What did we get right and what did we get wrong in our chat about IT's role in Digital Transformation projects - CIO Keith Laidlaw joins the debate.
IT is part of the team and is an essential part of the strategic leadership team along with operations, change management and HR. Keith suggested that years ago IT was considered a citadel department, too busy with other IT related projects to spearhead any organisational change programmes. Over time organisations developed 'IT islands', external to the IT department, which they invariably knew nothing about, which was fine to an extent, however, IT islands affected the holistic nature of the organisations IT systems. Suddenly marketing systems couldn't talk to sales, sales systems couldn't talk to finance, the island effect had created technology 'silos'. Had IT been involved in these change decisions, they would have had a more holistic view of the technology.
To Keith, digital transformation is ultimately about the decentralising of skills. Global teams can now collaborate effectively no matter where they are in the world. Keith argues that digital transformation also supports BAU and business continuity. Using the examples of call centres, Keith argues that with the right technology and metric's in place, productivity can continue at the same rate no matter if an employee is in the call centre or taking calls from their front room.
The questions we are now facing are around education and professional or medical consults, can these be effectively delivered through digitisation? The enablement for all of this is communication infrastructure. Keith suggests that in this regard, we are already there. With approximately 99% of the UK having access to 'fast fibre' with download rates of 50-60 megabytes, speeds which 5 years ago were the preserve of offices only. Now, these ability services are in people homes, individuals can do everything online from home which they used to have to do in the office. IT has to be reactive also and be able to quickly investigate business requirements and this can sometimes be difficult.
Keith suggests that the old IT model has changed, the last decade has seen a move to a RAD approach (Rapid-application development), an adaptive software development approach, which allows packets of development to be released incrementally, every 2 weeks. This approach allows for development to happen piecemeal. Keith argues that while organisations may not know exactly what they want end to end, they often know what they want to happen first. IT is no longer perceived as inhibitor or blocker to change, the new mode of working allows the organisation to test their ideas and help inform the end to end strategy through rapid testing and deployment.
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Within digital evolution projects, do the IT team lead or support? This issue (not surprisingly) comes up a lot. However, given the core driver for all these conversations are around people, their employees, clients, stakeholders etc, the process is ultimately a people-first approach rather than technology first. IT (of course) has its place at the table as evolution programmes are discussed and planned, due to their inherent knowledge about the business and current systems therein. IT departments understand how these systems currently work and how they can be developed and used to greater effect. Digital evolution projects run parallel with BAU activities and the BAU environment is a core part of that evolution discussion, as it is ultimately about improving on what you currently do.
IT departments hold a lot of knowledge and insights which should be included in transformation programme discussions, however, it is important to remember that IT departments will also have developed their own departmental road-maps surrounding their department's offering within the business and technology infrastructure. They may bring with them a technology first bias. While Steve suggests that there are opportunities to merge evolution projects (IT and the rest of the business), the imperative should always be to address the organisation and end-consumer needs.
Great transformation programmes require a partnership mindset, with input from across the business with sales and marketing often being the custodians of road-map, as they tend to own those client relationships and understand the pain points and opportunities. When asked about what makes the ideal mix of departmental disciplines, Steve suggests that from an organisational perspective, we need to break down the silo thinking within and that the three C's, (Culture, Collaboration and Coalition) are central to the success of digital evolution project development and the delivery of a truly, transformational road-map.
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