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Is Two-Speed IT Only Half the Job?

Ever feel like your IT outfit is stuck in a single gear (too fast or too slow)? Georgina Guedes of IT Web’s CIO Zone interviews CIOs on the necessity and effectiveness of two-speed, an approach that requires speed and agility in some aspects of IT, caution and consistency in others. 

Two-Speed Explained

With two-speed, one side of IT is focused on core network infrastructure and business applications. The other side adjusts to fit marketing and customer service needs. This approach might make sense if a CIO is trying to maintain basic IT function while promoting the integration of changes that will lead to better efficiency and cost savings. But interviewee Christie Olivier is keen to point out the importance of maintaining a solid (albeit fine line) between the two approaches, and she believes that leaning too hard in one direction is detrimental to business. 

It Takes Two

In the opinion of Home of Living Brands CIO John Stallard, technology is only as smart as an organization’s dumbest user. Stallard shifts the blame onto an absence of best practices. To back up Stallard’s assertion, both Gartner and Forrester research show that two to five percent of business revenue should be invested in IT, whereas one percent is the investment reality. In other words, the two-speed approach is impossible to achieve without the likes of a CFO acting in concert with a willing CIO. Sometimes it takes two to two-speed. 

Two Wimpy

Then there are two-speed skeptics, like IT director Guy Saville of SA Homeloans. He thinks the two-speed approach is a cowardly compromise that traditional businesses make when they are scared to embrace a truly agile approach to IT:

Few organisations become agile overnight, and it's usually a bottom-up process rather than top-down. So you've got to start somewhere. But with two-speed as a permanent solution, these businesses will never realise the full benefits of agility for the business philosophy, culture and risk and people management.”

Is two-speed IT really a half-hearted compromise? Perhaps that’s a judgment call best left to the experts.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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