The Four Types of IT Organizations that Leaders Cultivate

By default or by design, companies get the IT capability they've bought and paid for.

The CIO, and the IT organization as a whole, reflects an organization's understanding and aspirations for IT. To understand what your organization wants IT to do, identify the role that best describes your IT capability:

  • The butler. This is the concierge view of IT. In these organizations, IT is expected to play a supporting role, responding to and fulfilling requests from the business in a "no fuss, no muss" manner. Although this may sound like heaven on earth, understand that butler IT organizations will not innovate or lead in technology application or adoption. In partnering, the best you can expect is a professional service provider and not a strategic partner.
  • The grinder. This is the commodity view of IT. In these organizations IT is expected to play a tactical role, providing basic IT services at low cost. In focusing primarily on efficiency, this organization will not be able to develop strong business partnership, deliver top-notch services, and apply technology to drive shareholder value.
  • The team player. This is the operational support view of IT. In this organization, IT is expected to run efficiently and work collaboratively with its business partners to embed technology into business processes. IT is considered central to operating efficiently and reducing the costs and risks of operations, but it is totally dependent on business partners for their insights about applying technology for competitive differentiation.
  • The entrepreneur. This is the innovative IT organization. In this organization, IT is expected to lead the business in applying technology to improve the company's strategic differentiations. IT governance is baked in to overall corporate governance, and the CIO reports to the highest levels of the organization, frequently discussing key issues with the board of directors.

Whichever of these four types of IT that your company has, understand that the current state of the organization reflects many years of conscious or unconscious decisions by senior leadership to cultivate that kind of group.

Share your views as to what type of IT organization your company has, how leadership cultivates it, and whether your current capability fits the needs of your business. (For more on the butler, grinder, team player and entrepreneur model see Gartner's, "Business/IT Alignment a Critical Factor When Determining IT's Role.")

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