Just read a Harvard Business Review blog which advocates leveraging your IT department for overall business process improvement. The author, Brad Power, cites how financial giants Nationwide and ING were able to take practices such as Lean and Agile used in their IT process improvements, to achieve more effective and efficient delivery of IT value for their organizations, to deploying it throughout the rest of the organization:
Building on their team successes, they created an "Agility capture team" of senior IT leaders to address larger issues. They have weekly planning meetings and conference calls twice a week to work on internal customer service improvements. While the IT organization is driving this, more importantly they have roped in business unit and functional heads to surface their needs. As a result, process improvement activities have begun rippling out from the IT project team level to the core operations of the business...
Building a new mindset of making many smaller changes and learning from each one, instead of getting a detailed specification and delivering it, has been a concerted cultural transformation. This continuous improvement thinking is well known in manufacturing, but few do it well or consistently...
Improving the performance of the IT department is hard enough. But by adopting the techniques of process improvement leaders, Nationwide and ING are doing what's nearly impossible at most large organizations: forming cross-functional teams to quickly design and implement better ways of serving customers and improving enterprise performance.
While I agree in general with the author, some of the blog comments in my opinion hit it dead on about the general perception of IT within most organizations. Ironically, through innovation in the US is typically associated with high tech companies especially in an area like Silicon Valley where companies such as Google, Cisco, Facebook and other notables reside, when you look at the majority of IT departments that is tasked with managing high tech systems in the corporate world, they are typically seen as a "keep the lights on" type of department. An unavoidable cost center and expense.
With the world in a prolonged recession and IT departments dealing with slashed budgets and limited resources, it is often hard enough just to manage and maintain corporate legacy IT systems, let alone take part in and become a strategic business partner to streamline and improve overall business operations and management.
But this where project management is vital, since all major initiatives to deploy new technologies and/or to enhance and optimize existing technologies are done through projects. Especially projects that will help a company to deploy a new system that will enable it to become a market leader or capture untapped marketshare will have lots of visibility throughout all upper management ranks.
So utilizing sound project and deployment practices such as Lean and Agile to get such projects done effciently and effectively will allow an IT department to demonstrate their ability to help the whole organization to achieve overall business efficiencies and continuous improvements. Since technology is now so ubiquitous throughout every business function and process in practically all companies around the world, the time is now to start seizing these kinds of opportunities.