Does IT transformation mean breaking down the echo-inducing silos of the traditional corporate structure? Or maybe it’s all about collapsing IT department hierarchy to form objective-focused teams. Hold on, does it actually mean turning one-off IT requests into a strategy to guide and achieves overall business goals?
And therein lies the rub for companies that are trying their hardest to embrace digital transformation in their IT departments.
IT transformation is a term that encompasses endless opportunities, which makes it that much more difficult for businesses to understand what exactly it means in their organization and how to go about it in a way that will prove effective for their team and their consumers.
So, let’s start there.
What Exactly is IT Transformation?
Dan Roberts, President of IT transformation consulting firm Ouellette & Associates, acknowledges that the idea of IT transformation is a level above the specific strategies and initiatives executives and IT departments are keen to focus on.
IT transformation is all about repositioning a rigidly-structured, reactive, order-taking IT organization as the "internal consultant of choice" instead of the uninitiated, outrageously-priced consulting firms they have had to vie with in the past.
A successful IT transformation will build a proactive team of IT professionals who lend a mean competitive edge when it comes to innovation and developing winning strategies in today’s business landscape.
Why is IT Transformation Happening?
The cloud. Digital analytics. User-friendly SaaS. The internet as a whole.
Digital transformation hasn’t just disrupted business models and operations, it’s upended the bounded IT organizational that once administered, maintained, and supported our business systems.
However, IT still has a unique strategic advantage. It is the single department with a comprehensive look at exactly which digital systems your company needs to survive and evolve.
IT transformation urges IT professionals to be proactive in identifying patterns in the one-off IT requests they receive so they can improve efficiency, streamline internal technologies, effectively pursue digital transformation, and guide business strategy as a whole.
By setting aside some time and energy for planning, one-off IT requests can be used to create strategies that solve company-wide needs and make company-changing decisions.
When they transform from gatekeepers to a gamechangers, IT departments will help the businesses they support remain relevant and competitive in changing markets.
What Role Does IT Transformation Play in Digital Transformation?
In a 2018 IT transformation maturity study, 81 percent of respondents reported that their organizations would no longer be able to compete in their markets if they did not embrace IT transformation.
According to Jeff Clarke, vice-chairman of products and operations at Dell Technologies, “Organisations realise they have to move quickly to turn data into business intelligence—requiring an end-to-end IT infrastructure that can manage, analyse, store and protect data everywhere it lives.”
Modern IT departments don’t just play a huge role in informing and guiding business strategies, they make digital transformation initiatives a reality.
How to Prepare Your IT Department for IT Transformation
As the pace of innovation increases, so does the disruption it drives—which in turn calls for even further innovation. Because of this cyclical nature, IT transformation must be thought of as a shift in your business’s mindset rather than a singular goal that can be achieved and forgotten about.
To effectively transform their IT departments, CIOs will need to focus on improving operations inside their own departments as well as collaborating and communicating with partners both inside and outside of their company.
According to Deloitte, there are five critical steps in creating modern, “unbounded” IT organizations that inform relevant business strategies and contribute to key business objectives.
Break Down Business Silos
“Think globally, act locally” might work when it comes to activism, but not so much when it comes to IT departments within an organization whose digital transformation initiatives are set to warp speed.
In a transformed IT department, workers no longer perform their QA, engineering, and other tasks in an echo chamber with no opportunity to gather feedback or pivot to hit moving targets.
To break the skillset silos that create rigidity, CIOs must take responsibility for reorganizing IT professionals into multi-skilled teams that are focused on holistic outcomes rather than achieving specific steps in the development process.
These teams, led by product owners, are then responsible for entire initiatives from the foundational vision through the day-to-day decisions and tasks that bring it to fruition.
When product owners and their teams are empowered to take ownership of specific objectives, companies will find the bureaucracy and decision committees that kill momentum replaced with agility, speed, confident decisions making, and pride of ownership.
Balance Fast with Feasible
Agility is vital in an organization that’s undergoing IT transformation, as you’ll have to hit both the gas and the brakes at times to adjust your speed as needed for specific initiatives.
In your IT organization, focus on release management, testing, requirements management, deployment, and other areas where friction is frequent but change is also feasible.
Several traditional IT responsibilities are repetitive and predictable. Instead of spending your most valuable resource—human capital—on completing these less-than-strategic tasks, opt to tackle them by leveraging automated robots, digital chatbots, cognitive automation, and cognitive agents.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to leverage automation, look to other process-dependent departments like HR to identify opportunities for automation that frees up individuals.
Automation doesn’t only empower IT departments to focus on bigger digital transformation strategies, it overhauls entire workflows to improve internal efficiencies and, most importantly, boost the bottom line.
Close the Gap Between IT and “Everyone Else”
It was once common practice for business leaders, perceiving their IT departments as commoditized service providers, to hire outside their companies to build solutions they assumed their own IT departments couldn’t, or wouldn’t, handle.
And they could hardly be blamed. Historically, IT departments have worked in a vacuum with their own budgets, priorities, and objectives that weren’t tied to overall business goals.
Aside from obvious security issues, this tactic not only made IT professionals doubt the longevity of their careers but further instilled poor communication, mistrust, and inefficiency in their culture.
Today, it’s essential to close the invisible rifts that have grown between IT departments and “everyone else.”
When brought into the fold and encouraged to communicate effectively, an IT department is uniquely qualified to provide guidance to the C-Suite on ramping up and executing analytics, cloud services, digital marketing, security, resource management, and other digital initiatives.
Explore New Paths to Innovation
Emerging technologies may render your strategies obsolete, but they also create opportunities for IT transformation.
When an opportunity to explore an innovative new business path emerges, an unbounded CIO in an agile business will be empowered to explore it instead of waiting for permission.
It’s likely you’ll need to bring on specialized talent to complete specific initiatives. So what are you waiting for? Digital platforms and variable workforces make it easier than ever for IT departments to crowdsource on-demand talent for any number of innovative projects.
Encourage your company to partner with venture capitalists or invest in startups that are already developing technology that can further enhance your IT transformation.
Think beyond your tradition supplier/vendor relationships. Work with vendors to drive innovation tangentially so your IT department can continue to focus on contributing to core business strategies. Consider value-based compensation for vendors and opportunities to partner with them even through the development and distribution of new solutions.
IT transformation gives you opportunities to not just create but cash in on innovation by build a digital-first, agile workflow that allows you to strike great opportunities while the iron is hot.
How Businesses Benefit From Proactive IT Transformation Strategies
Instead of reacting to orders, IT departments that undergo IT transformation become proactive, dynamic assets to modern enterprises (Want to see it in action? Check out our on-demand webinar featuring several modern IT experts).
This proactivity, one of the key tenets of digital and IT transformation, instils an agility that businesses will need to keep up with changing demands and delivery methods.
These are just a few of the benefits your business could experience with a proactive IT transformation strategy.
Booming Business Growth
A proactive, IT-focused business strategy streamlines the internal processes and grows the external systems that can push your business onto the global stage.
Digitized operations expand your talent pool well beyond your city to the entire state, country, or even world. Transparent, easily-accessed data empowers local managers to make decisions quickly and autonomously. Automated, digital HR workflows reduce friction so you can onboard contractors and employees with more speed and fewer errors. Enabling consumers to purchase your offerings anytime, anywhere increases your money-making potential while digitizing aspects of your customer service can improve their satisfaction.
A Future-Proofed Organization
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in—digital transformation is happening whether you’re ready or not.
The status quo will no longer cut it if you want to compete in a world where retailers, hospitality chains, and SaaS providers alike are all developing data-informed supply chains and communication channels that blow traditional analog business strategies out of the water.
Take for example a digital-native like Zara. Unlike traditional retailers Gap and J Crew, the fast-fashion chain prioritizes powerful technology that allows it to communicate and manufacture with extreme agility to keep up with rapidly-changing tastes.
Transforming your IT department from reactive to proactive means looking forward at the digital opportunities that will keep decreasing your lead time, increasing sales, creating happy customers, and keeping you on the bleeding edge of digital-first enterprise.
You’re doing business in the 21st century. It’s time to act like it.
Chances are your employees, consumers, and probably even your C-Suite execs are already using devices, apps, and other digital tools that allow them to connect and get work done in ways businesses could really learn from.
So learn from them by making continual proactive innovation part of your IT organization’s role.
Seek out technologies and digital methods that help your company innovate and remain active in ongoing IT transformation.
Software that provides secure, intelligent document workflows for a mobile-first world gives HR professionals freedom to generate massive value for the bottom line when it comes to workforce productivity, recruiting, employee satisfaction, and more.
Internet-enabled workstations and mobile devices empower employees to replace time-consuming and resource-draining meetings and memos with video conferences and digital messaging so they can work more efficiently.
Transparent, real-time data allows managers in your business to lead with speed and decisiveness; managing resources and making important decisions in hours instead of weeks.
Increased Safety from Cyber Attacks
According to Cisco’s 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report, 29 percent of companies that experienced a data breach lost revenue—38 percent of them losing more than 20 percent.
When you add fines to lost customers, business, and revenue; the average cost of a data breach is $4 million.
Cybersecurity isn’t a nice to have—it’s a must have.
IT transformation puts technology front and center when it comes to the future and success of your company. A modern IT strategy is proactive in making sure cybersecurity is a priority so the cost, time, and risk associated with a cyberattack is minimized.
Siloed IT departments might have made sense before the world became connected. But today, they’re downright deadly.
It’s critical that CIOs and their fellow executives release IT departments from operational constraints and reframe the way they work with, and within, organizations as a whole. Only once IT transformation takes IT from a gatekeeper to a game changer will businesses be fully prepared for the wild ride digital transformation promises to take us on.