A few tips for IT Transformation

Any Organisational Transformation is difficult and complex. It’s even more difficult and complex when it involves IT.

Research by McKinsey has found that the success rate for transformations is low: less than one third succeed!

Many IT leaders find themselves being asked to “do Devops and Agile” with little appreciation of the significant cultural and organisational change these digital working practices involve (don’t forget that DevOps is not just about automation and tools).

To make matters more challenging, few IT leaders have experience of successful organisational and cultural change.

Almost every guide about Transformation recommends that the “CIO needs to be fully committed” but what does this mean in practice?

Well it’s not enough for a CIO to pass the directive to their senior leadership team and then receive progress reports or attend a monthly transformation steering committee meeting. This will not lead to success.

For a successful Transformation the following activities must also be considered.

1. Active leadership

Your CIO needs to understand that they have an active role in leading this change. Standing up and talking at a monthly townhall is not sufficient to win the hearts and minds of the people undergoing change.

The CIO needs to be visible during transformation. This should involve dropping in on planning meetings, training sessions, backlog grooming sessions, retrospectives, demonstrations and celebrating any accomplishments. This doesn’t mean the CIO has to be stretched out and attend each and every meeting; a few attendances each week/month for 10-15 minutes at the very minimum will demonstrate that the CIO is interested in what’s happening. This will also reinforce the transformation message to participants at any meeting or gathering that the CIO attends.

People tend to be more engaged and committed to change when they see their senior leader taking an active interest in the change, being visible, being approachable and being interactive.

2. IT Leadership Team needs to understand DevOps, Lean and Agile culture and values

Run some training sessions with your CIO and their senior leadership team (don’t forget to include non-IT / Business stakeholders too) so that everyone understands DevOps philosophy, values, principles and what is involved in embarking on this journey.

There are some excellent simulation courses such as the Phoenix Project Simulation which can help provide first-hand experience of the concepts and challenges.

3. Bring in the experts

Hire in expertise who have led and implemented transformations before. They have the experience of having done this before and know the pitfalls, challenges and timescales involved. They can help you with developing the roadmap, programme plan, operating model and identify the skills and tools required to support your transformation.

With DevOps transformation remember it’s not just about the toolchain – there is a much bigger cultural change that needs to take place across IT and the business.

There are plenty of independent consultants who are motivated to help you succeed without being incentivised to upsell.

4. Transformation may not be suitable for you

The right experts should identify from their due diligence whether your organisation is suitable/ready for transformation. If not, they should be able to identify the maturity gaps that need to be addressed first. It may be the case that the business strategy does not support transformation, or the teams are too siloed, or possibly that the staff are heavily institutionalised to be able to bring about any cultural transformation.

5. Set realistic timescales and budget

IT transformations do not happen overnight over even within a year. Your transformation plan and roadmap should have a timescale between three to five years. This is where your experts will help with estimating. It is also something which your CIO and senior IT leaders (and business stakeholders) will need to commit to at the outset.

6. Start small

This recommendation comes in nearly any guide to transformation.

If you watch any of the case study videos and attend the DevOps conferences, you’ll see that all organisations have started with a single product or value stream and built their first agile team around this.

Demonstrate that your IT organisation is capable of adapting and changing by applying digital working practices to a single product and promote the success of your achievements. This will help generate more enthusiasm for the changes being made as people start to see tangible achievements and benefits.

While not a silver bullet or magic sauce, the tips above will help you get started with your IT transformation journey. There is never a better time to start and it’s a journey that does not stop in today’s fast moving economy with millennial workforces, innovative and evergreen IT under constant attack.

The simple message is transform or get left behind.

Author: Shyam is a Transformation Consultant with expertise across the DevOps, Agile and the entire ITIL Lifecycle. Shyam has a broad range of experience and expertise within strategy, design and implementation stages covering organisation, people, process and tooling.

Feel free to get in touch for more information