When rearranging IT, don't make the mistake of dividing the group into modern and legacy systems, Horne says. It's tough to make the backwater sound interesting, and people stuck there grow resentful if they feel they're not working on anything innovative. "One company called it the 'heritage' IT team. Didn't last very long," he says.
To avoid that, CIOs should consider matching the IT staff to business activities. Working on customer acquisition, for example, could include a mix of old and new technologies, which is more satisfying for more people, Horne says.
IT might organize around 20 or 30 such activities, setting funding and speed at a different level for each one. First, decide where IT must excel and where it's OK to dare to be mediocre. For example, if staying ahead of customer habits provides competitive advantage, concentrate on analytics and let human resources applications simply be serviceable, he advises.
Finally, beware of too much change, Horne says. The average employee experiences a significant change, such as a reorganization or the arrival of a new boss, every seven months, according to CEB research. But it can take two years for someone to absorb the change and return to full productivity. "You have to be careful about how much change any one part of the organization is going through," Horne says.
GameStop's IT restructuring has altered Donaldson as a leader. Collaborating with futurists, researchers and venture capitalists has jump-started his curiosity about problem-solving and his interest in shaping the company's future. "This lights up neurons," he says. "There's nothing better than that."
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