The BCS IT Leaders Forum had a working group, chaired by Dr David Miller, looking at the suggestion that we should be pressing re-set on our IT management methods.

The need was raised at the BCS IT Leaders Conference in February 2021. Our basic IT management methods have evolved slowly over the last fifty years and it’s fair to say that they haven’t been without their problems. Now, more than ever we need to be thinking about how business technology, and business itself, is changing.

When considering the broader issues of technology in business, its right that we should be thinking now about how its management must change, and this time we need to encourage discussion amongst IT leaders to ensure that this important perspective is not excluded.

Seven digital principles to reset management methods

The BCS IT Leaders Forum working group is suggesting seven digital principles to help guide the reset of management methods in business technology as follows:

  1. We don’t just manage change in business technology, we respond to it; service, value, and agility are the challenges, and technology, training, ideas, funding, and tech-savvy business leadership are the enablers.
    • Changes are usually prompted by an external event such as the emergence of a new technology or market conditions
    • ...and methods should help us to consistently achieve successful outcomes.
    • If not tech-savvy business leadership then business-savvy tech leaders, but present methods have maintained a separation between IT and business roles discouraging collaboration and hybrid working.
  2. Managers are both inward and outward looking, simultaneously exploring and exploiting opportunities to support continuous transformational change, whilst maintaining the value, integrity and security of both the tangible and intangible business assets, i.e. including the technical infrastructure and data.
    • The pandemic has made it difficult for managers to do their job and management methods must evolve to correct this. Being able to define and deliver continuous transformational change even where there is remote working depends upon this.
  3. Management methods, and solutions and services must be suited to today’s complex, multi-dimensional, dynamic, and dispersed world and for a future world where a more immediate response is demanded.
    • We are expected to get better at responding faster to change even where there is ambiguity and complexity.
  4. Management methods must be capable of handling multiple small parallel projects and processes, rather than just large serial ones but still within the context of an architecture that reflects the real-world business landscape whilst recognising that even this big picture can change quickly.
    • Small projects are low risk, low cost, quick to develop, and easy to validate, i.e. facilitating low code / no code thinking.
  5. Initiatives must be supported by a flexible business driven ‘lean budgeting’ process on a case-by-case basis with rapid approvals, standard costing, clear accountabilities across the extended enterprise, contracts that incentivise the correct behaviour of third-party suppliers and provide a marketplace for services and spare resource.
    • It has been said that “lean budgeting” and “rapid approvals” do not fit well in some sectors. Perhaps resetting the management methods will drive the changes necessary where this is the case?
  6. Even where everything is eventually automated management must be clear where the specification comes from, and how investment and delivery are controlled (e.g. risk, benefit, investment priorities, success criteria, etc.) for the good of the business and for society. The law expects forensic accountability for what is delivered and what is delivered must be fit for purpose.
    • The dissatisfaction with existing methods, using Agile to cut corners, both lead to a lack of discipline with regard to the basics. Automation will help to solve this and allow managers to focus on what is important.
    • Automation enables Governance to move on from needing to know what toolset has been used to asking questions about the outcome and was it good for the business and free of bias etc.
  7. The final arbiters of the adequacy of solutions and services and the management methods, including whether all needs are being met, are the business stakeholders.
    • This isn’t a delegation of management responsibilities to the stakeholder but a matter of governance and an acid test of the principles and management methods that support them.

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The BCS IT Leaders Forum wishes to further encourage debate on all IT leadership issues. Any member wishing to propose issues facing the industry and its leaders that may be suited to working group analysis should contact the Forum committee.

Progress on this topic will feature at the 2022 BCS IT Leaders Conference, one year on from when it was raised.