From Linear to Circular Information Technology Management: Creating a competitive advantage

In the industry today, we talk about lean, processes, waterfall models and productivity as sources for competitiveness.

In the 1990’s, the digital revolution began with the Internet and has evolved quickly to the place where we are today. It has been an exciting and challenging journey. Re-drawing the pre-requisites for many industries, societies and the way of we live our lives. Today, we are moving from a linear society to a more circular and iterative society based on customer demand and valuable services and information.

The main change is lack of predictability, faster time-to-market and changed customer behavior – requiring new circular ways of working. But when we look at how companies and IT organizations are managed, it is like time travelling to the 1980’s with linear management and planning. 

Definition: Linear management is based on a sequential number of activities with a clear start and end date (Dare I say “GO LIVE”). The purpose of linear planning is to create an efficient and controllable process that will generate a result (fixed goal). For example, linear strategic planning consists of a number of activities (trend analysis, strategic revision, budgeting, KPI/target setting) in sequence carried out during the autumn (clear start and end date).
Definition: Circular management is based on a iterating (often rapidly) key activities in cycles over continuously with no start or end date. The purpose of circular management is to quickly react to new trends and forces in the industry. The pre-requisite for circular management is an unpredictable and dynamic environment without fixed goals or market conditions.

As the business environment is digitalized, The need for companies and IT organizations to adjust their management style to a more circular model to react quicker to new trends, opportunities and threats.

It takes approximately 12-18 months for an IT organization (utilizing linear planning) to react to new trends, as the linear planning process needs to be followed.

One of the key areas for circular planning is in the IT Strategic Planning area. This is the area where IT defines how business value is created and delivered – and often using linear planning. Based on experience and knowledge from IT strategy, digitalization and performance management, Grand Rapids Technology Source has developed principles for an IT Strategy to support Circular strategic planning:

  • The IT Strategy planning is not time bound work (start and stop date) but rather a continuous and iterative method to ensure optimal business value.
  • The IT Strategy must require a minimum lead-time from strategic positioning (SWOT) to implemented IT strategy (4-6 weeks).
  • The IT strategy only includes relevant strategic information contribution to optimal business value creation.
  • The IT strategy is based on generic loosely coupled strategic elements (well-defined, independent, and directly linked to environmental trends).
  • The IT Strategy is part of a Performance Management framework that constantly plans, monitors and adjust the strategy for optimal business value in the current IT governance structure.
  • The IT Strategy method will actually reduce the reaction time on new trends to a minimum – normally to 3-4 months! Compare that reaction time to normal linear planning with reaction time of 12-18 months!
Fast reaction time is a competitive advantage for the digital era – speeding up time-to-market!
What is important to understand is that circular management is not something invented “just for fun” but rather a consequence of a changed business environment. It is new business pre-requisites that drives the need for more circular and iterative management of businesses and IT – not the other way around. IT is managed to support and build business competitiveness, therefore needs to be adjusted to the conditions of the market. As the market moves faster (by digitalization), then IT needs to move at the same speed. 

If you feel that your IT department is lagging or stalled, contact Grand Rapids Technology Support to see if we can help!

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