by Charles Araujo

The pathway to digital transformation runs through IT

Apr 17, 2017
Data CenterIT LeadershipITSM

Organizations often discuss digital transformation as an abstract business concept, but a successful transformational journey almost always starts in IT, says BMC CIO Scott Crowder

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Credit: Thinkstock

When Scott Crowder joined BMC as its vice president of infrastructure and operations in 2011, he felt like he had stepped back in time. While he knew BMC’s products to be world class, the data center and other technologies running this world-class operation seemed more like they belonged in a museum.

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Thus started a transformational journey that began in earnest with Crowder’s appointment as BMC’s CIO in 2014. He had already begun the transformation of the data center in his first role, but upon taking the reins as CIO, he knew he had the opportunity to reshape the IT landscape from the ground up.

“Even though I had been a BMC customer for years and knew it built world-class products, it was like the proverbial cobbler’s son. I inherited a huge mess and knew that we needed to transform everything,” Crowder explained.

Beginning the digital transformation story in IT

In the middle of 2013, a private investor group led by Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital took BMC private, and by the time Crowder assumed the CIO role at the beginning of the following year, it was clear that BMC would embark on a broader business transformation—and that IT needed to rise to the challenge.

scott crowder bmc

BMC CIO Scott Crowder

“BMC transformed from the inside out,” Crowder explained. “It started with the transformation of IT, and then there was a massive transformation across the board. I believe our IT transformation fed our larger digital transformation effort.”

The reason is simple: Digital transformation exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the organization. If the technology stack and the IT function cannot handle that pressure, the digital transformation effort will stall before it even begins.

Digital transformation in three dimensions

If there is one great frustration about all the hype around digital (or IT) transformation it is that the focus is always on the technology. The reality is much harder and much more complex.

According to Crowder, an organization must execute a transformational effort across three dimensions simultaneously to succeed: core technologies, the engagement experience, and the organizational model.

The transformation of the technology core was well underway by the time Crowder took over as CIO. They executed a data center consolidation project, reducing their footprint from 68,000 square feet across 38 data centers to 6,000 square feet across four data centers. In the process, they reimagined their entire core stack and implemented modern, state-of-the-art systems from Riverbed, Dell, Hitachi Data Systems and others.

Crowder realized, however, that for BMC to compete for tech talent, they had to create an employee experience that was world-class as well. They gutted and modernized their telephone system using Microsoft’s Skype for Business, making it vastly easier for employees around the globe to collaborate.

And, as you would expect, they “drank their own champagne,” and deployed BMC’s MyIT solution and their broader digital workplace platform to make it easier for employees to engage with and get services from IT.

Recognizing, however, that the employee experience was about more than just their direct interactions with IT, they worked closely with their facilities team to help create what they called the “office of the future.”

This effort included ergonomic updates, better coffee machines, the introduction of beanbags and other elements that would help engage employees in non-digital ways—a striking initiative for an IT organization to lead. They also revisited their digital workplace, adopted a SaaS-first approach where possible, focused on mobility and tried to reduce employee friction throughout every engagement.

Rebuilding the IT organization from the ground up

While it was remarkable that IT would take the lead on the non-digital aspects of the employee experience, it was Crowder’s approach to reorganization that was his boldest—and most impactful—step.

Shortly after becoming CIO, Crowder pulled together his senior management team and sequestered them in a conference room for four weeks. Their goal: to build the “next-generation IT organization.”

Crowder assured each senior executive that he or she would have a job at the end of the process, but beyond that assurance, they were to start over and rebuild their IT organization from scratch.

“It became pretty obvious who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’ as we went through this exercise,” he shared. “It was hard for some to ‘let go’ and trust the process. But it allowed us to blow up the organization and start with a clean sheet of paper.”

The result was an IT organization that was no longer technology or functionally aligned, but which they had instead designed specifically to enable BMC’s broader transformational efforts and to achieve their business objectives.

And because Crowder did not assign the senior leadership team their roles until they had assigned all other staff, they were assured that they had the right people in the right jobs for the right reasons.

The pathway to digital transformation

BMC’s broader business and digital transformation is still a work in progress. But it is clear that it would have had no chance of succeeding had the IT transformation not preceded and enabled it.

Crowder says that the results speak for themselves: “We’ve transformed every aspect of the business. We turned everything upside down and put it all back together and the results are double-digit growth and more relevant products than we’ve ever built before.”

Disclosure: As of the time of writing, Riverbed and Microsoft are Intellyx customers. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.