by Anthony Maiello, President Southwest Region (USA) – Tier4 Advisors
About a year ago, I made a presentation at a CIO conference in Dallas, Texas to a group of technology and business executives on technology or “digital” transformation. The group was interested in hearing what I had accomplished over the years on my approach and implementation of technology transformations (while also maintaining my sanity). Since taking on my new role at Tier4 Advisors, and engaging more in technical professional services, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many companies from various industries (now Tier4 clients) in need of technology transformations.
The keynote made at the February CIO conference is available on my website; www.anthonyemaiello.com. The keynote summarizes what I’ve learned and observed over the last 30 years. First and foremost, though this sounds simple but not really, make sure you and the respective business leaders understand why the company needs a technology transformation. Don’t assume anything! By ensuring you are in sync on the “Whys,” you’ll not only achieve better results, you’ll also keep your sanity. The “Whys” usually fall into the following buckets:
- Lower Total Cost of Ownership … infrastructure, software
- Performance & Scalability improvements for increasing volume
- Flexibility supporting changing business needs
- Eliminate Legacy systems risks around obsolescence
- Gain Advantage in terms of staffing … ie Mainframe skills sets are harder to find
- Support Mobile, Data, Analytics, and Social Media
While going through the process of understanding the “Whys,” make sure you also get a gauge on the culture of the company. This is important because one thing I learned a long time ago, you can’t change culture overnight. Most of the time you don’t want to change culture in order to get a job like this done, because it simply won’t work. A Technology transformation may seem like a “no-brainer” to some, but probably not to all – so understand the fears of past and present. This will help you create a transformation roadmap that is sensible, systematic, and works within the culture of the company, without having to actually try and change the culture. Some examples of fears I’ve seen in the past:
- Don’t mess with technology that works, even if its old.
- Don’t mess with my customers.
- Too risky – our employees know the old stuff anyway
- We know the costs and “ins/outs” of the system today
- The new way may not work. Translation: I’m scared to change.
You need to be 100% in sync with business and technology leaders on the “Whys” and “Fears” before initiating a technology transformation of any kind. In the real world, companies evolve and change leaders – as leaders change, you need to do your best to re-align as well. If you don’t stay aligned, as the organization changes, your funding and support will not be consistent. This can result in unfinished projects that could do more damage than good. Keep in mind, most technology transformations are multi-year, which means change will happen as the transformation progresses. Ensuring constant alignment on “Whys” and “Fears” is critical and will help ensure consistent funding and continued success.
Ensuring consistent alignment is therefore iterative and neverending, so keep at it. I often use the term “thick skin.” You’ll need ”thick skin” to get through a technology transformation especially as your critics line up. You’ll do well to make sure you’re always aligned and communicating thoroughly.
Now, let’s talk about planning and execution of the actual technology transformation. These are NOT sequential steps, rather they’re iterative and merged together as a “methodology”:
- Identify and obtain sponsors – you will need key sponsors that will speak positively and support you as you go through the process of obtaining consistent funding and re-planning. It’s great to get senior leaders in both technology and business, but even better to get customer sponsors as well.
- Identify and get executive buy-in on business case and benefits – you will need to clearly define business case that directly addresses the “Fears” and“Whys”, industry/business direction, and benefits to be gained. Needless to say, this requires sponsors and other executive’s buy-in with willingness to compromise as the company goes through this journey and the necessary iterations.
- Create, evolve, and stick to a clear plan and migration approach with transparent communication to leaders – this is technically the most important part of the methodology as it lays the plan out and provides a migration approach leading to successful execution and operationalization. The approach you take to transformation will be documented and ensures a systematic method to success that is measurable, operationable, and easily communicated to leaders with full transparency. It’s important to know, most of these plans do evolve as new knowledge becomes available throughout the process. You must be flexible, transparent, and be able to change as deemed necessary.
- Ensure and drive clear ownership – leadership, project management, architecture, design, code, security, quality … owners must be defined and held accountable to deliver on plan. Ensure these owners are experts and fearless to engage, can support, evolve, and drive the transformation as well as be 100% able to work across teams and “company borders”.
- Leverage existing capabilities wherever possible – technology, tools, code converters, process, scripts/testing … making use and leveraging solid existing capabilities helps manage risk, cost, and time. It also helps realize productivity and morale from past company successes.
- Support & Incident management – this is an important part of the process that is often overlooked. As new and transformed systems are deployed, you will experience more than normal number of incidents. Planning for this will ensure customer and business satisfaction – and also keep your sanity. Make sure you are relentless about this – ALL incidents MUST be handled quickly and efficiently. You must avoid any “lost issues” as everyone is extra sensitive and you cannot afford any “black eyes.” Put a solid incident management capability in place before you deploy anything in order to handle incidents quickly and efficiently.
- Operations – ensure system can be deployed, operated, monitored, and supported; data centers, partners, cloud enablement, support … make sure the operational team can support, monitor, and deploy – extremely important and critical!
- Measure, Measure, Measure – Measuring against the plan, business cases, and benefits adds credibility to the project and ensures goals are being met. Typical measurements are cost savings, productivity, performance, quality, flexibility and scalability.
Again, this is a summary and a bit more detail can be found by downloading the pitch I presented last year at the CIO conference from my personal website at www.anthonyemaiello.com. You can also contact me for more info and help through LinkedIn or my website.
This is my passion, discussing tech transformations, so if you’d like feedback or insights of any type, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.