IT Value Stack and Leadership

I recently finished “The IT Value Stack – A Boardroom Guide to IT Leadership” which Ade McCormack‘s agent sent me (disclosure: I agreed to read and write a review in exchange – no other promises made). Anyway, McCormack and Auridian are better at promoting the ideas and concepts, like e.g. in this video:

Overall I can say that I really liked the “IT Value Stack” and recommend it to you. The subject is advanced, and still it is written in a lively manner, with some candid humour here and there and with interspersed comments by external experts. This is a good read and well-recommended as a way of educating senior managers about the need for better business/IT-alignment.

IT value stack
Of course I am sided as the book’s motivation and goals are dear to me – still the reasoning is sensible: If you want to build nimble and creative organizations, organizations that are engaging places to work in you need to take IT into account. We can’t stop at optimizing repeatable business processes. Yes, that’s where it started – doing things with perfect repeatability, at increasing scale and efficiency, leading to centralized and hierarchical models of IT leadership. Yet, today IT must rather act as facilitator for knowledge work, collaboration and innovative ways of working: Distributing and supplying “tools of creativity” in organizations, installing agile and flexible management processes etc. can help organizations to cope with the need for change and innovation. Information technology is a key enabler in this process, changing the ways people organize, lead, allocate resources, plan, and collaborate. Obviously technology (like the many varieties of social software) is not an answer in itself, they have to be implemented in a productive way (and need apt consulting support, hint hint …).

Now, IT is perfectly placed to help businesses identify and enable opportunities for business innovation: it has both insight into new technologies and into the entire business organization, but it must leave its obsession with operational excellence and keeping things running to perfection. And when we want to create a compelling case for ITs role in business innovation we must talk in the language of business not in technology terms.

Ade calls for a re-thinking of IT management practices, something which is definitely necessary as IT is influencing and changing businesses so much, and is under pressure at the same time, i.e. when the only form of innovation that many CIOs and IT departments are judged on seems to lay in reducing the cost of supporting administrative operations or when Carr says that IT probably doesn’t really matter. So when we need to think about the changes that are occurring, and how IT can play the role of business innovator this book comes handy. It can help us understand IT organization as a service organization that drives value for the business. Yes, Users want service, not technology while the integration and deep entwinement of technology into business must be managed. Here, Ade gives us advice on how to re-align IT management practices and organizational strategy and designs (aka processes, structures, people issues and all). The seven steps in his model (in order of adoption) are:

– Strategy Entwinement
– Process Entwinement
– People Entwinement
– Technology Management
– Service Management
– Circulation Management
– Value Management

While Ade McCormack argues for sequential adoption and implementation, and lays out a neat methodology I somehow doubt this can be followed really in this complex, messy world of IT. Still, this model can serve well as a to-do and check list (see chapter 10 for ten quick actions to take), and as a tactical framework. And that’s quite something.

  1. Martin,

    Thanks for providing this thoughtful review. You’ve done a great job explaining the IT Value Stack.

  2. Martin,
    I really appreciate your review. Very insightful.
    Thank you

  3. I was looking for a nice review and I liked the way you had reviewed it. I like your way of writing.