Corporate CIO’s have seen the future. They have spent the last 20 years shifting their IT business units from being back-office enabling cost-centers to a customer-facing value-added part of strategic planning initiatives. Yet today as I study and teach organization design, help launch new businesses and now start to plan to teach a new course in management information technology, I’m faced with the fact that business management theories still leave technology out of the equation, or as only an enabling resource in strategic business organizational thinking. That’s a broad statement, contradicted by many individual instances of information based businesses, (Cisco is a good example of walking the talk of network technology and organizational transformation), yet its what I find when I look at the broader landscape of management thinking around organizational design and specifically the tails of an organization’s life with creation on one end and reengineering or transformation on the other.
As I have thought about this preparing a new course in information technology at the same time I prepare to teach another section of a standard organizational development course, the above picture forms, combining some OD theory, Baldrige, and process thinking. The three OD building blocks of technology, structure and behavior that must be integrated to improve performance, ( Brown, pg 179), create the foundation to examine how Management Information Technologies is not just an enabling back-end function, but should be a strategic business organizational design tool. Indeed the role of an expert system, social media marketing platform, customer configuration or order management system all fulfill roles once viewed as an HR-labor pool organizational design issue. Today we have to entertain the question of whether to hire customer service representatives or design a customer portal that provides automated customer support functions making a CSR role obsolete and someone is now hired to manage the portal content and metrics for improved customer engagement rather than a human robot on the phone entering key strokes for the customer to check on an order. The choices of work system and key work process design must view information technology as important as the human organizational design. In the end the choice of technology will directly impact workforce engagement, job skills and scope, work culture and how customer value is created and improved. Perhaps the choice of information technology systems, resources and tools is more important than initial workforce organizational planning during creation, improvement and transformation activities?
CIO’s have seen the future when they have moved themselves and their departments in to strategic planning roles knowing their resources could shape the future of a business’s market success if the rest of the executive team would see that the technology decisions themselves will drive many of the other organizational design decisions, rather that thinking that the technology will follow other organizational and market strategies.