Information Technology Organization Design In the Twenty-First Century

Information Technology Organization Design In the Twenty-First Century

In the long read, we cover IT organization design for non-IT people.

In this article, we take a look at the IT organization. Information Technology or Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are the lifeblood of the modern organization, and must partner with the other functions of the enterprise to ensure business success.

Technology is complex and requires skill to manage. However, if IT isn’t is tune with the business and fails to coordinate effort and skills, the enterprise will not perform anyway near its potential.

Therefore, an IT organization design that is fit for the twenty-first century is crucial. In this long read, I describe an IT organization design that is works with the business, is lean and effective, and easily understood by the non-IT professional. At its core, the framework is a marriage of structural cybernetics and what I call the core IT capabilities. But don’t worry, I’ll explain only what you need to know.

When the great leaders work is done the people say, “We did that ourselves!” – Lao Tsu

Introduction

Many restructures fail to deliver their promised benefits. I should know, as IT department reorganization has affected me countless times throughout my career. All too often, internal politics, infighting, and red tape get in the way. What’s more, organizational dysfunction typically follows, and this inevitably prevents the Information Technology professional from delivering what the business needs.

And the consequence? The business is frustrated with IT, and in turn, IT professionals are frustrated that they aren’t delivering for the enterprise. What’s more, we waste resources and our efforts focused on the wrong priorities. For instance, have you noticed your IT department implementing or supporting multiple similar solutions or applications?

Since this guide covers a lot of ground, is a long read, and is intended for non-Information Technology professionals and practitioners, you may want to check out the table of contents for some quick jumping around.

IT Organization Design

Background

In the 1990s, N. Dean Meyer extended the works of W. Ross Ashby and Stafford Beer, and developed an area of management cybernetics called structural cybernetics. This field of research examined the issues of organizational design and its impact on performance.

In his book Structural Cybernetics: An Overview, Meyer claims that organizational dysfunction, political infighting, bureaucratic culture, fragmentation, weak strategic alignment, and so on are typically attributed to defective organizational structures. Or to put it another way, a badly thought out organization structure creates conflict and challenges that impede the jobs people do.

Cybernetics or systems science is the multidisciplinary study of complex dynamic systems and connects the fields of engineering, biology, neurology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and organizational theory. Whether you realize it or not, cybernetics affects everyday life in some way.

For example, the way a thermostat controls heating in your home, the functions of a personal computer, and the project control cycle. Hence, a business organization is for all intents a complex system or machine.

That is, when we talk of cybernetics, our interest should be in the idea of control and feedback, not Doctor Who!

cybernetics

ˌsaɪbəˈnetɪks

The science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things. Derived from the Greek kubernētēs meaning ‘steersman’, or from kubernan meaning ‘to steer’.

When we talk about productive leadership, our involvement is often with the team, and steering it toward a successful outcome. So, getting a restructure right is critical, and should never be done for appearances.

Management cybernetics

The application of cybernetic laws to organizations and to the interactions within them and between them is called management cybernetics, but the central idea is that every employee influences business outcomes in some way.

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