by Julian Goldsmith

CA World: Eight tips on delivering business change

Nov 13, 20114 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

At CA World this year, the theme of the event is IT At The Speed Of Business. In his keynote address, CA Technologies CEO Bill McCracken outlined why IT departments are lagging behind the pace of business change and the potential impact that can have on the future of the business.

It’s one thing to talk about change, but more difficult to achieve it, so CIO UK spoke to Adam Elster, CA’s EVP global business operations and business transformation; and CA CFO Richard Beckert for advice on how to make the concept of transformation a reality.

1 Decide how much change the company can actually take.Different companies are more adaptable to change at different stages in their development. Start-ups have the small size to be able to re-invent their business model more painlessly. Once businesses become more established, company culture and position in the market becomes more entrenched. Identify the baggage, such as products portfolio, property estate or customer base that will slow up the pace of transformation.

2 Don’t assume just adopting a small-company mindsetis the key for an established company becoming more nimble. Small companies are liable to take business risks that could be dangerous for bigger companies. Large companies have a lot more to lose in terms of customer base. Smaller companies can be less disciplined in their behaviour, because there are less people making business decisions. Larger companies would fall into chaos if employees adopted a looser approach to business rules.

3 Leadership style is important.A dictatorial leadership fill find employees are less likely to embrace change forced onto them from above. A more democratic style of leadership is required but business leaders have to make the tough decisions in the end, however consultative they are, so strong leadership is still necessary.

4 Look closely at the management structure.A flat management structure is more able to achieve business change than a complex hierarchy, because reacting to swift changes in the market requires a short chain from decision-making to fulfilment. CA Technologies has only seven layers of management. But it’s important to create the right work groups around that management structure, so that departmental siloes are broken down. It’s important for people to understand their roles within the company as a whole, rather than feel the need to defend their own department’s interests. Failure to do that will lead to a dysfunctional corporate culture.

5 Let the employees define the corporate culture for themselves.Create culture champions from the workforce and allow them to organise initiatives around defining that culture. This will ensure that the workforce recognises the need for change and buys into the change agenda. They will welcome the disruption that business transformation brings because they believe it is necessary and drive it forward. It may be tempting to bring in a management consultancy to define the corporate culture, because of the expertise you would be bringing in, but employees will invariably tell you the same thing for free and more importantly, they will feel they have some ownership of the process.

6 Pay close attention to business change brought about by mergers and acquisitions. M&A activitiy is the simplest way of bringing about business change. The business fit defines the most appropriate acquisitions in the market, but corporate culture and identity are also important. Clashing cultures can scupper the integration of an acquisition and waste time while the market and competitors move on. It may be advisable to be discrete about an acquisition while it is being embedded, especially if it has been made to react to long-term changes in the market, rather than provide capabilities for immediate business need.

7 As a change manager, it is very useful to have had a rounded field-based experiencein many roles within the company. Having experience in sales, supply chain or marketing as well as IT means you can challenge other managers’ objections to the change agenda more effectively because you understand their position and can explain the benefits from their point of view.

8 Make sure you take your customers on the journey with you.Business transformation is bound to disrupt the relationships the business has with its customers and they need to be assured that their best interests are still at the core of the strategy decision-making process. Talking with customers about your transformation agenda will help you define what your business priorities are and how well they are going to be served by the business change.

Pic: Krystn Palmer Photographycc2.0