A recent study of frontline IT leaders conducted by BPI Network found that while IT modernization is crucial for a successful business, most companies don’t measure up. The results show businesses are lagging behind in five crucial aspects to creating an agile and modern IT department and business. And this inability to adapt has created a significant gap between those leading in the digital age and those falling behind.
It isn’t as though executives are unaware of the problems around IT modernization; 93 percent of those surveyed agreed that technology had become more important in the past five years, while 65 percent said it was “far more important.” Looking at competitors, 45 percent said that their rivals “were offering more choice, convenience and accessibility,” while another 29 percent said the competition offered better services and value to customers.
Tom Murphy, editorial director at Business Performance Innovation Network, says one of the biggest shifts has been from data centers to the cloud, “Most enterprise companies invested millions of dollars in the on-premises data centers that still drive most of their businesses today with ERP applications from the major vendors. Then the cloud came along and, after some initial concerns about security and privacy, people have now figured out ways to apply it.”
Companies that are invested in IT modernization are blazing a trail that is seemingly unknown, according to the study. It found that 28 percent of IT professionals reported that their business was working on becoming more agile and setting an example for other businesses. The survey data suggests that successful modernization requires embracing new technology, planning and an understanding that, in the long run, it will improve customer service and save money.
One of the first keys to success when attempting IT modernization is commitment, which means that the C-suite understands the importance and provides direction and funding behind the process. According to the study, without the support from the C-suite, attempts at modernization will be haphazard at best. Of those surveyed, 42 percent cited the CIO as the most influential force in IT modernization, while 41 percent pointed to the CEO. However, 62 percent said that they were “severely under-resourced.”
It doesn’t take commitment only from those responsible for implementing the plan, but also active support from the C-suite leaders. According to the study, this means that CIOs need to work closely with business managers and IT staffs to determine how to embark on a successful IT modernization project. Once a plan is in in place, there needs to be realistic budgets and continued support.
After commitment, collaboration is the next most important aspect in successful modernization, according to the study. Business leaders need to critically evaluate internal process and how to edge out the competition, all while improving the customer experience. As BPI Network points out in its study, it’s important to have cross-functional teams working to define what the business needs in terms of IT modernization. Any disconnect between IT and business managers needs to be reconciled with consistent and productive communication.
These cross-functional teams will need to work to figure out what the business needs to move forward and determine the best approach to take on modernization. “Consider the company’s needs and the technologies that will be of most help in getting there quickly and at lowest-cost,” says Murphy, “Make recommendations to senior execs based on these findings, which — in the vast majority of cases — will show there is an urgent need for transformation to boost agility and speed app development.”
Once a plan is in place with the right funding and resources, there needs to be a focus on long-term planning. This requires detailed IT roadmaps that outline the process for every aspect of the business. The study found that 30 percent of respondents feel business teams didn’t understand the IT systems, or how they worked, while 52 percent of frontline IT workers say business teams aren’t brought in early enough in the process.
Between business leaders and IT, companies can establish a long-term plan with intelligence from both groups. This will guide the business down the line and avoid abandoning the modernization plans due to confusion, according to BPI Network data.
If your IT team is already overloaded with work and doesn’t have enough employees to get the job done, you can’t expect them to squeeze successful modernization into their schedules. BPI Networks found that businesses report lacking in application development, software engineering and data analysis; all crucial elements of IT modernization. Not to mention that 82 percent of respondents said that they spend half their time managing emergencies and conducting maintenance, which leaves little time for innovation. Business leaders need to ensure that the right people are recruited and that the money exists for these new hires.
If new hires aren’t a possibility, another suggestion is outsourcing, “Most companies spend way too much time simply maintaining legacy systems,” says Murphy. “If they outsource their data center that is better-equipped to handle that task, the IT team can focus more on a transformation that helps the business.” This will free up employees to focus on implementing the latest technology without adding more man power. But the study is quick to point out that if your current IT staff doesn’t have the necessary skills, you most likely need to recruit new hires with the right skillsets.
Execute on plan
Having a strong vision and roadmap is key, but all too often plans that start out with enthusiasm and commitment quickly fall apart. The study points out that even if you have all the right funding, collaboration and recruits in place, the plan will be only as good as the dedication behind it. It isn’t easy reconfiguring the way an entire company conducts part of its business, so IT modernization requires a close eye to ensure progress doesn’t drop off.
BPI Networks suggests taking small steps to the final goal, developing business metrics and bringing on a “trusted partner who has ‘been there, done that’.” By taking small steps and breaking the process into manageable tasks, the study suggests that no one will get overwhelmed by the big picture. And by creating business metrics, your team will be able to measure the success of the project against tangible goals. Meanwhile, bringing on someone with experience similar to the project you are undertaking will help navigate any confusing aspects that might cause people to abandon the ultimate goal.
The time to start IT modernization is now, says Murphy, since it can take one to two years on average to build up a new network. Only 28 percent of respondents said that their systems were coming along or already implemented, while 72 percent are not at that point yet. “The longer they wait, the longer it will take to catch up.”