IT transformation – 3 best practices to radically change what IT delivers

tony price.JPGBy Tony Price, World Wide Lead for Strategy and Transformation Consulting, HP Software Professional Services

 

(Tony Price has 33 years of IT experience, originally starting his career in mainframe technologies and data center operations. Tony was also an author/contributor to the ITIL® publications and has extensive experience in IT Service Management. He has personally delivered several global IT transformation projects and has a passion for delivering business outcomes.)

 

IT transformation has become a buzzword in our industry. It’s an overused term. But I find that, like a lot of buzzwords, it’s really not well understood. People think they know what IT transformation means. But in many cases what they’re calling transformation is evolution: a large project with a series of small step increases such as automating, speeding things up, aligning better. So in reality they’re optimizing what they’ve already got. But they’re not transformational.

 

When you transform you go from one state to a completely different end state (with potentially numerous steps along the way). It’s a major change, and it’s going to deliver completely different outcomes. However many CIOs hear the words major change and immediately think major risk. So they back away, and instead of transforming IT, they evolve IT by running lots and lots of separate projects. And they think by doing that they’re avoiding risk.

 

The reality is totally different. When you’re running lots and lots of individual projects what you’re really doing is creating lots and lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. Each individual project can go wrong. And if each individual project does not support the next project, then that can go wrong.  Also, discrete projects will always be subject to some change. That change may be perfectly reasonable for a stand-alone project. But consider the potential massive variation you face in running multiple discrete projects that all have some change variation in their outcome and you risk delivering something far from what you anticipated initially. So the step gains that you want to get when you evolve IT can actually be significantly lower than what you get when you transform IT.

 

What IT transformation is … and isn’t
I lead workshops on IT transformation. To help people understand what transformation feels like, I’ve often done an exercise where I’ve had a bunch of people in a conference room and given them an American football. I’ll ask them to get it from one side of the room to another. Now, when everyone’s sitting at different tables this exercise is a mess. People drop the ball and it takes a while. Then I ask some of the people to come up to the front of the room and stand shoulder to shoulder. This group is always able to pass the ball much faster. Is this a transformation? No. What they’ve done is the equivalent of automation; they sped things up.

 

What would a real transformation look like? It would stop delivering the same thing (faster), and deliver something you’re not already doing. For the example I have quoted above, instead of moving a physical ball it may move a virtual ball! To do that IT must radically change, because the business has never done anything like this before; i.e., it has moved from physical manufacturing and entered the “virtual world”. Think of all the companies that have had to make this choice – to sell from an online storefront, say, or to move into mobile – and as a result have entered completely new markets with totally new delivery mechanisms.

 

With IT transformation you work with the business to change the way you do things and take the business and IT to a completely different place. Transformation can:

 

  • Deliver completely new and different outcomes
  • Move your business into a new market
  • Open up new revenue streams
  • Radically change your operating model
  • Harness new and innovative delivery mechanisms

3 transformation best practices
I’ve led multiple IT transformation projects over the years, so I’ve had a lot of experience in helping organizations through the process of significantly changing what IT delivers. Here are three essentials for a successful IT transformation:

 

  • Articulate where you are and where you’re going: This is the first step of any transformation project. If you can’t articulate where you are now and where you want to go, you’re not in position to start. (Of course part of what I do with HP Professional Services is help CIOs understand where they are now as well as define that vision and future state.) If these things aren’t completely crystal clear, you will fail. You’ll morph into something, and you may change, but you won’t be able to control it if you don’t have a complete understanding of where you want to be. And don’t just think about this from an IT perspective! 
  • Understand the business requirements: In many cases, IT transformation is the result of a business decision. Even if it is not, IT should know when there’s technology it can use to create maximum business advantage. You see this with top CIOs: they’ve become a business partner and are an essential part of any decision making.  This also requires a mind shift for many technically driven individuals who traditionally look at how they can deliver these requirements as opposed to who is best to deliver these requirements.  In my opinion this is the first essential mind shift that is required for anyone wishing to utilize cloud-based delivery and multi-sourced delivery.  And if you don’t make that mind shift you can be sure your business will make it – better to be the innovator and trusted partner as opposed to the IT victim!
  • Communicate: Transformation gets people out of their comfort zones, so they need context, support and regular reassurance. I’m a big believer in management of organizational change (MOC) practices, which can help to drive individuals through major transformations and deliver the expected outcomes whilst also increasing employee satisfaction, effectiveness and loyalty during organizational change.

Lastly, If you’re making numerous major changes in IT, look at what you’re doing through the lens of transformation.   Think about the business outcomes. Are these discrete projects due to having discrete business outcomes? Or have you just broken them down as it all looked too complex? Approach what you’re doing with a formal transformation view and you’ll be much more successful.

 

To learn more about IT transformation services, visit HP Software Professional Services.

 

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Comments
JoshuaBrusse | ‎08-10-2012 12:45 AM

Hi Tony

 

Nice blog...wanted to make one comment...I agree that "transformation" stands for "doing something radically different" and not only "doing the same thing faster". However...doing the same thing faster can be radically different for many individual stakeholders...as such it might not be a real transformation for the organization but it it is a "transformation" for the individual stakeholder...

 

Thanks for linking my blog under communication...I would like to mention that this should actually read "communication and engagement" (and I know you agree) as communication is not enough as we all know...we need to engage too :)

Nadhan | ‎08-13-2012 04:07 PM

Love the football analogy, Tony.  IT transformation is a journey like any other journey we take -- it is essential that enterprises have a Transformation GPS alongside to effectively position themselves to determine the best way forward.

 

Connect with Nadhan on: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin

cebess | ‎08-14-2012 05:08 AM

The process of "Articulating where you are and where you’re going" is about measurement from my persective. If you are going to make a chance, what do you expect the result to be? Did you hit that mark or did you miss it? Why?

 

Too often organizations state an objective or implement something without ever going back to check on the difference between "as designed" and "as implmented". It is hard to effectively make successful change without understanding and adjustment.

eyeShare(anon) | ‎08-22-2012 06:53 AM

Nice blog, When you mention "Transformation gets people out of their comfort zones..." is not an easy task to make them understand the need to move, however inevitable and it requires a lot of education and the ability to understand the need for transformation. I would like to invite you to read about a transformation, IT process automation which can help align between IT and the needs of the business.  http://bit.ly/RcUvdE

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