In my last article, I talked about the primary drivers of IT Transformation:

  • Economic: In today’s world, every IT organization is faced with reducing their costs to the company. This often takes the form of automation, which forces people to change the way they perform their jobs.
  • Service: The world economy and web has forced most businesses into an always available operating mode. This change has significantly impacted IT. Gone are the days of scheduled “downtime” to perform upgrades and maintenance. IT organizations now have to perform these functions without interrupting service.
  • Advocate: IT Leadership has seen the value of adopting new methodologies to improve the delivery of their services. Just to name a few, methodologies like COBIT, ITIL, ISO, Agile have significantly changed the IT landscape.
  • Selective Sourcing: Most companies are now Selectively Sourcing commodity services. This has forced IT organizations in the role of IT Integrators, a role that most have never performed.

Once an IT Organization has decided to transform, how do they go about achieving this change? The first decision that needs to be made is to determine the desired end state. What will your Organization look like when the transformation is complete? Most IT Organizations choose to work with one of the major consulting companies for their Strategic Planning. These firms provide an excellent impartial view of the IT organization’s capabilities, market assessments of your industry and best practices of what others have been able to achieve. But remember, what is a “best practice” for one company may not be the right approach for yours.

Now that you have decided on your desired end state, the question remains: How do we Transform the organization into this new state? Think of your IT Organization as a ship that has been sailing between two ports for years. Now you have decided to start sailing to a new port. Who do you find to help you make this journey?

Many companies will turn to their Strategic Planning partner. After all, if they helped you choose the new port, they must be the best people to help you get there, right? These firms will typically suggest one of two approaches. The first is to bring in a shadow crew to help your staff learn the route to the new port. This is a very effective method, but it involves a lot of external people and usually costs more than most companies are willing to pay. The other approach is to suggest an Organizational Redesign. First, we start with the attributes we want for the new organization (e.g. agile, responsive, customer focused, etc.). Then, after the new organization is designed, it is usually staffed with the people from the old organization. This isn’t the best solution either. If our ship is a cargo boat and we are transforming it into a passenger liner, do you think it is possible to disassemble a cargo boat and reassemble it into passenger liner? Organizational Redesign is good in that it helps people understand why other groups operate the way they do, but it does not really help change the direction of the ship.

Many organizations decide that the tools are the root cause of their service delivery problems. After all, there are a lot of new, completely integrated Service Management tool sets that can significantly improve the performance of IT Organizations. But, let’s go back to our ship analogy. New tools would mean a new radar system and engines for our ship, so we can go much fast and see much farther into the distance. This is good, right? They may be part of the solution, but by themselves, new engines and and a new radar system won’t help us find our way to our new port. In reality, most hardware and software are pretty reliable these days. If you look at the incident history in a company, you will find that the majority of problems are not related to hardware or software failures.

Other companies may decide to bring in a consulting partner to rewrite their processes. Most of these companies will come in and spend a few weeks getting to know how the ship runs (or even perform an assessment as the first phase). They will then disappear into an ivory tower for months and finally emerge with all of the new and improved processes totally documented. Unfortunately, the charts are written in the Cartesian coordinate systems, the people steering the ship have no idea on how to read them, and the ship keeps going to the same old port. Finally, the newly rewritten processes sit in pretty binders on the shelf and never get referenced. How many times have you heard in your company that the fastest and easiest way to get things done is to go outside the standard procedures? This is a clear sign that the people who actually do the work know a better way than the documented processes.

So how do companies successfully Transform? Simple; Transformation is about PEOPLE! Not just the leadership, but the entire crew of the ship. From our Strategic Planning we know WHAT has to be changed, but most companies will fail in HOW they change and will not achieve the total results they were expecting. Why? The key people doing the work NEED to be involved in deciding how things will change, and they usually are not. Who better to lead the teams implementing these changes than the people who actually do the work on a daily basis? This way, everyone is involved in both deciding how to change and in implementing the change. They now feel a sense of involvement and ownership in the change and will help to carry it forward.

One final thought, most Transformation efforts are multi-year efforts. Unfortunately, the results are planned to be delivered at the end in one big bang. (And we know what happened in the last big bang.) Instead, Transformation efforts need to be iterative. Start with something small and easy to change. Celebrate your success and tackle the next item. Success breeds success. Our ship may be going to a new port, but that does not mean we can’t stop in other ports along the way.

Transformation is about ALL the PEOPLE!

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