That the changing IT landscape is causing us to evaluate and ultimately adopt new technologies. Or at the other end of the spectrum, that business transformation is driving the need for new, and more, IT services to support new business and new business models. 2014 was definitely a year filled with “digital business” talk, with the associated opportunity (for either glory or failure) available to corporate IT organizations.
At a high level, most corporate IT organizations are up-to-speed with the need for both IT transformation per se, and that business transformation is also driving the need for IT transformation. But IT transformation is ultimately organizational change – changing the people and process as well as the technology. And when we start to talk about organizational change within the IT organization, it can start to seem scary, or scarier, given that the people part of the ITIL-espoused “people, process, product, and partners” (formerly people, process, and technology) can be a significant barrier to change. At best, it’s a banana skin waiting to be slipped on.
10 Tips for IT Transformation
So what can you do to better traverse the common barriers to IT transformation (and to avoid any potential banana skins)? My good friend Ken Gonzalez gave some sound advice, and a few laughs, on this topic in his recent session at the Pink Elephant Conference in Las Vegas. My 10 tips are strongly influenced by Ken’s content.
So think about the following 10 points:
IT transformational change rarely follows the plan. So stop thinking that, and acting as though, it will – and be prepared to go off-plan as needed. Shift happens (do you see what I did there?)
Look beyond the end (IT transformation) to focus on the means. Pay particular attention to leadership, communication, and accomplishment.
Ensure that you understand the service provider (IT) and customer (the business) relationships. It’s difficult to change things when you don’t properly understand the service delivery environment and status quo.
Understand management imperatives. It might sound obvious, but change and IT transformation don’t happen in a vacuum. Ensure that the proposed IT transformation sits well with the existing management imperatives or expect a bumpy, and potentially short, ride.
Collaboration won’t happen by itself; it needs to be worked at.Whether it’s intra or inter-team collaboration, getting people in the same room to discuss a common goal is not necessarily collaboration. Look out for pointy fingers versus open palms. People can push and pull but it needs to be in the same direction.
Be aware of cultural barriers, especially inappropriate behavior. To quote Ken: “Culture is more insidious than politics.” It’s often the unsaid rather than what’s said that will hurt your IT transformation program.
Ensure that you truly understand what culture is. I like Ken’s definition: “The overriding view and the corresponding forces which permeate a group.” And remember that while many cultural issues can be predicted and planned for, there will of course be some that can’t be – and I refer you back to my first point.
Check your IT organization’s strategic and operational mindset. Is IT merely responsible for building and managing the IT infrastructure and applications? Or is it responsible for enabling business results and proactively managing customer experiences? Both the former and the latter will dramatically affect not only the ability to transform but also the quality of the outcome. It will also most likely affect the long term viability of the IT organization.
Understand that with transformation “correction is inevitable and improvement is mandatory.”And with this, it's fine to concentrate on your strengths (as a corporate service provider) but you also need to address your weaknesses.
Remember that informing does not replace actual communication.It ties in with the earlier collaboration point, and the old adage that “a message sent is not necessarily a message received.”
It’s also worth remembering that not all change is IT transformation. And if you look at #ocw2015 on Twitter you’ll see many of Ken’s Pink15 slides and additional points captured within the timeline.
Finally, I’d love to hear your personal advice on IT transformation. What works and what doesn’t? What did Ken and I miss?
Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!