CIOs spend a lot of time learning about new technologies and the potential those innovations bring to solving problems for customers and employees. I’m seeing many more exciting capabilities now than ever before in my career. From artificial intelligence and cognitive machine learning to blockchain and robotic process automation, cloud and platforms as a service to IOT and big data, technology continues to add new tools to IT’s problem-solving tool box. However, for the value of these capabilities to thrive, CIOs must change the culture within the IT function.
The speed and agility required to leverage these technology advances do not always come naturally to traditional IT shops which for many years, relied on well-defined roles and processes including:
• Historical structures like operations and application development
• Infrastructure towers like storage and end user computing
• Project management structure and Systems Development Life Cycles like waterfall
• Business analyst roles that translate business requirements into design, etc.
One of the big cultural changes I see is a move away from IT professionals who are focused on work facilitation to those who must be able to provide a broad range of capabilities. In the not-so-distant past, IT could focus on developing project managers, business analysts and quality analysts. But, today’s pace of innovation will require more “full stack” capability. For example, to provide the speed and agility needed to leverage new technologies, IT professionals may need to be a scrum master and a development engineer, a sustainability engineer and quality assurance leader, an epic writer and a coder. You need to be able to do whatever it takes to move the work forward as part of a team.
Put teams in a new building and let them operate like a startup
Infrastructure teams need to move away from building and running boxes to monitoring and automation. IT for IT is important here, and knowledge in tools like ServiceNow and Splunk are the new operations skills. Can you convert a server expert to a business process monitoring expert? Can your team learn how to move workloads in hybrid clouds to optimize performance? How do you unleash and motivate your teams to identify how to eliminate work through automation?
Let’s not forget developers. You will need to take every developer you have on a journey to continuous integration and continuous release, embedding security and resiliency into the application and learning how to assemble micro services, not just configure or write code. Developers will suddenly be accountable for development AND operations… AKA DevOps. Didn’t someone else manage releases, change management and provisioning? Not anymore.
Even the planning roles within IT will feel the earthquake. Think of your finance team… they’ll have to manage less capital expense and more operations expense. These teams will ensure the light switches of the cloud are turned on and off so cost doesn’t run away from you. How does sourcing negotiate without doing an RFP when you have moved to Software as a service? How does enterprise architecture become curators of data and micro services?
Our customers will also need to adapt. It is increasingly important for them to participate in design thinking! How do teams stop talking about requirements and start watching work being done? Frictionless usability is the future and many of our partners are more accepting how work has historically been executed. In the future, if it takes more than one click, no one will use it! New generations will expect more natural language processing and automation and design thinking must bring these needs forward.
The Question is, How Do We Help Our Colleagues Adapt?
To help your team adapt, I suggest throwing them into the deep end of the pool! Put teams in a new building and let them operate like a startup. This allows a new culture to develop that will challenge the status quo. Or take an entire project team and force them to adopt new techniques surrounded by coaches. Create opportunities for teams to observe new ways of working in action and then bring best practices back to their own teams. Try sponsoring contests and give monetary awards to teams who demonstrate they can drive the change. Try creating an office of development transformation that measures the outcomes you need to achieve.
While these approaches create viral momentum for those who get excited about doing something new, they may not adequately prepare everyone for what it means to them. How does their job change? What do they need to do differently? What does success look like in this new world? Don’t underestimate the importance of role models, rewards, outcome metrics and behaviors that reinforce the change you want your IT team to embrace.
For many years, we’ve invested heavily into a paradigm that has worked well for us at Cardinal Health, and our businesses are vitally dependent on that model. This change is going to be massive, but it’s not going to happen overnight. So, go out, learn best practices, experiment with new approaches and fail fast. But be careful. To be successful, you must be really in-tune with how the team and the organization are dealing with it. Then you need to react and adjust accordingly—sometimes you need to push through and sometimes you need to pull back.
New technology always holds so much promise. But you must embrace the chaos of the cultural change in IT to unlock the value.