How can looking at a business with a ‘placemat’ view help IT to have better discussions and deliver better outcomes?

Business can be perceived to be quite complex, especially when approached from the bottom up. One mistake that can be made when attempting to understand how IT aligns to the business is to dive prematurely into the detail, without first taking a look at what the business looks like and really does from 30,000 feet.

In recent editions of the Quay Bulletin, we’ve outlined the benefits of aligning IT strategically with the business and highlighting the need for IT to understand the critical business functions required to support delivery of core business to be seen as a business enabler.

Building on that discussion, one of the most important attributes of demonstrating good understanding of the business is to distil the complexity into simple high-level themes. These themes can provide the basis for discussion and decision making without the need to explain complex operations.

A single ‘placemat’ view of the business provides this simplicity and enables constructive conversations at all levels from operational management through to the company executives. So how do you get this single page view?

What is Capability Modelling?

In Quay’s experience, we’ve found that one of the best ways to achieve both the placemat view and demonstrate an understanding of the business is to model its capabilities.

Mapping out the building blocks that form the stable business functions within the organisation provides a great lens through which to view that high level understanding of what the business actually does. It’s an exercise that can provide great value.

We see there are five key benefits of capability modelling:

1. Identify gaps and duplications

A model of the business enables both the business and IT to quickly see where gaps and duplications exist in the current state across a range of services such as:

  • Applications (Software)
  • Information (Business, corporate, organisational and operational data)
  • Infrastructure (Hardware, network services, servers, capacity etc)
  • People (Organisational structure, process, capability etc)

When planning for the future, this model provides a roadmap for projects and portfolios of work that IT can deliver to support business growth. CIOs and CTO’s can then have informed discussions with the business and IT teams alike using this easily understood model as the centre piece for decision making.

Identifying duplicated applications and services also provide opportunities for cost reduction through consolidation and centralisation.

2. Clearly articulate business pain points and achieve quick wins

The model enables IT to have the conversation with the business and objectively determine the pain points experienced by the business from the perspective of the business (not IT’s version of events). These pain points are great opportunities to deliver focussed quick wins especially in the delivery of services to the business. Focusing on these pain points demonstrates to the business that IT has the ability to address the issues that are important in a business context.

3. Prioritise and focus projects against strategy and real need

The model enables the organisation to review all proposed initiatives to see if they will actually address the pain points and gaps. Doing less but doing it better and ensuring it has the right impact is important for successful outcomes and this process ensures that the money is being spent where it is most needed.

4. A communication tool

Steps 1 to 3 facilitate a clear communication tool that IT can use to demonstrate that they know what is important to the business and ensure communication of technology initiatives is done utilising language that the business will understand.

5. Grows with the business

The model is a representation of the business at any point in time and provides a current view of how IT is delivering services to the business. By keeping it up to date it becomes the essential communication piece across the business.

Capability models as an essential tool

Capability models are not a ‘nice to have’ but should be seen as an essential tool for any business. They will provide significant benefit for IT to better understand the context of the business it is supporting. Equally as powerful is the tools ability to demonstrate to the business that IT can be a key enabler and a partner.

And anything that brings the business and IT together to solve common problems using a common language should be strongly considered as a ‘must have’ for all organisations.

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To speak to our team about how we can help your business deliver better projects, please contact us.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...