There is a joke about three frogs on a log. Two of them decide to jump off. How many frogs are left? The answer is three — because deciding to do something and doing it are two very different things. This is one of the very significant issues associated with IT-led transformation.
Few IT executives don’t want to increase the agility and speed of their IT. Yet, year in and year out, the pace of putting technology in place hasn’t really changed. Yes, companies now have SaaS rather than packaged software implementations. Yes, they now have cloud instead of having to provision and stand up internal servers. But the pace at which they develop or bring technology to the marketplace is very similar to the pace of five or 10 years ago. Why is that?
It’s because deciding to do something and actually doing it are very different issues.
I’m not saying that companies have not taken action. The first thing they do is try to cajole and motivate the IT organization to change. They exhort the IT group to move faster. But there are still three frogs on a log. Some things change by bringing in new technologies such as automated testing, cloud and SaaS; but the speed of development and the pace of provisioning does not change.
Just talking to people and getting their commitment doesn’t mean that, in an organizational context, they can do what they committed to do. The leaders can have a great meeting and talk about the need for agility or the need to break projects into more actionable initiatives that create value faster. But if behaviors don’t change, the organization cannot move faster.
So how can you as CIO get your organization to change? What is the piece that stops them from jumping off the log?
Part of the problem is the current status quo, which locks people into their current behaviors. These behaviors are reinforced by a very effective web of constraints, from organizational philosophies and policies to a common vision. The constraints prevent moving fast. To move beyond the constraints, you need to shorten the time to provision a server, spend less time in meetings gathering requirements, break initiatives into smaller, agile sprints rather than large programs and create funding vehicles that support the agile approach. You need to rethink provisioning. It’s also important to bring resources on shore rather than fighting the lag of working offshore.
Changing only one part of these constraints that reinforce the status quo will have little to no effect on the broader agenda of speed.
To actually get change in your organization, you have to do three things:
- Look at what you have to invest in to enable the change. The investments are in people, money and management attention.
- Determine the constraints that prevent the organization and people from acting on the change. The constraints can take the form of company policies, company philosophies, organizational structures, personal incentives, organizational incentives and a host of other things.
- Enable team members to have the authority to make the change. They must be empowered to make change.
You need sufficient vision and support to drive change in an IT-led transformation. To make it happen will also require a thoughtful examination of the constraints, attacking those constraints and then empowering teams to be able to make progress.