As every IT manager in the insurance industry understands all too well, running an IT department is a firefighting exercise. Every day, the challenges and interruptions that must be dealt with are interrupted by new interruptions. Databases are down, servers are running slowly, the cloud service is inconsistent, bugs are lurking, business managers are screaming for their latest reports, and a new patch update is simply messing everything up.

That’s traditional IT as we’ve know it for years, and there usually isn’t enough staff with enough time and enough resources to stay on top of everything at once. Now, add a new layer on this – digital enterprise – and things really get interesting.

In a new report, Accenture calls this “multi-speed IT.” Not two-speed IT, because too many things will fall through the cracks between maintenance and digital disruption. As the report’s authors, Nicholas Bayley and John Shacklady, describe it, “somewhere in between the fast innovation and the day-to-day steady state of systems maintenance, there are multitudes of other projects and priorities, all moving at their own speeds. Yet most IT organizations are not built with the ability to respond flexibly.”

The report, based on a survey of more than 900 executives, finds a solid majority, 80 percent, feel that their IT departments have too narrow of a scope to be able to effectively ramp up the speed at which they delivery digital capabilities. Seventy percent say that IT organizations need to step up to operate and simultaneously support multiple business objectives, or “multi-speed IT.”

Recognize the business need for IT consumption at different speeds. The role of IT today, Bayley and Shacklady observe, “is less about managing programs and developing software and more about creating or enhancing business services by leveraging ecosystem relationships. A successful approach to IT operations brings together legacy, cloud and omni-channel-based components.”

Employ multiple governance and methods. Governance of traditional maintenance IT will differ from governing digital ventures. IT needs to adjust accordingly. There is progress in this area – 62 percent of executives surveyed by Accenture confirmed they had different governance models in place for different business operations, with 36 percent adjusting their governance models to fit the immediate need. “Successful CIOs use governance models and processes that allow them to prioritize business demand and allocate the right mode of operations to deliver value at the right time,” the authors say. “They also develop different performance metrics to measure the results delivered in a multi-dimensional world.”

Rethink architecture needs. Simplicity is key when it comes to new architectural approaches. ”Simplify the legacy architecture for greater agility and to reduce cost pressures, Bayley and Shacklady urge, adding that a new multispeed architecture should include an API layer “to expose core data to faster moving digital channels and ecosystem partners,” as well as “to expose the core data sources will enable the new digital channels and the creation of new ecosystems.”

Re-invent the IT organization. IT needs to get out of the firefighting business. This requires bringing in new skills for the new digital enterprise: “Teams should be skilled in new methods like agile; and new tools and techniques like DevOps, APIs,” Bayley and Shacklady state. Without such actions, they warn, the CIO will be “left in charge of the legacy business, while stakeholders from other parts of the organization gain control of the growth and innovation agenda and investment.

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