IT Transformation – Where to Start?

By Choong Keng Leong April 26, 2012

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  — Sun Tzu

The reason why people are reading this blog post is because IT Transformation has become inevitable to a certain extent for many IT organizations.  Do a quick scan of major IT vendors’ websites — everyone is talking about IT Transformation and offering services and solutions to support organizations embarking on this initiative.

It could be the pull factor due to the attractiveness of Cloud Service Providers being able to help IT deliver services cheaper and faster, or the push factor of a CEO telling the CIO: “What are you doing about it?”.

The key to a successful IT Transformation is a holistic strategy and good tactical plans. Like playing chess, you need a good strategy and tactics.

So how do we start to develop a holistic IT Transformation Strategy and Tactical Plan? If someone approaches a consultant for help, 9 in 10 of them would probably say, “Let me do an assessment of your IT environment first”. More likely than not, they will also conduct assessments on People, Processes and Technology (Infrastructure and Tools).

There is a gap with this approach. Liken this to the blind men and the elephant story (Figure 1), the assessment results will depend on where the consultant (or you) looks into; or in some cases, where the Consultant wants to dig deeper.

Figure 1: Blind Men & An Elephant

IT is like the big elephant. You cannot see the complete IT Transformation picture unless you explore all the different parts of the elephant. Being tactical, focusing on one area and ignoring the other relevant parts would be a huge and costly oversight of any IT organization.

The IT Transformation Picture Puzzle consists of 9 major pieces as shown in Figure 2. Each puzzle piece rightly is entitled to its own transformation strategy and tactical plan. For example, one can define an Infrastructure Strategy through virtualizing all servers; or a DR (disaster recovery) strategy with an Active-Active or Hot Site disaster recovery configuration.

Figure 2: IT Transformation Puzzle

As part of good governance practice, you need to align and prioritize all the individual strategies. They should not be developed and implemented in isolation. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon practice for organizations to go for a piecemeal-strategy approach.

Yet there is more to Figure 2, as well. It does not mean that an organization embarking on IT Transformation has to develop 9 different strategies and transform each layer. In fact, it is unlikely that any organization will want to concurrently transform all 9 layers in the model. A more likely scenario would be an organization looking at transforming the Infrastructure, Data/ Information, Applications or End User Computing layers, not necessary all at once.

Imagine yourself walking on the red arrow line in Figure 2. Stop at the box you want to transform, for example let’s choose Infrastructure.  As you develop your Infrastructure Transformation Strategy, remember to look to the boxes on the left and right. The strategy should also consider impacts to Data, Applications, End Users, Security & Compliance, DR, Backup, Automation and Operations & Business.

The same holds true when developing a transformation strategy for End User Computing. We need to take into account the impact to the other pieces both to the left and right.

In summary, IT Transformation starts with a holistic strategy that takes into account all 9 layers as shown in Figure 2. And as in Sun Tzu’s quote, it is not enough to have a strategy, you need also have the accompanying tactical plans to translate strategy to actions.




About Choong Keng Leong

Keng Leong has spent over 18 years dealing with large IT infrastructure projects in banks, government agencies, large telcos, and other organizations. He recognized the importance of IT as a Service early on, and has successfully helped many organizations move down that path.

Keng Leong has many professional certifications, including EMC Cloud Architect Expert (EMCCAe), Data Science Associate (EMCDSA) and ITIL v3 Expert, but his most important certification remains his sincere passion for IT as a Service and his strong belief in the future of IT being very cloud-centric.

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