I remember attending the first technology business management (TBM) conference in 2012. Back then, the concept of this new data-driven framework, which would help measure and manage IT budgets, consumption and value, was new and exciting. Speakers and delegates talked at length about how TBM would respond to the need for financial transparency, deliver data that could drive decision-making at the highest levels, and unpack the consequences of decisions made in the past.
In 2012, there was a buzz around these ideas. It was a brave new world that was going to redefine how businesses viewed IT: TBM would transform the perception of IT from a dull necessity to a cherished function that delivers value. Through TBM, we were driving the industry forward and improving standards. With the rapid onward march of technology, if you’d asked those delegates where we would be four years later, they would have said that TBM would be an embedded discipline critical to business and IT alignment; and perfectly positioned to support the transition into the chaotic world of digital investment.
And yet this year, when I attended my sixth TBM conference, we were still talking about the same issues: legacy infrastructure cost savings, matching mobile tariffs to usage and improving asset utilisation. Of course, all of these considerations have value and are necessary to build operational credibility. However, by now we should be in a position where the consistent implementation of TBM means such outcomes should be business as usual. We should, by now, be considering the next evolution, such as the role of the software-defined enterprise, cloud orchestration and brokerage models, services-defined architecture. We should be addressing the impact of increasing digital technology spend outside of IT, and how increasingly important governance based on robust information has become to the management of this challenging and changing landscape.
TBM in its current form has entered a period of stagnation because providers and clients alike are failing to push the service forward. Following a period of action to implement TBM as a financial control system, the industry has become complacent. Yet with a tsunami of digital innovation and changes breaking around us, organisations need to have their houses in order to cope with the oncoming disruption. Having a solid foundation with strong governance and operational control, based on consistent, integrated and timely data – both of which TBM should provide – is crucial to being able to embrace and exploit the opportunities opened up by emerging technology.
We know that the successful application of TBM requires changes in operating model, management and organisation style, as well as a rethink of how IT is defined and delivered. These are not insurmountable challenges, but when it comes to going further, delivering TBM to support, manage and capitalise on the digital disruption that is coming, businesses appear to be facing a stumbling block.
This is becoming increasingly important as the distinction between services delivered by IT or procured directly by the business becomes less clear. Where previously, IT may have been the go-to solution for certain challenges, now, services are defined simply in terms of outcomes, with decision-makers unbiased towards how it is delivered, provided they solve the business’ problem. In this environment, IT needs to prove its value to the business more than ever to avoid being overlooked.
We know that technology has the potential to support business strategy in every enterprise by automating processes, driving innovation in products and services and seamlessly connecting with customers. But unless the IT organisation can tangibly demonstrate its value across the emerging technology landscape its leaders will lose their authority to define the technology requirements, application needs, and ultimately the business’ strategy.
Delivering value must be the stated intent of IT, right from the bottom to the top of the business. To reach the next level of engagement, we must discuss how TBM can take into account changing operating models and rapidly evolving delivery choices, as well as how the framework can provide the insight necessary for digital business management (DBM).
So I’m hopeful that at the next set of conferences, due in November, a more ambitious TBM will emerge, ready to innovate, rather than recycle. A version of TBM that defines the future of business and IT alignment in the emerging world, rather than fixating on the how much optimising storage can save organisations. If TBM rests too long on its laurels, it will be consigned to going no further than being considered an IT finance tool. Get it right, and it will play a major part in shaping and defining the management of technology in the digital business world. Business has become better at technology management; we need technology management to get better at business.