IT for Business (IT4B): Balancing business goals and digital innovation

How can you use service management concepts, methods and processes in a way that focuses digital innovation on the delivery of business goals?

In the second of their series of blog posts, Brian Johnson and Walter Zondervan, authors of forthcoming book IT4B, explain the bigger picture of Internet technologies for business.

 A divided mind for the business and IT

A divided mind for the business and IT

The focus of every digital innovation should be business first. Business-first approaches require insight into the organisation and its processes. It can be helpful to discern two distinctive categories of business processes: ‘left-brain’ processes (logic, analytic, linear, mathematical, facts) and ‘right-brain’ processes (creative, imagination, holistic, visual, experience). This is shown in the figure above, where the brain houses opposing and often contradictory arguments at the same time.

In the early days of IT the focus was almost entirely on supporting left-brain processes. Now right-brain processes are being hyped. However, both types deserve equal attention in order to achieve a well-balanced functional fit.

Balancing high-level concerns

Figure 2: Balancing high-level concerns

When it comes to digital innovation, balance is everything. This is why balance is one of the key principles of the IT4B framework. At the heart of the framework we find a representation of the organisation’s benefit model (Figure 2) as a balance between ‘need’ and ‘value’, and ‘mission’ and ‘capability’. This can be a customer need and a business value proposition, or a public need and a private value proposition.

So the benefit model is applicable to both profit and non-profit organisations. There is also the requirement to balance an enterprise mission and the required capabilities to achieve these goals. The benefit model canvas helps to gain insight into the challenges an enterprise faces and is the first step in designing a strategy for digital innovation.

Multiple perspectives

Figure 3: Multiple perspectives

All enterprises now make use of IT in many forms. A digital enterprise goes way beyond just using IT as a business enabler. A digital enterprise has basically merged the primary business process(es) with IT. Who ever thought that a taxi ride (Uber) would become a digital service? Or an overnight stay (Airbnb)? However, there is rarely a digital transformation that starts from a greenfield situation.

The first step is to perceive the benefit model in its architectural context: business, information, applications and technology (Figure 3). The likely impact of any business decision or (digital) innovation can be illustrated with a visualised enterprise architecture.

No matter how digital a transformation might be, there is still the important human factor to consider. Successful digital transformation requires a level of digital readiness of the enterprise itself. How do we work together with regard to the business, information, applications and technology perspectives? Here the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle comes in handy.

Figure 4: IT4B quadrants

The IT4B operating model requires you to take on four more perspectives, which are illustrated as overlapping circles (Figure 4): governance, strategy, improvement and operation. You must also examine the PDCA cycle within each of the circles or quadrants. The IT4B operating model helps to extend the operating model of the business to information, applications and technology, and can be used to create a digital profile showing the readiness of your organisation for digital transformation.

The IT4B framework can provide guidelines for digital transformation by representing a well-balanced benefit model, fitted within a supporting enterprise architecture and run by a digitisation-ready operating model.

The issues are covered in more detail in IT4B, which will be published by ITGP on 5 June 2018.

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  1. Bettina 13th May 2018
    • Selina 19th June 2018