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Three Pillars Of IT-Led Business Success

by Bunny Tharpe       • October 16, 2015

In today’s technology-driven business environment it’s clear that no organization can survive and thrive without a focus on three core pillars – Agility, Speed and Innovation. Business leaders already recognize the significance of technology in delivering these capabilities to remain competitive and get ahead of the competition, but how can enterprise IT teams deliver?

Research by the BPI Network shows that almost 70 percent of business leaders believe enterprise IT has become “far more important” in the past five years. Yet, less than half believe their ability to innovate is good or very high. How can IT groups deliver more transformation objectives required by the business?

Now is the time to embrace the three pillars of Agility, Speed and Innovation, as we see unprecedented acceleration in the rate of changing in the business environment. This is made all the more important when considering that enterprise IT is such a fundamental function of so many businesses, and those where it isn’t are actively playing catch up.

Organizations need to empower their IT teams to drive and apply these principles. Enterprise Architects especially, should have the pillars foregrounded in their consciousness, acting on these principals at all times.


Firstly businesses needs to be agile, and ready to respond to changes. In a Dimension Data study, findings indicated that on site data storage is “fading into the category of legacy technology as new cloud-based capabilities provide better performance in many cases,  and at a much lower cost.” This is important for two main reasons.

One, businesses are incentivized to move to the cloud because it will save them money. Not only is cloud storage cheaper than setting up a data center, their ‘shelf-life’ (so to speak), is much longer, and requires little-to-no upkeep from the business.

Secondly, cloud based data increases agility exponentially, with businesses potentially having a world’s worth of data available at their fingertips, almost instantaneously.

The same study also found that business leaders, frustrated with a lack of progress in the field, were migrating to ‘Shadow IT,’ referring to Software-as-a-Service based set ups. The fact that so many business leaders are now favoring this approach, is indicative of both the need to be agile, and the agility cloud storage can offer.


The speed pillar focuses on how fast a business can respond to changes. If agility describes being ready to respond to changes, this pillar is how quickly a business can launch the new systems, product lines and other revisions.

For an example of the speed pillar in action, one could look at a key pillar in modern technology innovation – Apple. The tech giant brings new products to market at a nauseating frequency, allowing them to respond quickly to competitors innovations, whilst simultaneously (and regularly), introducing their own new ideas.

Therefore, one of the main positives associated with this pillar, is that a business is both less likely to fall behind the curve, and more likely to be ahead of it. If that coincides with an insatiable consumer desire for better, and more functionality (which it does, for Apple at least), it’ll likely mean higher sales.

Good leveraging of roadmapping (the enterprise architecture kind, not the atlas crafting) is a great best practice to stay on top of this pillar.

In roadmapping, Enterprise Architects (EAs) provide a set of views corresponding to the business and IT infrastructure that allow a company to see where they are today and where they want to be in the future.

This preparation is integral to managing a constructive time to market.


Lastly, we have the innovation pillar. Unlike the other two pillars, which are in essence, defensive, reactionary responses, innovation could be described as ‘aggressive’. With innovation, great innovation particularly, you are the disruptor. Your innovation is what worries your competitors. By definition, innovation means that you’re already out in front, with everybody else playing catch up.

Business leaders need to start pushing for further IT innovation funding. Life is becoming more and more entwined with technology, with the market growing exponentially in recent years. Even products and services that existed previously without any aid from the enterprise IT team aren’t immune.

The boom in Internet of Things (IoT) devices has led to a wealth of internet connected products that wouldn’t have been before. And in any case, even if a business has opted out of adopting an IoT model up to now, their systems and internal happenings will more than likely be rooted in technology.

And then there’s the argument to re-purpose the Chief Information Officer as the Chief ‘Innovation’ Officer. Even if businesses are yet to outwardly make that change, there are clear signs that it’s already happened, with “46% of Elite 100 companies prioritizing the introduction of new IT-led products or services.”

Richard Garratt, Director of Next Generation Data Centers at Dimension Data Americas, said driving change requires “some business process change. It requires new skill sets for the corporate IT departments in how they interact with business units. And it requires a change in thinking on the role of IT in the organization versus the historical role, which was really very infrastructure-geared.”

Information Technology is where innovation needs to happen, and where innovation should begin.

So does that mean innovation is the most important pillar?

Not necessarily. Many established businesses can still thrive without constantly innovating. Evidence of this can be found all over San Fransico’s tech-mecca, Silicon Valley. This is where the innovation is happening, yet often times, it is established businesses that reap the rewards. The MicroGoogApples of the world buy into these startups to add new, or strengthen current arms of their organization. Now we can hardly call corporate acquisitions, ‘innovative,’ can we?

But that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant either. None of these pillars are recipes for success in isolation. Innovation is incredibly well suited – scratch that – essential, to startups and newer, smaller businesses. This is because gaining market share is extremely difficult, and oftentimes, creating a new market to thrive in is easier than prying it from stubborn hands.

However, once a position within a market is secure, innovation shouldn’t stop. For a start, the over-whelming majority of businesses won’t be able to get anywhere near the capital required to buy out a promising start-up, and even those few businesses that do, the large costs still make innovation a priority.

The other two pillars can’t flourish alone either. Having the agility and preparedness to respond to change is great, but if your changes don’t see or affect the market for another year, the likelihood is that you’ll be fighting for market scraps, before running off to your old friend, the innovation pillar again.

The reverse goes for speed. The ability to get new products to market, or implement new changes to business infrastructures quickly, is close to redundant if you don’t have the agility and foresight to start rolling out new procedures when called upon.

Be honest with yourself. Is your business applying these three pillars as it should be? If not, how will you get there?

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