For any IT-enabled business transformation to be successful, or even to get off the ground, an important partnership must be formed between business and IT leadership. One of the most common, and most basic, challenges to making this happen is having those two groups speak a common language so they can discuss complex issues and challenges that arise throughout the journey. My book, Blind Spot: A Leader’s Guide To IT-Enabled Business Transformation, is written for business leaders to understand the IT transformation journey in very simple business terms. Sometimes, when framing, planning and selling the changes we want to make as a team with our business partners, we IT leaders get so caught up in technical jargon that we forget to speak in plain language. Using simple language like this to frame the transformation journey will eliminate the blind spot that typically exists between business and IT leaders. This leads us to the five essential questions that must be thought through and answered if any IT-enabled business transformation is to be successful.
- WHY do anything?
- WHAT will we do?
- HOW will we do it?
- WHO will lead and manage the change?
- WHEN will the stages of change take place?
Here’s a brief description of each key question, which are part of The Feld Group Institute approach and framework for communication between business and IT leadership.
I wrote about this most important and compelling part of the journey in an earlier blog post, WHY CHANGE?. This is the business imperative that must be articulated by both the business and IT executives, or else there is no point in launching any major change effort. Often, it will involve a response to changing marketplace conditions, customer behaviors or demands, innovation, financial pressures or all of the above. Organizations that have leaders who understand how to intelligently implement their business strategies through IT-enabled business transformation efforts will win in these evolving markets.
Unfortunately, for all-too-many leaders, getting to the WHY—fully understanding and articulating it for the organization—is difficult. There are so many distractions and detours, as they find themselves bombarded by one pressing problem or short-term objective after another.
Leadership must present a convincing argument that this technology-driven transformation is a fight worth fighting. The WHY must provide a sense of inspiration beyond monetary reward, thus unlocking the organization’s potential to mobilize around the greater mission. A compelling reason for change enables the organization to make investments, set priorities and take risks. If the WHY is right, it will help sustain the transformation to the future state—that is, the WHAT that the organization is seeking to achieve.
The second element of the Blind Spot framework outlines the business architecture, describing WHAT will be changed, and equally important, WHAT needs to remain the same. For executives, a compelling change agenda inevitably depends upon the ability to describe and agree upon the current state as well as the company’s future state business model. That makes sense, because as a leader, you can’t talk about WHAT needs to change—and go about developing a plan to achieve this change—until you understand where you want to be and identify the gap that’s between here and there.
For most large organizations, achieving this will require bringing order to the chaos that’s been caused by decades of “legacy footprints.” The dialogue must be focused on WHAT provides speed and customer-centricity, as well as WHAT provides scale, leverage and quality. These conversations are important for leaders to sort out, as the answers provide the foundation for which business functions need to be common and which should remain unique. Approaching this process in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner holds the potential to yield tremendous insights into HOW this transformation will be achieved.
This is the pathway from the organization’s current state to its future state, and it is where the heavy lifting is required from both the business and the IT side of the organization. Getting the HOW right is a complex challenge for any organization.
At The Feld Group Institute, it is our deep belief that architecture matters. By investing the time to develop the required architecture layers, an organization is able to drive the strategy down to business capabilities that inform data design and the technical blueprint. We stress the importance of developing the necessary integrated, strategy-enabled technology blueprint, as opposed to simply driving a technology roadmap based on functional priorities and projects. The goal is to make certain that the company is fully aligned in terms of its marketplace, business and systems models. Achieving this goal will take time and sustained effort, especially since many organizations may have never conceived and actualized this in the past.
You can bolster success rates by adhering to three key principles when regarding HOW.
- The organization must be sure to have an agreed-upon business, application and technology blueprint in hand before beginning investment or construction.
- We must enforce a “common way” when it comes to development, as well as a commitment to quality engineering at all times.
- There must be a disciplined approach to program and project management.
It is our belief at The Feld Group Institute that human capital is the most essential of all elements in a change agenda. In fact, we’ve said recently in a blog post that THE WHO IS WHERE ALL THE LEVERAGE IS. When we speak about this, it includes not only IT leadership itself but also talent strategies for recruitment, retention and development of the best IT teams and next-generation IT leaders. The IT organization itself must be able to adapt in ways that will impact not only its leadership but its structure, culture, talent and skill sets. It is mission-critical to have the right people in the right positions, the correct organizational structure and to make sure that this team understands the change agenda, and is motivated to pursue it.
Identifying IT leaders and leadership teams that can inspire employees and motivate them to nurture an IT-enabled transformation is the most critical element of the WHO. Within this overall context, one simply cannot overstate that LEADERSHIP MATTERS MOST.
Pacing and execution of the change agenda are of equal importance for real organizational change and impact, as they play a vital role in the overall journey to business transformation. As part of the WHEN Journey, we describe the five phases that we’ve learned over the years across many of transformations.
- Strategy – Future State Scenario Plan
- The Turn – Plan Detail and Repositioning the Organization
- Up & Running – Delivering the New Way
- Hitting Stride – Acceleration
- Self Sufficiency – Industrialization
Eliminating the Blind Spot between business and IT leaders, by establishing a simple common language, can be the key to a successful IT-enabled business transformation.
We know that is a lot of information to take in and that you’re certainly wanting to know more. In coming blog posts, we’ll be going much more in-depth on each of the key elements of IT-enabled business transformation, so stay tuned. In the meantime, read through our other blog posts to gain more insights into the ever-changing world of IT and IT leadership.