A New Strategy for Managing IT

Most companies subscribe to the mindset that forecasting the IT portfolio is impossible, given M&A activity and unknown future business needs. But there’s an app for that, and it factors in enterprise integration, business processes, and changing roles within the organization.

CIOs worry about selecting applications that align with business strategy, and they worry about using the right enterprise integration methods to keep information flowing between facilities and departments. But creating a blueprint that models how the IT landscape will evolve is probably not part of the manufacturing CIO’s plan.

How can it be, when there’s no way to know what technology a plant or office may need down the road? In today’s business world, where competition and customer needs change constantly and industries consolidate at breakneck pace, managing an IT portfolio can feel like standing on shifting sands.

The bad news is, companies are sinking a lot of money into those shifting sands. They are paying maintenance fees for outdated software, for example, because they think they still need it. Or they are rolling out redundant apps—like multiple ERP systems—in different parts of the organization that add bulk in the IT budget.

Interestingly, what companies may need is an ERP-like system for IT— a system that manages all of their enterprise applications, as well as the integration between them, and maps everything out while projecting future technology needs.

Okay, so I didn’t just make this “ERP for IT” thing up  it’s not a new concept. It’s actually called ”business IT management,” in the parlance of alfabet, a vendor whose software suite, planningIT, helps manages the IT infrastructure.

In a recent conversation with Christian Weichelt, alfabet’s director of solution marketing, I  learned that the planningIT platform is designed to hold all the organizational information on the various plant and enterprise systems that make up a company’s IT landscape. And, through an integrated, collaborative approach that involves IT, business processes, and changing organizational roles, the system can help a company plan for its future technology needs.

“Today, a lot of [IT] organizations are just trying to cope,” Weichelt said. “It helps to have an overview of which applications are outdated, as well as aligning what is needed tomorrow to fulfill business requirements, which is where alfabet comes in.”

In the automotive industry, for example, where alfabet is said to be working with three of the six top European automakers, the company has developed an approach to providing business IT management capabilities that unite the enterprise architecture (EA) within organizations and enable the management of a unified bill of IT.

The software addresses a number of key challenges facing automakers and suppliers, the company said, including rationalizing application portfolios after a merger; evolving technology to align with the industry’s move to in-car IT; designing IT architectures to support growth in emerging markets; and integrating with the supply chain as new joint ventures develop across geographies.

alfabet is aggressively pursuing American and Asian automotive markets with its planning software. “Companies need a sustainable, future-oriented approach to retire applications not needed in the future,” Weichelt said.

The most difficult thing about this “business IT management” concept may be adjusting the collective mindset about IT’s value to manufacturing. I don’t believe many organizations think of infrastructure—be it connectivity, integration points, or even software—as strategic. Instead, many manufacturers believe it is a necessary evil that does not impact top-line growth or bottom-line savings.

In fact, as I write this, my mind keeps drifting back to Nicholas Carr’s question, “Does IT Matter?”

According to alfabet, IT sure does matter. Do you agree?

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