platform. This platform must provide all the basic services that the business demands. Think of future fixed network connections, flexible cloud environments, an integration platform to which the business links applications and a data platform on which data lands and the business performs data analysis using BI and A.I. solutions. In the realization of this technological platform, internal and external contractual agreements, processes, cost control and the establishment of organization-wide frameworks must not be forgotten.

The above ensures that IT departments can increasingly deploy their consultants in an advisory capacity and as guardians of integrality of the basic facilities. Not only about the technology and connection points to be deployed, but also about the costs involved. In this way the budgets can return to where they belong, to the business. Obviously with the exception of the budgets for maintaining the organization-wide platform. Also, when realizing new solutions, this advisory role makes it possible to work in combined teams in which technology and business work together on siloed developments.

Road to IT leadership and the IT foundation

The presence of the increasingly important I component in societal themes means that the business can no longer say it is an IT party. The business needs to start showing digital leadership right now. However, this can only be achieved if the business is sufficiently IT-savvy to make the right choices on the technological IT platform itself. Educating business management with master classes in IT topics and good IT procurement is a first step in this regard.

It also means for the IT organization to move from imposing (the current situation) to explaining and eventually to consulting. We advise organizations to think about, and map the architecture of, the technology platform, especially the target architecture. Furthermore, we advise organizations to understand the current cost of the IT environment now.

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