Learning from Experience: Why and How to Make IT Transformation Faster and Easier
IT Transformation is not a finite program or project. It’s an ongoing journey.
IDG sums it up this way in its CIOs Reveal IT Transformation Priorities and Successes report: “IT transformation as an engine to drive business transformation keeps evolving, has been underway for years―and will continue into the foreseeable future.”
The journey continues because there is always a ‘next level’ of IT agility and competency required to maintain competitiveness. For example, as today’s IT organizations must evolve to enable the business to take full advantage of emerging capabilities in areas such as 5G, IoT, and AI and machine learning.
It is precisely because IT Transformation is never-ending that IT organizations must look beyond immediate outcomes to also get better at the transformation process itself.
Our experience in thousands of IT Transformation projects―and confirmed in IDG’s analysis of anonymized customer data collected over nearly a decade of hundreds of Dell EMC and VMware IT Transformation Workshops―shows that the greatest barriers to IT Transformation success are not technical, they are process and people-oriented. For example:
96% of workshop participants recognized the need to evolve their technology and project focused IT teams into an end-to-end service delivery organization focused on developing and delivering the right high-quality services for the business. However, 77% report that they still have siloed teams.
CIOs consistently tell me that the biggest challenge they face is accelerating the pace of change in their organizations. In large enterprises especially, a pervasive ‘the way it’s always been done’ mentality, inflexible policies, and domain silos slow the operational transformations necessary to deliver expected results. Organizations that do not directly address these issues will fall farther and farther behind, accumulating not just technical debt, but a kind of ‘agility debt’ that makes future change exponentially more difficult going forward.
The good news is that there are proven ways that organizations can accelerate change and increase their capacity for absorbing change. I offer two insights gained from our work with customers on thousands of IT transformation projects―and from our own Dell EMC IT transformation experiences. The learnings apply to all types of IT transformations―from data center modernization, to application portfolio optimization, to IT service delivery, DevOps, and more.
- Lesson #1: IT transformation is always multi-dimensional―and must be synchronized and driven across multiple domains and workstreams all at once
- Lesson #2: Every workstream, project, and program needs a ‘change agent’ with the vision, motivation, skills, and authority to push beyond institutional norms
Applying these lessons is not easy, but essential. In both instances, success depends on a ‘meta’ capability to identify, understand, and govern all of the people, process, and technology pieces that need to change to truly transform the way IT is done.
Driving simultaneous change across multiple domains and workstreams is critical, not only because sequential changes are too slow to keep up with the pace of change; but because, like gears in a timepiece, the changes are inherently interdependent and must be kept in sync to deliver results. New hardware and software won’t improve the user’s service experience if the IT operating model remains unchanged, for example. The business will see no value if its applications still run on old platforms.
Of course, this is easy to say and difficult to do. It requires a holistic understanding of the need for and impact of change across different work streams, detailed iterative planning and buy-in by multiple teams, and strong governance to keep efforts in in-sync and moving forward.
Overcoming Legacy Mentality
The skills to drive and synchronize changes across existing domains can be difficult to find in organizations that have long operated in silos and made changes using slow, ‘waterfall’ project management techniques. Often, existing leaders ‘know too much’ about the way things work today to be able to effectively activate change. That is why identifying and empowering change agents has proved to be a critical success factor in IT transformations of all kinds―not just at the program level, but for workstreams as well. Change agents can be sourced externally or pulled from internal teams. What’s vital is that they have the commitment, mindset, skills―and management backing―to drive the full magnitude of change required.
Overlooked and Undervalued
The importance of a holistic, synchronized approach and agile change leadership in IT transformation success continues to be both overlooked and undervalued in many IT organizations. The following example is just one of many I could offer to illustrate what I mean.
Not too long ago, we began working with a large retailer in Australia on a major IT transformation initiative. At first, our sponsor questioned the need for a Program Management Office (PMO). It was his belief that what he needed was technical expertise―period. Fortunately, we were able to show how a robust PMO is integral to transformation and critical to achieving desired outcomes.
Now, half a year later, as a number of project milestones have been met, this executive’s opinion on the value of the PMO has completely flipped. Besides keeping the program on track and meeting expectations, the PMO has helped internal teams gain competencies that are enabling technical workstreams to be brought in-house. Nonetheless, the client’s intent is to keep the Dell EMC-driven PMO in place for the long term to continue to drive, synchronize, and govern change across all workstreams.
Our Own Continuing Transformation
Like the IT organizations we work with, Dell EMC Consulting continues on its own never-ending transformation journey. As enterprises look for ways to accelerate their ability to leverage new and emerging capabilities for business advantage, we are investing in single-point of program management, consulting expertise, and repeatable methodologies and tools to further integrate and simplify the delivery of technologies and services from across Dell Technologies (Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, Secureworks, Virtustream, VMware) and a broad ecosystem of partners.
See the CIOs Reveal IT Transformation Priorities and Successes here: