The digital landscape and the rise of cloud service offerings mean that organisations need to be able to handle fast-paced fail-forward approaches alongside traditional high-availability services. Where strategic change management is required, agile, with its ‘faster, better, cheaper’ image can look enticing. Agile methods can complement more traditional approaches to achieve a far more effective and painless implementation of a transformation programme.
The MIT Centre for Digital Business and CapGemini Consulting conducted a study into digital transformation, looking at organisations that had gone through transformation. They found a few key areas that made the difference between success and failure.
Senior executives across successful transformations drove effort through an iterative three-step process.
1. Envision the digital future for your organisation
The consumerisation of digital (through devices like smartphones and services like email) and the rise of cloud offerings have affected the business landscape enormously. People expect to work differently, and businesses can use these digital tools to change quickly and simply.
Your digital future should reflect the changes that digital makes to the way you work and the products and services you offer. It is a vision and a business plan, not an IT plan, and needs to be built by business and technology leaders together.
Once you define this vision, you need to communicate this to everyone in your organisation so that they fully understand what you are doing and why it is important.
Look at your competitive marketplace. Are there new digital contenders out there who you can learn from? Are other organisations transforming their business and technology using digital skills and initiatives?
Consider the services and products you deliver. Are there cloud infrastructure, service and platform providers who are able to offer them? Are these offerings competitive? Do they offer something that improves your organisation in any way?
2. Invest in digital initiatives and skills
Digital delivery gives us an unrivalled opportunity to rapidly provide proof of concept. Websites can be updated constantly and give us the opportunity to use advanced analytics and behavioural data to understand our customers better. Good digital delivery ensures that business owners and technologists work as a team, with the same goals.
During transformation, people regularly change their roles. You must relate the knowledge and skills needed for each role and ensure that there is continuity when the role transfers. In this way, your support roles should have all they need to deliver the service.
The competencies that enable digital initiatives include:
- Agile methodologies
Agile teaches us to break down our work into small chunks, which represent working features and are defined by what they deliver from a user perspective (whoever that user may be). This allows frequent delivery of working products, which can be tested to ensure they provide the requisite business benefit. It also makes failure a more comfortable possibility. If you deliver small things and they don’t work, you can improve or replace them quickly.
- Lean principles
Lean is all about the elimination of waste from our working practices and deliverables. Existing support and operational processes usually need to be simplified and automated. This is done through continual review and improvement.
- Service management and ITIL1
Service management focuses on delivering value to customer by ensuring that services are ‘fit for purpose’ (utility) and ‘fit for use’ (warranty). Strategies for service provision of digital and cloud services are used to justify investment and transform your business. Building capabilities is important to ensure that new or changed digital and cloud services are maintainable, cost-effective and deliver value. Continual service improvement achieves improvements in service quality, operational efficiency and business continuity.
For your first foray into cloud platforms, consider running proof of concepts in a beta environment with small customer teams. Involve those customer teams in the definition of utility and warranty requirements and use the delivery of the beta platform to test those needs.
Train key people (not just in the IT organisation) on the principles of agile, lean and service management. Key people might be business relationship partners, service owners or process owners, human resources staff and key partners. Everyone within the service organisation should be trained in these skills.
Look for ‘digital natives’ in your organisation. Are there people who are embracing digital tools to improve their working environment? Are you being asked to support digital products and services that have previously not been needed? Plan how to use these people to design and test any new initiatives you may wish to start.
Allow your development teams to support their products in the early stages. Also consider embracing DevOps as a discipline, using developers who are competent in service management to create efficiencies through use of technology.
Keep your processes as light touch as possible. If teams are to self-manage then they need guidelines that keep them on track, not processes that throttle their ability to drive change.
Playbooks really help teams understand what is expected of them and why. They typically include accountabilities, roles and responsibilities of the team, and simple guiding principles. Delivering these to the whole team at the very beginning of their journey and requesting their input and concerns makes a major difference.
When introducing cloud infrastructure, consider moving development and test environments first. This helps to establish control processes that work with cloud technology, for example configuration, release and deployment management.
3. Lead the change from the top
Transformation requires major change to behaviour, process and focus. It is vital that the whole organisation embraces this new way of working. Business owners and technology delivery units must work to the same goals and learn how to communicate effectively to each other.
When organisations drive this level of change from the board, they include the success factors in their departmental key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensure buy-in from all areas.
A Horizons survey in 2012 stated: ‘Setting corporate standards to ensure interworking, which will require a powerful policy unit that could reside at group level; sourcing and managing IT service delivery, which will require a strong retained IT unit that is able to purchase and integrate best-in-breed services; establishing a business innovation hub, which will assist the business as it evaluates, pilots and integrates new IT services’
How do you sustain this transformation drive without it being permanently pushed from the top? You need to create bottom-up change momentum that passes across people, their behaviour, capabilities and tools. So, it is the entire change management portfolio that is used to drive change across every entity, department and function.
1 ITIL® is a registered trade mark of Axelos Limited
About the authors
Darren Goldsby is ConnectSphere’s digital transformation leader with vast experience in product and service delivery.
Shirley Lacy is Managing Director of ConnectSphere. She has contributed to the development of ITIL and ISO / IEC 20000, including guidance on managing cloud services.