Big Data, Big Opportunities

Organizations today are facing a number of new challenges and opportunities related to the deployment and use of Big Data concepts, processes and technology. A number of trends and key directions are starting to develop, creating the main focus areas that business and IT leadership should consider as they approach deploying and operating Big Data for their organization.

Leveraging Data

One of the keys to effectively leveraging and realizing the value of Big Data is to understand  some of  the approaches you need to take. Whether you are trying to get closer to your customers or to your business, points to consider include:

  • Aggregate – What are the standards or principals you need to apply to efficiently and effectively drive aggregation? Look at whether you have setup the standards and controls so aggregation is not just efficient, but also cost effective.
  • Organize – Have you organized your approach to Data in a way that benefits your customer and your organization?  Most organizations have not considered using external validations, such as webex based customer seminars or Google analytics that look at, for example, sales data.
  • Apply - What are you doing to apply the data and tools required to succeed in this space? One consideration is looking at the tools you are using today and considering how you can drive consolidation and savings, in order to fund a new focus on Big Data and analytics.

Delivering Products that matter

The approach you take will not make a difference if you do not have a grounded view or strategic vision to where you want to go. The key trends and focus areas we are seeing today include:

  • Support Collaboration – Using Big Data to support collaboration, both internal and customer focused.
  • Drive Analysis – Improving analysis and the current approaches are myriad. Spotting patterns in data and framing relevant analysis is more evident. Using new tools such as semantic data toolsets, Hadoop and Cloud Services provide new analysis capabilities and opportunities.
  • Increase Efficiency – Look at the new products you are going to deliver. Are they able to increase the efficiency of your customer services or will the products improve the internal services you provide?

Big Data Tools

The opportunities related to using the tools of Big Data may not be evident. The world of mainframe computing and using ETL to address massive amounts of data has changed.  Take a look to see if you can use tools like Hadoop to drive savings. Are you able to reduce of eliminate ETL (extract, transfer, load) altogether? Can the new tools reduce mainframe costs?  How about embracing open source tools and see how you could replace Unix with Linux? Using the new tools of Big Data could provide the platform for innovation, consolidating databases and driving significant efficiencies.

To find out more about how to use these approaches, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Delivering Transformation with Precision

You’ve just walked out of an operations review, only to hear that another project has not delivered as expected. The team lead had been called on the carpet, having to explain what has gone wrong with deployment and what actions are going to be taken. The team lead has just completed a lackluster review of the project’s current status and most of the meeting was a critique of actions taken and the directive to fix the current problems and then report back to leadership. You have now witnessed so many of these meetings, that aside from the specific crisis at hand, you have the gut feeling that ‘there has to be a better way!'

It is likely that your  team and organization has become overwhelmed and  too focused on remediating current issues. The same issues continue, happen repeatedly and the result is that there is little or no change to the conditions that created the problems in the first place.

There is a better way and a solution. I’m calling it “Precision Transformation.' My definition of Precision Transformation includes the specific activities, metrics, measures and change management required to deliver results with precision.

My premise is that although IT organizations are well known for gearing up a project plan and project team to deliver a solution, there is limited focus on delivering with precision. Given the complexity of delivering results, the focus needs to change.

Driving precision transformation will change IT delivery, whether it is in the execution of the software delivery life cycle or  in IT operations. To make this happen consider the following:

Defining Need: Are your customers able to accurately describe what is needed? This goes beyond the classic use of business analysts to refine customer requirements. If the customer cannot define the need with some level of detail, then why are we doing the project to begin with?  Three simple questions to ask when defining the need include:

1) Is the need defined in detail? 

2) What is the expected impact to the end customer? 

3) What will this new functionality do to  current state operations?

Quick Hint: If you cannot define the need with some detail, then why are you doing the project ?

Defining Delivery:  Ask your customer to close their eyes and define the perfect delivery.. aka ‘nirvana.' Three simple questions to ask include:

1) What does best in class delivery of the solution look like? 

2) What does delivery look like for operations and IT?

3) What would be their worst nightmare …things that could go wrong?

Quick  Hint: If the customer cannot answer all of these questions, then go back to the drawing board!

Defining Operations: Pull out your current documented operational and IT models, all the metrics, all the reporting and examples of  the operational reports that are created today.  Or if you don’t want to collect this data, draw it on the white board.  Ask you team these three simple questions:

1) What are we going to eliminate / improve / change with the rollout of the new initiative? 

2) What is the impact to our architecture and infrastructure when rollout happens?

3) What steps were taken throughout each phase of the SDLC to make sure operations are going to be robust?

Quick Hint:  Ask these questions at the start of project and ask them at the end!

Why We Need New Operating Models – for Insurance and Financial Services

The time has come (some would say it is long overdue) to seriously consider new operating models for Insurance and Financial Services. I may be committing some type of heresy or creating confusion by mentioning both industries in the same sentence, but as an implementation and strategic advisor/partner for both industries, the truth is not pretty. The competitive and survival threats to both industries are real and becoming more evident in our evolving culture of expanded consumer awareness and increasing demands for customer transparency into the operating models of both Insurance and Financial Services companies. Although the 2008 recession opened the window into some of the business practices of both groups, there is a clear need to do much more than meet current legal and regulatory requirements of Basel III and Dodd-Frank.

 

Examples of threats that are going to drive new operating models in both the Financial Services and Insurance industries include:

 

Consumerization: The mobility and iPad revolution has arrived and has already moved beyond the current capability of most firms. Firms must “get in the game” and offer content and services that are valuable to the consumer. This is the real ‘game’ and the real threat. The ability to successfully initiate and complete transactions in limited time and with a high level of accuracy is troubling. When the capability does not exist, the consumer will move on to the next best provider. The lack of ‘best in class' capability for today’s consumers of banking and insurance products has become a reflection of the lack of current capabilities of senior leadership in operational delivery. Rather than radically change the operating model in response to demand (remember the use of the assembly line for automotive industry?) the operating models continue to represent an inability to quickly grasp customer demands and turn them into consumable products and services.

 

Data Management: Yes, ‘Big Data” is real and there is a lot of talk about its capabilities and how the world of data management and “Big Data” will change the world. Even so, there is little discussion about the use of data management and the impact is has on the operating models in Insurance and Financial Services. In a few cases, new approaches for data are layered on top of existing practices and operating models, causing the models to expand and create new operating processes, new operating controls and positively impact the overall risk framework. What is not happening is the rationalization and shut down of in-effective data processes and practices and the requisite changes to the operating model in both industries. A great example from my life is the interaction between looking at your online bank statement and calling the help line. What may happen is that data management will not be adequately addressed by either Insurance or Financial Services and the result will be complexity and consumer angst.

 

Transparency: As a consumer and a taxpayer who has funded several of the firms bailed out in 2008 with little or no insight into how the bailout money was spent and how the firms are actually operating today, the threat/value of transparency is very real. Consumers will continue to want transparency into billings and fees and the key items of service. But in addition, consumers, partners and providers of services to the Insurance and Financial Services industries will be clamoring for transparency into the use of capital, the realization of strategic goals for decreasing internal expense and holding management accountable for the same. How in this age of transparency can Insurance and Financial Service firms hold negotiations or reward participants in a financial transaction with limited transparency to their stockholders and the taxpayers who fund them? Transparency of data, transactions, leadership, decisions key funded ventures, and strategic partnerships are not threats to competition or confidentiality….they are threats to the survival of the Insurance and Financial Service firms, if not managed effectively with the stockholders and taxpayers who offer support.

 

These are just three examples of why new operating models are needed for both industries. Our experience and insight into both Insurance and Financial Services has proven that over the years, the operating models have evolved to in-effective monoliths that reflect corporate structures and not the consumer. Just as rapid as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in 2011 and the KONY 12 video spread in 2012, the threats identified above will spread and will drive change to the operating models that exist today.

 

The Consumerization of IT

The key premise of the ‘Consumerization of IT’ is that the use of technology has changed the expectations of IT, the CIO and Leadership. The rapid delivery of solutions across multiple platforms continues to grow the gap between ‘at home’ capability and ‘at work’ capability. The gap has grown so large, so quickly, that most of us are frustrated with IT, the CIO and leadership. Our expectation as consumers and workers has changed. Let’s break down the 3 areas of IT, CIO and Leadership to understand the change to expectations and the impacts we are noticing.

Changed expectations of IT

The IT consumer is most companies has grown accustomed to the traditional IT delivery models. The traditional IT models are often too long, not robust enough to meet expectations and in most cases, the subject of avoidance and work arounds. To the employee who needs to move quickly, obtain new capability and ultimately meet a business need,  IT must be able to rapidly innovate and constantly improve price and performance. If IT is not able to do this, then they should examine  how to change their relationship with the business. The expectation of IT should be shifted from’ build and deliver’ to ‘procure and deliver’ across multiple dimensions.

Changed expectations of the CIO

The CIO has a choice to make, either lead the charge or be run over as their customers seek what is quickly becoming ubiquitous IT solutions. The influence of the CIO is shrinking, why go to the CIO and hear all the reasons why you cannot get a solution, versus going online and finding  one that you can quickly acquire and more forward? The  office  experience  is most likely a downgrade of capability, which is often characterized by downtime and complex internal issues. The current expectation is that the CIO  represents a sea of constraints, limitations and endless rules. To change this expectation, the CIO should be stepping forward to identify the senseless rules and have them removed, removing IT barriers and leading the education of the organization to address what is possible. The expectation is that the CIO will be able to balance control and innovation, fostering a productive dialog and solutions that are comparable to the marketplace.

Changed expectations of Leadership

The expectations of leadership have changed , partially due to the acceleration and  availability of  IT capability and partially due to the frustration with internal IT organizations, IT Leadership and most likely the Operational leadership. The expectation is that leadership understands the need to accelerate delivery in both the traditional approaches and across multiple platforms. The additional expectation is that leadership knows to how to deliver results or will quickly acquire the capability. Most employee’s are far greater users and consumers of technology in the marketplace and are comfortable moving across multiple platforms, tools and mobile devices. Collaboration and global teaming is available at home, on the bus and in the park. The expectation is that leadership understands that the expectation has changed and see’s this as a requirement to remain competitive in today’s environment.  

IT Transformation – 6 Critical Success Factors

Your organization will not be able to deliver on the goals of IT transformation, unless you deal with the
basics to setup for success. If "10" is outstanding and "1" is poor, how do you rate your organization on
each of these?

 

1. A strong case for transformation. No one will “join you on the bus," unless they understand why
transformation is necessary. Make sure you are able to tell a strong story, and have a good business
case you can convey to those affected.
2. A good vision of the future. Talk about doing the impossible! A good vision of the future has to be
realistic and attainable. Some teams take a look beyond 5 to 10 years, but my experience says to
look to the next 1-3 years. Can you lay out a plan of items to achieve over the next three years? Rather
than predict, can you setup a plan and break it down into steps that will be embraced by the
rest of the organization?
3. Money. Are you funded adequately to deliver results? What are the chances of getting the
money you need to realize the transformation? As simple as it sounds, it is probably one of the
toughest items to achieve and is often gets stuck in the process of authorization, resulting in the delay of
initiatives. Without this item completed, you may as well shelve the project.
4. Senior management sponsorship. Do you have a strong senior sponsor who will support you in
the rollout and then support you when you hit the inevitable roadblocks? Your sponsor
cannot only be there to kickoff at the beginning and then take the kudos at the end when the project is
completed. He/she needs to continually offer insight and guidance to keep things moving. Is your
sponsor able to offer ideas to resolve issues and broker solutions when needed?
5. A strong dedicated team. Your team will only be successful if they are able to meet with a purpose,
resolve issues, make decisions and move to complete the work. Team dedication to the project is critical
and the team needs to be held accountable when items are not completed to schedule or at a level of
acceptable quality. Each team member needs to be strong enough and dedicated to making the project
successful.
6. Flexibility. Embarking on a transformation often means having great flexibility to adjust and reset the
plan, resources, funding and leadership as needed. The reality is that most transformation plans change
the day after they are agreed to. Flexibility is key to keep things moving forward, by being able to stop
or curtail a step in the process if necessary, reset and then move forward. How open is your organization
and team to being flexible as you move through one of the toughest challenges an organization can
face?

 

Take a look at how you have rated the six critical success factors. How would they rate if "10" is
outstanding and "1" is poor? If you were to ask someone else on the team their view of each item what
would their rating be? Try this in a team meeting and you may be surprised to hear the results!

 

IT Sourcing – Why are you tracking your onshore and offshore resources?

How many companies are spending inordinate amounts of time, resources and systems to track the number (by headcount) of onshore and offshore resources? Are you compelled to continually understand how many people are onshore and offshore on a moments notice? Did you complete an assessment to get the initial numbers and then kept on tracking forever? Have you loaded the data into an online database and then required your lines of business to update the headcount and distribution each month? If you are doing any of these items, I’d venture to say that something is wrong and your organization is missing the point of vendor delivered capability.

 

Instead of tracking the offshore resource headcount and distribution, think about doing the following;

 

1. Setup a policy and monitor adherence. The truth is, vendors are probably going to be much more productive and cost effective if you let them do their job. This does not mean they have that assigned seat next to you on the floor and they wait until your calendar opens up to determine what to do next. This does not mean that looking out at a pool of resources that you have shipped onsite, with everyone in the room means increased productivity. Take the time to figure out what you really need onsite, set that as the goal and stick to it. Examples include setting onshore: offshore targets using percentages of total or defining the key roles that you will always want onsite, while leaving the remaining roles to by filled by offshore resources. Have the supplier self-monitor adherence to these targets and assign a service level agreement (SLA) metric that the supplier must meet.

 

2. Ask the supplier. If you are embarking on an initiative or a model for continual support, take the time to ask the supplier what their view is as to how best to operate. They should be upfront in terms of requirements and how best to optimize their delivery model. You should not try to make them a shadow of you or a complete replication of your culture and organization. You are asking supplier resources for help, so reach out and recognize that if they are a good fit to the work that must be completed, you will have many more options and greater flexibility in your delivery.

 

3. Get rid of the tracking. What do you get for tracking supplier resources? How much is it costing you to track and maintain this data? Why are you doing it instead of asking the supplier to do the tracking? A lot of organizations will put in place elaborate models for tracking where the supplier resources are located, and often track the number of hours, and then implement policies and controls that just add overhead for the supplier. Instead, spend your time focusing on deliverables and execution. You will realize more benefits.

 

This may seem like harsh advice, but I’ve sat in too many meetings and strategy sessions on this topic with little understanding of the reality that there is little ROI in performing this tracking activity. Once you have the basic supplier resource information, and understand your supplier baseline, set the goal you want to achieve. Then step back and seriously consider what more you really need to make it happen!

 

IT RFP’s: Where is the Transformation ? – 5 Items to Consider

How often have you sat in a workshop or meeting focused on creating an IT RFP? How often have you
sat in the room with lots of expertise, with one person taking the lead and the rest of team checking
their emails and doing other work? How often have you had to review multiple documents only to be
trapped into the “fun” of tracking changes and editing content? Where is the ‘value added’ in preparing
the IT RFP? Where is the opportunity for transformation that was mentioned by your senior executive
team in the kick-off meeting?

 

Having experienced each of the above, there is a better path to follow! IT and business leadership
teams continue to be over-enamored with the definition, preparation and rollout of IT RFP’s, often
ignoring the real opportunity for transformation.

 

The IT team should be focusing on the following 5 items:

 

1. Create a one-page view of your requirements. Keep it to one page. If you are not able to clearly
state what you are seeking from a vendor, stop and go back to the drawing board. Ask
yourself why you need the 20-page powerpoint which requires that you explain its key points in
a summary slide at the end. If all you have accomplished is a restatement of what you are doing
today, rip it up and start over.

 

2. Ask the vendor what they can do. Before you start down the path of creating the IT RFP
and holding a bunch of meetings to explain what you need (and then finding out that the
vendor has something new to tell you that might change your requirements) why not do
this up front? Host a ‘speed dating’ exercise, and give each vendor one hour to tell you what
is possible, and then update your requirements. You should come back with several new
ideas for transformation opportunites as part of the IT RFP. Create the list of transformation
opportunities, rank them and move on.

 

3. Setup a small team and empower them. We all understand that lots of folks can be
involved in the IT RFP process, but only do this when they are truly needed. Depending on the scope of your RFP, identify the right leadership team and tell them they have 30 days to figure it out. Chances are, they will have an answer that is at least 80% correct.

 

4. Decide which battles to fight. What are you most concerned about? What are your
current pain points if this is a renegotiation? Savings, improved delivery, new capability , IT
transformation? All of the above? Before you get started on the RFP exercise, define the
battle plan and the key criteria for evaluation. These should be short and focused on what you need.

 

5. Decide when to stop. Very often we feel compelled keep the ball moving and realize that the
team in not doing anything new, just describing the same work with no transformation. You
need to stop the ball moving forward and ask the tough question - ‘Why are we doing this?’

 

The secret to an IT RFP that includes transformation is not in the paperwork or the documents. The
secret is taking the time to really figure out what you need and understanding how your team (both
you and the vendor) is going to be successful. If you can’t successfully do the items above, don’t
start. Hold off and start when you are going to be able to drive a successful approach!

 

IT Needs to Spend More Time Innovating

For a long time information technology (IT) has been considered the backbone of many organizations, providing back-end support and services that are necessary, but not in direct support of the customer experience.

 

Over the years, IT has evolved a strong set of disciplines focused on running the factory, developed an extensive collection of tools, methodologies and services, all of which have had little or no impact on the true customer experience. This world has quickly changed. All you need to do is go into an Apple store and watch the customers, or see what is being used while sitting on a train or in an airport, or talk to a teenager about what they like on the web in terms of useful technology. You will quickly realize that IT in the enterprise had better get it’s act together and become part of the innovation drive or they will become obsolete very soon!

 

A way to get a gauge on whether or not you are part of the innovation stream is to take an objective look at your current IT portfolio. How much of the portfolio is focused on driving efficiency and improving cost models versus working with the business customer on understanding how IT can be used to improve the interactions with the ultimate end customer?

 

We’ve worked with clients on significant strategies to drive internal IT and business transformation, streamlining organizations and onboarding new internal capability, only to find that the end
customer is still using paper forms and tedious manual processes to engage. My bet is that unless IT steps up and truly becomes part of the R&D business lifecycle, the business will move ahead without IT.

 

You may feel that you just can’t implement or innovate fast enough to meet the challenges of your business
model. Your internal team may be challenged with a lack of expertise, not enough funding, or in some cases, no clue as to what the leading technologies or innovate approaches are in the marketplace. One way to tackle this challenge and get in front of it, is to seriously engage with your IT partners at all levels.

 

Envision an RFI specifically focused on innovation using your current set of business and vendor partners. Or, look at what it would take to make each vendor contractually obligated to participate with you in a forum on a bi-annual or annual basis that is focused on innovation. Aside from engaging the vendors participate, why not sweeten the pot, and provide the incentives for everyone to participate. Think of what could happen if you were now in the “drivers seat” to define and develop new and innovative capabilities and then had the leverage to offer this to the broader marketplace!

 

To get focused on how you and your team can spend your time and focus on innovation, ask yourself a
few key questions:
  • What does the customer need from me? (Consider the “end” customer, not just your business partner.)
  • Does the current IT process model foster innovation?
  • What could be done to the IT strategy and portfolio to shift some of the focus to innovation?
  • Am I engaging the right thought leadership to realize innovation (both internal and external)?
  • What are the primary ways my company is going to innovate this year (can I name 4-5 key actions)?

 

The answers to these questions could help you and your team recognize what your current focus is around
innovation and, if necessary, reset the focus on innovation for the future!

 

Communicating the Transformation

In addition to the tough challenge of delivering transformation successfully, we need to recognize that every successful IT or business transformation initiative has done a great job with communicating the strategy shift to their employees, business partners and vendors. You probably know the answer to what every failed
transformation project has done wrong ... they have ‘botched” or done a poor job at communicating the
transformation and its implications for the organization.
If the objective is to align delivery and behaviors with the new strategy, then the team has to provide enough details and content and consistently inform the team of the strategy and how things are going to perform differently. You need to consider and communicate much more than "change is coming" or "transformation is on the way!"
The silver bullet of effective communication does not exist. But, there are some lessons that are extremely helpful when considering how to prepare and deliver a communication strategy and content around
transformation. It’s hard to get everyone ‘on the bus,’ but let’s examine a couple of key lessons and the reality of ignoring the communication challenge:
  • Assign ownership of the communication strategy. As simple as this sounds, it often does not happen. A good plan includes a plan for communication and change management, with a named owner. My experience has been that this is often ignored or reduced when the estimates for delivery come in and then it surfaces again when the team is ready to deliver. Don’t skip this step and don’t skimp oncommunication delivery. The adage of ‘over communicate’ rings true every time!
  • Make sure the message is consistent. Some good projects get derailed when the message misses the intent of the transformation. Write the standard messages, including not just the strategy, but go ahead and create the Q&As you know will be coming throughout the life of the initiative. Better to pre-think the questions and your answers than be stuck with a tough topic and no clear answer.
  • Segment the Receivers. Figure out your audiences by breaking them into groups or roles and what their view may be. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an audience member and find out what they may need for communication. In today’s world, a video may be much better than an email distribution, so think about the media used as well!
  • Monitor results. Teams will often spend a ton of time and resources crafting the communication material and the messages, send them out, and then do nothing, assuming all is fine. Don’t get caught in the trap of hearing from someone else that your communication is not working. Put in place a pro-active feedback loop that gives you the chance to capture feedback and measure how effective the communication really is. Keep it simple.
In addition to the items above, the team delivering the transformation should consider crafting communication materials that focus on ‘what’s in it for me.' This means customizing the material and key messages to each employee, the business and vendor partners, enabling them to understand what is going to happen and the specific impact on them. Not only does this help drive a consistent message, it might just identify a problem with your strategy and delivery approach, way before you hit the wall with a troubled project. Use this feedback to gain valuable insight and make necessary course corrections.

IT Needs to Speed Things Up

One the first critiques that comes from interviewing a new customer or client is often the perception of how slow IT has been in delivering new functionality. Business customers and IT leaders are quick to point out a recent failure, delay in delivery or a project that has taken way too long to deliver and missed their expectations. The business partner has become impatient.
Consequently, the speed at which IT is delivering and is impacting business results cannot continue.
IT needs to step up to the challenge of speeding up delivery of solutions. IT needs to step out of its comfort zone of technical jargon, methodologies, and program delivery, and realize that business expectations have changed.
How often have you been in a meeting where the business is asking for something in 90 days or less and IT can only come back and deliver in six months (or more)? How often has IT gotten in the way of a business solution, by pushing back the timeframe for delivery and then deliverying a mediocre solution? Either IT gets in front and helps to quickly drive a solution for its business partner, or the partner will quickly turn to someone else to deliver what they need.
Instead of becoming the victim in this scenario, how about trying a couple of techniques? Who knows, they may work with your business partner and your IT Team to create a new model for delivery. Some items to consider include:
  • Accelerate development: Instead of long term projects, try shorter iterative projects. According to the Corporate Executive Board, more than 45% of projects today are labeled as ‘information projects,’ such as collaboration or customer facing websites. These can be delivered quickly by deploying functionality as it becomes available.
  • Identify the roadblocks to speed and challenge them: Several repeatable items can get in the way of speeding up a project and can be addressed proactively:
Delivery Team – Make sure you have the right team and enough resources. Why not ramp up the resources and reduce the time for delivery? Adding more help at the onset of creating the capability or seeking a true expert can make a significant difference. And it could give the business the competitive advantage they are seeking.
Governance – How can you expect a large governance program to deal with a project that needs to move fast? How flexible is your approach to drive a balance between speed and quality of delivery? You need the data on delivery, but be sure to also focus on transparency and the trade-offs that come with speed.
Security – Take a hard look at what a delay in delivery could mean and how it might impact the business. Aside from doing the key requirements for security, could the team adopt the approach of resolving issues as the capability is rolled out? What is the real risk and is it worth the gamble? What about test driven development? And continuous build testing? Can these approaches effectively reduce time without compromising quality?
Speed to market should be a core IT strategy. The importance of delivering results with speed and flexibility will drive operational models. IT leadership should be looking at what it will take to reduce the time it takes to deliver results and continusously measure time to deliver.

Ensuring IT and Business Transformation Success

Why do most IT and Business Transformation projects fail? IT and Business Transformation projects often fail for the same key reasons, namely; 

  • Not being realistic as to what can be accomplished;
  • Putting the wrong leadership and team in place;
  • Not knowing how to avoid the ‘big bang’ of delivery.

Without having the ability to recognize and resolve these issues, you are probably doomed for failure. Instead of walking into this trap, here are a few techniques you can try to help you and your team be more successful.

Failure Premise – Not being realistic in terms of what can be accomplished

What are you really trying to do? Has anyone done this before? To be more realistic, take a look at whether or not your overall plan makes sense: Are you taking some  key initial steps, like piloting and prototyping your solutions before going for the ‘big bang?'  Look at each item of delivery and define what the criteria are for success. If you don’t have a plan, or can’t figure out a plan, how will you know what can be really be accomplished? Each item in the plan should have a simple measure that will tell a powerful success story.

Failure Premise – Putting the wrong leadership and team in place 

How often have we sat in meetings and said to ourselves, this leader is not getting it or this team is doomed?  This happens more often than any of us want to admit. IT and Transformation projects will often get trapped in the depths of detailing the leadership team, the working team and the time commitment of each person. This is often a cover-up, knowing the right person for the project is probably not available or can only give you 25% of their time, so the team has to juggle the rest. If you find yourself caught in this situation and you are not getting the right people to either lead or become part of the team, STOP the initiative! Don’t move forward until you can get the right people in place. And make sure you are applying this rule to the WHOLE team, meaning your leadership, the vendor leadership, the IT leadership, the business leadership and any other vested group that plays a role.

Failure Premise  Not knowing how to avoid the ‘big bang’ of delivery

If you are sitting in the planning or team meeting and someone puts on the table that they are going to go live and do it all at once or in a ‘big bang’ approach, alarms should be going off in your head. Having been burnt on this topic several times, get real and start raising questions that will get your team on a successful track. 

Transformation projects are not about big bang. They are about the ability of the projects to drive change that is transforming on many levels. In some cases, you and your team may not even have a clue of what the actual results will be one to two years after you 'go live.' Why not get in front of this and create your own destiny, roll things out in smaller batches of delivery, use a trusted partner to help you test and prove what you are doing before rolling it out to the larger organization?  Plan for failure in a pro-active way that will allow the team to learn from the events and move forward, rather than experiencing a ‘big bang’ failure and not being able to recover and move forward.  Manage the risk profile so that you can get the best from the real capabilities of your team.

IT Transformation …

... empty technology buzzwords or a concept that describes the evolution of technology as it relates to business and commerce? 

Twenty years ago we used the phrases, “change agent” or “organizational change,” but these were attributed to change that emanated from the business side of a corporation, and had very little to do with technology. Technology was moving so rapidly that when we used the acronym “IT,” it was synonymous with change. So it is not surprising that a business enabler like technology, with a rich history for acronyms and evolving its own language (PC, IT, CMMI, ITIL, B2B) would create its own phrase for change.
 
Does IT Transformation …
  • Merely refer to cost cutting and leveraging the labor arbitrage so readily available in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe?  
  •  Entail the recreation of IT to drive value with the rich set of information tools that are now readily available?
  • Involve the innovation required to help change the culture and competitive nature of a business? 
  • Relate to the ongoing need to refresh computing platforms to deliver services in a more efficient and effective manner, or refresh the portfolio of applications with a more integrated, feature-rich set?
In the past, many CIOs have been seen as change agents within the business organization. Now that IT has been in place for more than 30 years in many corporations, it is of paramount importance that CIOs step back and assess their own organizations, and become change agents within IT. CIOs must periodically review and revamp their service offerings and processes to align with business needs and evolving technologies.
 
Is IT Transformation, then, a set of strategies that the CIO can implement over a period of time, or is it more than that?  Does it require changing the way the IT organization functions? Is it a cultural move from the “order-taker” mentality to a group that engages with its business partners to understand and fulfill a technology need, while simultaneously driving innovation and business growth?  It seems that this multiplicity of purpose is what hinders most IT organizations from “transforming,” as most CIOs find it difficult to articulate their vision and the journey required to change the role of IT in an organization.
 
In order to understand IT Transformation, what does that end state look like … and what roles should a business expect the IT organization to play? CIOs must become more strategic, be willing to take a risk, and align with the business, while constantly searching for technology innovations that will significantly improve the competitive nature of their business partners.
 
CIOs need to become the internal technology consultants who can apply the best technologies available to the most pressing business challenges. Their efforts need to balance the needs of their internal business customers with the need to effectively run existing IT operations, while identifying the next technology opportunity … quite a balancing act. What this requires is a savvy CIO who applies IT transformation only to those areas that matter strategically to the business, not to the areas where IT is most comfortable, namely in the technology realm.
The truth is, IT Transformation is not an empty technology trend, or a concept that describes the evolution of technology as it relates to business and commerce. Delivering results with IT Transformation means:
  • Partnering with the business;
  • Synchronizing business goals;
  • Assuring alignment with the business; and
  • Offering true value to the strategic discussions.

These are all aspects of IT Transformation that are required on an on-going basis if the IT organization is to continue to have a voice in the value-creation of any business entity and keep enterprises competitive.