Home » Nova »

High impact IT Change in Organisations

 

IT is in constant change it seems, from minutiae (self-inflicted damage) to major, life-changing failures that inevitably lead to press headlines about the latest waste of money on purpose-built, complex projects. Ironically, one of the causes is the way organizations have evolved to eliminate time-consuming irritations, such as having to communicate plans. Such communications generally led to hearing things that were unpopular.
Prior to engaging in major consultations to transform, some simple considerations can be identified, that most, if not all, organizations will have at least discussed in past times.
Some of the considerations will be:

  •   The need to engage with business leaders and mind share, in order to affect any organizational change.
  •  The business requiring the change may need to consider tradeoffs (as will IT, or other enablers), depending on cost, capabilities and timing.
  •  Where IT is involved, it needs to engage at the right level in the organisational hierarchy, in order to have the right information to drive the right decisions.
  •  Focused delivery using recognised programme and project management methods.
  •  Ensuring all parties clearly understand the deliverables the business considers are key, and that those involved can deliver them in a time-frame that meets the needs (often at the same time being pushed to drive down cost).
  •  Business must involve all parties at the business strategy road-mapping.
  •  Someone, somewhere, should be able to track the applicable metrics to validate the quality of work undertaken.
  •  Speed and execution!

High-impact change affects the:

  •  Scope of a business: choosing to supply to different types of customer and markets; acquiring other business, or merging; privatization, (new owners, new customer approach) and management buy-outs (new owners).
  •  Structure of a business: changing the business hierarchy and management controls through large- scale reorganisation. ? Core processes of the business: changing the way in which a business makes its products and services and delivers them to its customers.
  •  Culture (and therefore the organisation) of a business: implying changes in the behaviours and values held by the people working in the business, for example, changes in management style.

Businesses, therefore, must constantly deal with regular levels of change in the way in which they conduct their business.

often these changes are enabled by IT, and IT is (nearly) always affected by business change. Some business managers contend that IT inhibits change. The business manager who is bringing about the change, or desires the consequences of the change, needs to be fully informed (indeed, accurately informed), in order to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure IT plays a positive role, during, and after, the business change.
They also need to be aware that changing the culture of the organization, or the management hierarchies, or the domains within the business, may all be necessary in order to make change effective.

Success probably depends on IT. You will need IT; yet IT problems can really stop your business operating effectively. So it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about IT. In today’s business environment, most managers realize that their business, and they themselves, are heavily dependent on IT. The overall importance of IT for administration, planning, marketing, communication, information sharing, service provision, production and research, is widely accepted. However, IT is there only as a service; it is important, but it is also important to look at IT in context.  IT supports primary business processes, even where ‘IT is for sale’. The primary business focus is the profitability of the business – which is enabled by IT.
Questions you might be asking yourself about IT in a time of change include, is IT:
• An investment to be capitalized?
• A major project risk?
• A pain?
• Responsive?
• A business benefit?
• A source of uncertainty?
• Out of control?
• An area of investment or divestment?
• A business opportunity?
• A source of innovation?
• A source of mystery?
• A sourcing issue?

Answering these questions will help to orient your thinking about what might need to change in IT to provide better support to the business.

Business goals

Fulfilling the business goals is different, however, to classifying them. Businesses are not closed and shuttered systems, since any business influences, and is influenced by, its environment. The environment of the business comprises anything and anybody related to, but not part of, the business!
Change is typically brought about by the need to fulfill one or more of these generic business goals:
• To survive: if the existence of the business and the continuity of its identity are endangered, means of surviving will be identified.
• To prosper: if the business experiences declining prosperity, or expects this to happen in the future, it seeks ways to change, so that it becomes viable again.
• To benefit its stakeholders: when the business’s stakeholders (or what those stakeholders value) change, the business needs to be changed to reaffirm the value of its existence.
Survival and prosperity are often defined in terms of the business environment, e.g. ‘market leader’ or ‘benefiting the general public’. If the ability of the business to meet these goals is, or is seen to be, at stake, then the business, these goals is, or is seen to be, at stake, then the business, or, more specifically, the organization looking after the business, and probably lines of business, will need to be changed, reinvented, renewed, or even created.

Adaptation of the organization
The adaptation of a business to its environment, and vice versa, is a continuous process. If interaction with a changed, or changing, environment turns to conflict, it requires a major change program, to ensure that interaction can still take place, and that the business remains prosperous. More drastic measures are then needed to realign the business with its environment, and that is the crux of what radical organizational change is about: dramatic measures through which the business is realigned with its environment. In modern times, this is mostly manifested as cost cutting, in itself mostly manifested by reducing staff, either directly, or by outsourcing jobs.
In order to deal with the consequential organizational change, you will need to consider myriad issues. These are some of the questions that you may have in mind:

  •   Do I have sufficient information?
  •   How much time do I have?
  •   When will the change take place?
  •   How many people are affected?
  •   What are the HR, legal and political issues?
  •   Is the timescale fixed or not?
  •   How many people can I involve in planning?
  •   Has a full risk assessment of the proposals taken place?
  •   What tasks can I delegate safely?
  •   Who is in charge of the programme of change?
  •   Will the change mean a change in business direction?
  •   What support processes will be affected?
  •   Will there be a change to my information needs?
  •   What technical support is available to help me?
  •   What technical changes will be required that need to be planned and integrated within the programme?
  •   What new capabilities are required from the IT infrastructure?
  •   Can the current IT infrastructure deliver what is required, or must I instigate technical IT changes?
  •   Can I insulate myself from IT failure?
  •   If not, how can I avoid IT failure?
  •   What is needed to ensure business continuity?

There are, of course, many other questions. However, making an attempt at ‘knowing what you don’t know’, will help you to assess the uncertainty of the situation, which is one indicator of the scale of the problem. The management issue is one of program management, and expertise to help you is available from many sources.

Surviving change
It is worthwhile spending some time considering the fundamental causes of change in business, and why some changes are easier to survive than others. Where the business is operating in a well-established niche, providing well-known products or services in a stable market, it is likely that IT capabilities are well matched to business needs. Changes are unlikely to be major, and should be (relatively) easy to manage and survive.

In such a situation, if the market begins to change, the relationship between the business and IT is probably reflected in the business and IS strategies for the future. In that case, IT will be an enabler of the changes and the business transformation. Although more risk is involved, survival is more a matter of good management and planning.

In situations where the business is operating in a stable market, and gaps are found between the business requirement for IT support and the IT capabilities that are available to the business, major change in IT is most likely necessary. The ability to survive is, to an extent, dependent on the scale of the change and the speed with which it has to be undertaken, but the risks can be controlled.

If, however, the capabilities of the IT organization are not aligned with the business strategy, and the business capabilities of the business are not aligned with their market niche, then the business is presented with very significant challenges. The rush to provide Cloud services is a good example of radical, paradigm-shifting change. Business units began to procure IT outside of internal channels, forcing IT service teams to rush to build their own Cloud services, or attempting to become the go-between for business and Cloud providers.
A major risk is the almost total inability of technologists (rather than applications developers) to understand three things:

  •   IT services, as defined by technologists, are not the same as services as defined by the business.
  •   Technologists have little, or no, understanding of business processes and dependencies.
  •   The market in which the business operates (often addressed by appointing someone from the business side to the post of CIO).

To compound these issues, many (in fact, let’s be controversial and say all … ) large legacy systems need wholesale re-engineering, in order to even make the applications suitable for being provided as Cloud services (and this is still ignoring major issues, such as security and privacy). This, of course, requires massive investment and a lot of time, both of which militate against the desire for speed and execution demanded by business, leading to more dissatisfaction with IT.

Facets of change management
As an organization evolves, so should the business processes, and supporting IT processes, and the IT involved in it. Change is constant and chaos not far away. Some change requires massive management overhead (extensive
programs or projects), some can be automated – and then there is a range in between that comprises a spectrum of resource requirements, management attention and automation. In this section we will have a closer look at three aspects of the change process:

  •   What might be changed
  •   How you should go about getting it changed
  •   The interaction between the business and changes in IT.

Many people would like to believe that deciding what should be changed in the organization’s use of information technology is largely a technical matter. As the IT organization’s requirements change, should not the technical implementation of those requirements follow?
Within acceptable time limits and budget constraints, of course.
Well, not really. Does the business care if IT wishes to move computing into the Cloud? They might not be too happy if IT decides to move from MS Office to Google applications – on the other hand, they might love those apps. They might also care if sensitive data is managed outside of ‘internal IT’ – irrespective of whether or not IT can procure cheaper computing power. The point is that IT is the tail, and the business is the dog – change is initiated by the business (the dog) and the tail had better wag when so instructed.
What if IT recognizes that a major change program  is needed and that such change will not be instigated by the business? These next points are drafted specifically for people working in IT who perceive a need to make a change that impacts the business – and who recognize that IT does not own the business.

First, make sure you can document and explain (in non- technical terms) the functional and technical requirements of changes to the organization’s IT systems – and why that is important to the business. Change makes people wary; it is, therefore, necessary to have made a comprehensive analysis of risks and a risk mitigation strategy.

 

Changes in the organization’s requirements regarding IT, and the technical implementation thereof, will generally need to proceed in parallel. How will you guarantee business as usual? Proposals to change the IT organization, acquire IT assets,  direct development of information systems/services functionality and regulate command over the flow of information, are among the items that will be negotiated with the business – with the business in charge of decision making. Do you know the degree of flexibility that you have in terms of deciding your own responsibilities for any proposed change? What financial limits do you have? Proposals to change and decisions to change technical infrastructure and supporting organization, will be formulated on the gap between perceived actual, and potential achievable value. Both values are largely determined by a mix of hard and soft value factors, such as cost, economic benefits, personal command, individual experience, prior investment, marginal improvement cost, resource consumption, in accordance with existing and desired mission and culture, etc. But that does not mean they will be accepted – what is the business case for the proposed change?

 

Related Posts

  • No Related Posts