Founded in 1915, Black & Veatch is an employee-owned global business that employs more than 10,000 professionals and provides a wide range of engineering services. The advent of digital technologies has had a major impact on the business, in both what services it delivers and how it delivers them, including IoT (internet of things) technologies and predictive maintenance capabilities.\n\nWhen Irvin Bishop, Jr. became CIO in 2020, he and his leadership team defined a new digital strategy and IT operating model to bring the full force of digital technologies to the company\u2019s customers and employees. I recently spoke with Bishop to learn his perspective on IT\u2019s role in business transformation.\n\nMartha Heller: What is the business transformation underway at Black & Veatch?\n\nIrvin Bishop: We have recently consolidated our operating model from 13 business units down to three market sectors so that we can go to market with an integrated solution approach. This model gives our clients greater access to the full scope of our expertise and allows us to be more responsive to client needs. We can develop and deliver innovative solutions while focusing on quality, cost-effectiveness, schedule, scope, and safety. We are also able to move resources more quickly across the enterprise.\n\nWhat are examples of solutions you are now better able to deliver?\n\nAs an internal example, we just put in place a new workforce management solution that allows us to move talent more fluidly across our business. We have better visibility into our labor supply, skills, and project demands, which has decreased the time we spend on resource utilization.\n\nExternally, we can take a look at our Government and Environment market sector. Some of our water clients in that business struggle to use data to manage costs in their water and wastewater treatment facilities. Since the relevant data is spread across multiple sources, leveraging that data is slow and manually intensive. We developed a cloud-based data platform that integrates the data and allows our clients to predict, for example, how weather will impact their processes. They can now also do scenario-based planning to manage costs, make the right decisions, and provide high-quality water to their customers.\n\nHave you changed your IT operating model to support the move from 13 business units to three sectors?\n\nYes, we have. In January, we created a new operating model that consolidated IT functions into seven areas: Engage, Innovate, Transform, Operate, Secure, Comptrol, and Manage.\n\nEngage, or Business Relationship Management, is populated by Business Relationship Leaders. These leaders sit within our market sectors and business functions. They help us understand the pulse of, provide thought leadership to, and collaborate with, our business sectors and functions to identify technology solutions for their business problems.\n\nWhat are the qualities you look for in a Business Relationship Leader (BRL)?\n\nThe BRLs bring a wide range of skills. They must be \u201cmultilingual\u201d and able to talk about our business capabilities, our clients' needs, understand emerging technology and be credible with our internal technology teams. They also must be keenly aware of the external market trends and understand the competitive landscape. They have to be able to ask our business partners, \u201cHave you thought about it this way?\u201d\n\nBRLs need to collaborate across the team to have visibility into other market sector priorities and initiatives to ensure we are not duplicating efforts. They also need to understand the security landscape and protocols we are using and inform the business of the new enterprise systems. It\u2019s important to avoid having a market sector go down a path that is not supported by core IT. Finally, they must have great interpersonal skills and be thought of as a trusted partner. \n\nSometimes tough conversations are necessary such as, "The last 17 requests you sent over have been emergencies. If everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency.\u201d On another occasion, the BRL may then need to turn to IT and say, "We\u2019re just not moving fast enough to meet the needs of this market sector\u2019s project. They have client expectations and a P&L to meet." Strong skills in relationship management can make or break this role. \n\nWhat were some critical success factors for the new organizational model?\n\nIn addition to ongoing executive sponsorship, managing finance differently has been key to the new model. First, we moved to a venture capital model to invest in business optimization and transformation initiatives. If a business case costs $600,000, we may approve the first $200,000, review the promised deliverables, and then provide additional funding if the promised delivery progress can be confirmed. \n\nSecond, we are using a \u201cpivot principle\u201d where we add and drop initiatives much more quickly than in the past. That way, we either win or we learn, but we never lose. And third is our use of Gartner three Fs principle, Fail-Forward-Fast. It\u2019s a mindset: we can fail, but let's do it fast and for as little money as possible. If we don\u2019t fail and are successful based on the KPIs set forth, we extend and scale quickly.\n\nHow would you describe your target architecture?\n\nOur target architecture consists of five platforms: Information Systems, which you might think of as the back office; an IoT platform, where we collect social media and the sensor data that we use for digital twinning; a Customer Engagement platform, to provide the appropriate messaging to our customers; an Ecosystem platform, provided by third parties; and an Analytics platform, the source of business intelligence, predictive analytics, AI, and machine learning.\n\nThis platform architecture allows us to do three things quickly: sense, decide, and act. It provides a simplified way to assemble \u201cfit-for-purpose\u201d solutions without starting from scratch. It also allows us to expose unique capabilities to our customers, clients, and prospects.\n\nFor example, we have developed digital twins that monitor the infrastructure that runs in our customers\u2019 water facilities. With our platform architecture, we can sense when sector three\u2019s turbine is about to fail, decide how to leverage that data, and act by updating the customer on the health of the asset.\n\nWhat have you learned about change management from all of this transformation?\n\nTrue change requires that organizational change management is part of your culture and DNA. Yes, you need a communication plan, but that is not enough. You need to create the sense of urgency, craft the appropriate messages for different audiences, and assess how well the change is being adopted. You also need a culture of empowering professionals, which is something we are focusing on in The Office of the CIO. \n\nFor the entire organization to perform optimally and embrace change, you also need a diverse culture, and a good work-life balance. We have not yet arrived regarding either of these, but we are absolutely determined and focused in the right direction. Soon, I believe these will both be bright spots in our story.\n\nHow is the role of the CIO evolving?\n\nThe primary role of the CIO is to be a thought partner with our executive leadership team and vigorously leverage digital technologies to accelerate the growth of our customers\u2019 businesses. Not everyone understands the impact of and opportunity for digital technology to drive business value. Digital is not an IT function. Digital is sales, marketing, finance, legal, and operations \u2014 everything. I spend significant time evangelizing, carrying the digital torch, and collaborating with the market sectors and operations on ways to shift our investments from run, to grow and transform.