Perhaps just for a moment we can consider the day-to-day activities of any IT department as being a sort of race. Collectively we are all running and trying to move out in front of the IT departments at the firms that our company is competing with. In this type of analogy, the CIO is running out in front of everyone else and is showing the department which way to go. But how does the CIO know where to go?
Best Practices Are Only So Good
The IT community is currently in love with the idea of “best practices”. This idea revolves around taking a look at the firms who compete in your market and identifying the one or two firms that seem to be doing the best job.
Once you’ve done this, then you take the time to learn how they go about accomplishing the tasks that they are doing so well. When this is known, you can then copy what they are doing and with a little luck you’ll be able to achieve the same results that they are getting.
Now this sound all fine and dandy, and in fact the wildly popular ITIL standards that were created by the British government to define IT best practices have been a run-away hit. However, there’s a problem with this approach.
Dr. C.K. Prahalad took a close look at the use of best practices and reached an interesting conclusion. Using best practices, an IT department can catch up with the IT departments that they are competing with. However, using this approach they’ll never be able to surpass them.
CIOs Need To Search For Breakthroughs
So what’s a CIO to do? Sure you can catch up to other IT departments, but that’s never going to be enough – you’ve got to pass them up. Great. Just how can a CIO go about doing this?
Dr. C. K. Prahalad believed that what a CIO needs to do is to go searching for breakthrough opportunities. These are the opportunities that will set the stage for your IT department to pull out ahead of other IT departments and bring your company along with it. In order to identify these breakthrough opportunities a CIO has to get it all started by asking yourself six important questions:
- Is the problem widely recognized?
- Does it affect other industries?
- Are radical innovations needed to tackle the problem?
- Can tackling it change the industry’s economics?
- Will addressing this issue give your firm a fresh source of competitive advantage?
- Would tackling this problem create a big opportunity for your firm?
What All Of This Means For You
If it turns out that being a CIO means that you are leading a race with your IT department, then you’re going to have to at least catch up with other IT departments that are running the same race. However, that won’t be enough to win the race: you’re going to have to find a way to pass them.
Passing other IT departments requires you as a CIO to uncover breakthrough opportunities. In order to do this, you are going to have to ask yourself the six questions that we’ve identified.
Best practices do have their place in a modern IT department. I mean, we should take the time to learn what works best from other IT departments. However, in order to be truly successful, the burden of finding that next breakthrough opportunity rests firmly on your shoulders CIO…
Question For You: What do you think the best way of discovering best practices in your industry are?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
We’ve all been there, done that: pushed hard to accomplish some goal. This type of “acceleration” is something that every IT department ends up doing at some point in time or another. As CIO you’ve got to love the results of a “push” like this: everyone works harder and a lot gets accomplished in a short time. However, there’s a real danger that if you keep accelerating your IT department everyone’s going to burn out and you’re going to end up crashing…