How CIOs Successfully Transform the IT Organization
by Dinko Eror, Vice President and Country Manager, EMC Germany at EMC
Legacy IT is not able to cope with today’s digitalization – transformation is required. But who should handle the related redesign and rebuild tasks? You, the IT leader, of course. And you should start today, because it is about time that everybody views the IT as a business driver instead of a road block.
No doubt about it: In IT, nothing can remain the same. The progressing digitalization across all business fields requires new resources, services and new ways of deployment. However, today many of the centralized IT organizations with traditional data centers are not able to cater to these needs.
But who will be the driving force of the transformation to a new and rather decentralized IT? This is an important question in many companies, since a number of CIOs and IT leaders are not taking on this challenge, at least not wholeheartedly. Instead, some tend to feel overwhelmed, and claim to experience a lack of support from the executive board and the departments, as well as an increasing shift of decision-making power from their own to other departments.
Are CIOs Truly in Reverse?
According to an EMC survey among 2,471 executives, 68% of the participating CIOs believe that their organizations are already inhibiting innovations. And 69% of the responding CIOs are anticipating that their very own organizations will soon no longer be able to fulfill the requirements of other departments. Therefore, more than half of participants (58%) are assuming that their organization will cease to exist as it is in the future, and may be replaced by cloud services and outsourcing service providers for the most part.
Such self-doubts are quite understandable, but they also are redundant. Why? Because this does not indicate the very end of the IT department, but the need for clearly defined action. IT leaders should address this need instead of remaining in reverse gear.
IT should be based on a more decentralized approach, and partially merged with other departments? Well, then someone has to arrange for that. The executive management wants to relocate the majority of IT resources to the cloud? Then someone must plan for this relocation. The departments are looking for new applications? Then someone must develop and deploy these.
Who, if not the IT organization, could do all this? Sure, certain aspects of these tasks could be handled by the executive board, department heads or external service providers. But only the CIO and his team are able to provide the necessary know-how and experience to drive everything forward at the same time.
Don’t Wait and Hesitate
Instead, act now! The point I want to make is that in many cases what seems to be a potential threat for the corporate IT department really represents an opportunity – at least for those who are willing to accept the challenge.
Now is the time for CIOs and IT leaders to recognize the opportunity, and to actively take the lead regarding the IT transformation. This goal can be achieved by clearly defining – and naming – the actions required within the company and the IT, and by claiming responsibility for the related changes and the development of convincing objectives and plans.
If you want to get out of reverse and drive things forward from now on, you should:
1. Claim Responsibility
Taking on the corporate IT transformation will require some creative space. You’ll also need the support of the executive board and the departments. How do you make sure you get it? The easiest way is to have an open conversation with the relevant managers in a language that everybody understands. Let them know that you will be responsible for the transformation, and outline the next steps (as explained below). In doing so, do not assume that the other executives have already attributed the relevant competency to you: Our survey showed that 36% of the participating business managers believe that the development of an IT strategy is their job – and not the job of the CIO.
2. Establish Expectations, Explain Limitations
After these conversations you immediately need to apply “expectation management“ principles. The upcoming transformation will take some time, and during this time your team probably will not be able to fulfill each and every requirement of the departments. Best to explain in advance what is possible, and what is not. Campaign for understanding, but please keep in mind: Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
3. Define Goals, Set Clear Priorities
After the prep work is done commence with the actual planning. Consult and coordinate with the executive management and departments, and define goals in an initial “target image” of the new IT. Which resources and services will be required in the future? Which requirements will result from these? And what will the new IT organization look like? Based on the target image, define the required change procedures, and prioritize these, since it will not be possible to do it all at once. Very important: Present your plans to the executive board, the department leaders, and your own organization.
4. Prepare for the Transition
Develop a practical plan for the transition from the old to the new IT. First, think about the resources and services which should be relocated from the data center to the cloud as a standard, the work to be assigned to service providers, and new IT resources to be procured – and then develop milestones for the implementation of these measures. Don’t forget to put it all down in writing; prepare a proper transition concept.
5. Get Everybody on Board
After you have established the required organizational and planning basics, it’s time to inform the members of your IT organization about the upcoming changes. Explain the background and the content of the decisions you have made in cooperation with the executive management and the departments, and present your plan as well as the transition concept you have prepared. After your presentation, take the time to listen to the feedback of the team members, and take their considerations into account – after all they are subject matter experts. This also is the best way to make sure you’ll get the support you’ll need for anything that may come along. And without supporters it simply will not be possible to meet the all the challenges the future may hold.
The Bottom Line
The digitalization and the related corporate IT transformation may create concerns among IT managers. Some feel that their role will not remain the same, and they may be stripped of their power. Again, this is quite understandable, but redundant at the same time. The order of the day is to plan the future and act decisively instead of holding back and hesitating. The upcoming changes will offer huge creative freedom for those who are willing to act now, as well as the chance to work strategically and in closer cooperation with the business. It’s all about creating more (business) value with your work than ever before.
This is an opportunity not to be missed by any CIO.