IT's ability to help the business with speed and agility lies not in technology, but in IT's culture and ability to manage change.
Change is a constant and the pace of change seems to be accelerating. Companies that embrace speed and flexibility gain a natural advantage over slower, less nimble competitors. As the business environment continues to accelerate, those who try to maintain the status quo, or evolve too slowly, will find themselves falling further and further behind.
Technology demand is reaching new heights as CEOs and corporate boards realize the need to become faster and nimbler than ever before. But they are struggling with how to make it happen. As an IT leader, you must recognize that this need for speed is very real. But this is not just about implementing new technologies. Such incremental changes cannot possibly establish the necessary foundation to drive the continual acceleration needed for the future.
How will you and your IT department help your company fulfill its need for speed?
1. Get Your Culture Right
Fundamentally, the changes required to achieve speed and flexibility are not nearly as much about technology as about culture – both inside and outside the IT department. I am observing that people are beginning to understand that digital transformation is primarily about culture. Stephen M. R. Covey concluded in The Speed of Trust that “there is a significant, direct, measurable, and indisputable connection between high trust, high speed, low cost, and increased value.”
To achieve a culture of speed and flexibility:
- Establish and communicate your vision so that everyone is driving together toward a common goal.
- Define metrics so that progress can be objectively measured.
- Use presentations, videos, and hallway marketing to excite everyone in the company about the vision.
- Eliminate the bureaucratic decision-making that slows things down.
- Empower your staff with the authority, responsibility, and accountability for the desired results.
- Embrace failure as a learning opportunity.
- Instill and reward a mindset of continuous improvement.
- Then, get out of the way and trust their creativity in determining how to best achieve success.
2. Become a Change Management Expert
Change is hard. Many organizations struggle with it. Habits are difficult to break, and inertia keeps you going in the same direction. As a result, great strategies can go unrealized, new systems can fail, and companies can even go out of business.
For effective change leadership in your IT organization:
- Become a student of leadership, influence and change.
- Make the subject of change a routine point of discussion at meetings with your executive team and your staff.
- Start a book club in your company to read books like Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change and Change the Culture, Change the Game and discuss how the principles found in these books apply to your company.
- Instill a philosophy that a project is not complete when it is implemented but when the business value is achieved.
- Ensure that every project plan addresses how the associated change will be managed.
3. Eliminate the sole source mentality, and enable the business
Begin transforming IT toward the model of a professional services organization, a service broker. Train the entire IT staff to attain the mindset of an internal consultant, and assign each business unit a full-time IT professional to become their trusted advisor.
This trusted advisor position is much more than the historical business analyst or relationship manager role. It is a true consultant embedded within the business unit and tasked with helping meet the goals of the business. This consultant evaluates alternative solutions, both internal and external, to business challenges and presents the various options, risks, pros/cons, costs, etc. to the business unit. Then the business unit makes the decision as to the best option to select for their business. Afterward the consultant monitors the implementation to assure that the desired benefits are achieved. This approach will help IT to move at the speed of the business.
4. Transform Delivery
A 2014 Puppet Labs study found a number of practices relating to high performance in IT organizations. These practices include continuous integration and delivery of production changes; automated acceptance testing; version control for all elements required to reproduce the production environment; proactive monitoring, and a peer-reviewed change approval process (replacing the change management board). Furthermore, the study found that those companies implementing DevOps practices ship code 30 times faster and have 50 per cent fewer failures than their peers. In addition, when failures do occur, these DevOps companies restore service 12 times faster. Do you think that will make a difference in the speed of your IT department and in turn, the speed of your company? And lest anyone thinks differently, DevOps can be put into place for any platform, including mainframes.
Will your IT department provide the foundation for acceleration that your company needs, or will it be more like an anchor slowing it down? The answer may not be the same for each company, but right now, in many ways, the choice is up to you.
You can make the difference!