by Ade McCormack

Five faces of transformation

Sep 26, 20125 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

There are many CIOs who would like to play a role in organisational transformation but far fewer who are living that dream. Many business transformation disasters are portrayed as failures of IT so the dream can become a nightmare, in which you have no control.

Often, where CIOs are irrelevant to strategic business decision-making, it is because of the imbalanced focus between information and information technology.

The job title itself should be a fairly large clue as to where the organisation’s expectations lie.

Once you have established yourself as technology manager it will be an uphill struggle to reposition yourself as anything other than a supplier.

There is a big gap between change-master day dreaming and the reality of being on a strategically significant par with catering and office cleaning.

No disrespect to either of those areas, buy it is unlikely that business decisions will be made on the basis of these disciplines. So there is something clearly wrong with being grouped as such.

But you can increase your relevance in respect of strategic focus by looking at transformation from a wider perspective than for example migrating emails services to the Cloud. Though this is part of the jigsaw, as we will see.

Market Transformation There are seismic changes taking place. A subset includes:

– Geopolitical – Meteorological – Economic – Demographic

Every organisation will have a different market transformation profile. Those organisations who are unaware of theirs will become an inadvertent pellet in the global game of Pacman.

CIOs need to be very sensitive to this as market changes ultimately drive information requirements.

Strategic Transformation As implied, market transformations will invariably lead to transformative discussions in the c-suite around how to respond. The ensuing SWOT analysis will likely lead to four outcomes:

– Continue as normal – Grow the business – Change the business – Save the business

The sooner you contribute to these discussions the less likely you will become a victim of them. Most CIOs are focused on the first outcome; run the business.

There is much you can do to shape the other three; but only if your role in running the business is considered a positive contribution.

Organisational Transformation The strategic transformation discussions will likely lead to organisational transformation.

Traditionally in a difficult market there is a trend in terms of endeavouring to move up the value chain, so stop selling products and start selling bundled services.

This is a great idea unless your buyers are similarly economically challenged in which case they will have less money to spend.

A more pragmatic approach that is emerging is to move down the value chain. Instead of selling a whole loaf of bread sell by the slice.

Emerging economy businesses do this naturally, established economy organisations will need to learn fast.

Corporate pauperisation will soon be common parlance amongst the management consultants. In the past this might have been considered as an unfortunate by-product of their engagement.

Today it is becoming the service. De-scaling the organisation such that it can operate profitably in a poor economy will be in demand. IT will be key.

Again as a CIO you can take a proactive role in this or wait to be dragged in at the last moment with a preordained budget covering a risk-ridden set of ill-defined deliverables.

IT Department Transformation Your IT function will similarly need to transform if you are going to help the organisation run, grow, change and survive.

Service-agility will be required, which in turn requires an agile infrastructure and agile staff.

Again as the leader of the IT function you will need to shape up your factory as a priority in order to meet the needs of the users, whose role it is to drive the organisation forward within the constraints of this new ‘economic normal’.

CIO Transformation It takes a transformational leader to transform their department. This job might be considered your reference project for earning the right to play an active role in transforming the business.

It’s now time to consider how you need to change in terms of your competences and how you are perceived.

A 360 degree investigation in terms of your improvement opportunities will signal to the organisation your transformative mindset, which in turn will enhance your brand.

Enhancing your brandwill also include forming alliances with the power brokers in the boardroom, user community and supply chain.

If your ego for whatever reason makes that difficult then add this to the top of your personal development to-be list.

So as we can see, transformation isn’t a project as such, it is a swirling real-time interrelated chain of events.

You cannot control the market unless of course you are the CIO for a major stock exchange.

Depending on your transformative stock you may be able to influence matters strategically or organisationally. In the worst case you will need to focus on yourself in order to transform your department.

It’s a simple plan of attack, but not an easy one. And depending on the size of your organisation and the perception of you, it may be a multi-year journey.

Alternatively you could become an IT manager for a Cloud-based service provider. In fact that is the likely outcome if you decide that this is not the journey for you.