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Stop it, you cannot get rid of your IT department

The IT department has changed drastically over the past few years. IT is no longer just a support team but an essential part of every company's future. The IT department needs to be agile, innovative, and digital-first to meet today's technology demands. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to get rid of your IT department, as this Wall Street Journal article suggests. Instead, it may be time to tweak your IT structure so that it can meet these new requirements. The following tips will help.

Centralized control does not work

The centralized IT department is no longer relevant in today's environment. Explore a decentralized model in which top management delegates day-to-day operations and decision-making power to sector (department) experts, with technology specialists as part of the team. The fundamental idea behind a distributed approach is to give authority and responsibility to those who know best — those who are closer to stakeholders.

Consider a “pod” concept

Pods, in which a company's decentralized teams are reconfigured, offer the potential for CIOs to improve their agility. The pod consists of technology experts, operation experts, and change management experts. This pod will be dedicated to the department to focus on critical activities essential to the department and organization while working in an agile environment, with an emphasis on delivering solutions with speed.

Here’s an example in the healthcare provider space where I have served as the CIO for various health systems. A challenge across the industry always has the following themes:

  • Everything is a priority, and attention is given to the latest crisis.

  • IT does not know operations deeply.

  • Why does my project take so long?

The pod can be developed to resolve the traditional IT challenge. For example, creating a pod focusing on pharmacy technology in a health system will consist of the team members below.

This decentralized structure now embeds the IT teams inside operations, while the direction and strategy are dictated by the executive sponsors, with the priorities set by the chief pharmacy officer. Conceptually, the pod structure can be created for all of the department areas of the organization to eliminate the gap between operations and IT.

Pros and cons of pods

Pods have several advantages, including faster decision-making, shared responsibility, and a stronger feeling of meaning for team members because they work closely with the operational staff.

The pod system requires strong leaders with strong communication skills. It's hard to communicate without confusion when autonomous team members are responsible for their areas, workloads, and schedules. Each pod may have its likes, viewpoints, and practices that might cause processes, rules, and the fundamental core principles from the organization may become convoluted.

Pods will not solve everything, and for many this is uncharted territory. Leadership teams must find out how to distribute and deploy IT resources in a new, decentralized world, when requirements from different organizations may change from month to month. There are also many vested interests in preserving the status quo, including CIOs who must accept that they are frequently part of the problem. The key is to change the mentality about traditional IT and explore a new structure.





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