Transforming the IT Department to get to Digital-Part 1

Don Castle, Executive Fellow On November 28th, 2016

Topics: Enterprise IT

Part 1: the What

Do these IT situations seem familiar?

  • It seems no new ideas are coming out of IT – non-IT people seem to be coming up with lots of ways to apply new digital technology
  • IT has a reputation for not being responsive to new requests
  • IT resources are consumed fixing projects that are late and over budget, or fixing systems that are down or slow
  • IT completes projects, but the user departments never seem to get the planned business benefit
  • Everyone likes “their” IT person, but is frustrated by IT in general
  • IT people are aware of how they are regarded, but do not see any way “out,” and they feel trapped in their current circumstances

You’re not alone.  These situations call for an IT turnaround or transformation.   There is a way out, and it involves working even more closely with the rest of the business.   I suggest that there are 6 keys to What to do in a successful transformation.   (And importantly, there are several keys to How to do them.  I’ll cover the How in my next blog.)

6 Keys to a successful transformation – What to do

  1. Check to see if IT is working on too many projects. I bet this is true.    Work with key people in each department to understand each requested project, then prioritize the portfolio.  Communicate what will get done this year, and what will not.   Then complete the projects you have committed to.   The communication step and the completion step will build your credibility, and instill faith in the IT department.
  2. Organize to support both existing and emerging digital technology. More and more, all IT organizations need to find ways to support traditional legacy systems, while at the same time enabling the business to take advantage of emerging technologies.   There should be two separate parts of the IT organization:  one focuses on the operational apps that run your business, and another on supporting a culture of experimentation.
  3. Teach the IT staff about the business. Dramatically increase the interactions between IT and the other business divisions and functions.   I do this even with the most technical people buried in my data center.   You’d be amazed at the innovative business enhancing ideas that IT people suggest once they see what other people do in their roles.   They can spend a day with a sales person or in a plant, they can serve as an extended member of divisional or department leadership team, they can learn how the company’s accounting works.
  4. Stop tossing new applications over the transom. Have IT project leaders stick around to make sure new applications are 1.) Being used, and 2.) Achieving the planned results.   End users are often so busy in their day job, that they do not have time to adapt to a new system.   So, IT should budget some project manager time to help business people learn the new way of doing their job.   They should also look for ways to adjust the original design, which can make all the difference in getting major strategic results.
  5. Stay current with digital technology trends. Challenge each person in IT to research some emerging technology, and talk to other departments about possible application.
  6. Measure your keys to successes. Don’t measure so many things that it just becomes a blur.   Measure the few, most important things.  For me it’s often:  ) Project on-time / on budget performance, 2.) System down time, 3.) Help desk speed to resolution, 4.) Repeat root causes, 5.) Actual benefits achieved by your applications and services, and 5.) Total internal customer satisfaction.

Done well, the steps above will result in:

  • IT professionals being more focused and productive, and less stressed.
  • The rest of the business appreciating Information Technology for suggesting new ideas, and for completing projects that dramatically grow revenues, cut costs, and improve customer relations.

Read Part 2: the How


Don Castle, Executive Fellow at the Center for Digital Strategies, is a partner in the consulting firm New Madison Ave, where he specializes in advising CEO’s and boards of directors on opportunities and risks presented by Digital Technologies, and in helping chief marketing officers to use data to enhance brand strength and revenue.
Previously, Don held CIO positions at Johnson & Johnson, first for Ethicon, Inc. a manufacturer of surgical devices, then as Group CIO for J&J’s six global medical device companies.  He also was CIO, then President of the Life Science Services at SGS North America, and CIO for Nabisco International.

Don has run one business-to-business startup, and served as advisor to another startup in Healthcare IT. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Inroads NY/NJ.  Don has a bachelor degree from Dartmouth, and an MBA from The Tuck School.

Follow Don on Twitter @dwcastle

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