Everyone talks about Speed. Everyone talks about the Speed of IT. Gartner call it bi-modal IT. The pace of the old way of doing things blending with the acceleration of competing in ever demanding market conditions exploiting the forces of social, mobile, information and cloud. A well rehearsed topic in fact.
Speed is now in the mix good and proper, and not a day goes by without a presentation from a CIO and or CEOs talking about business change, digital and growing wallet share. And they got the context from analysts and thought leaders who gave them the ammunition to drive technology change leveraging forces of economy and survival.
We are all masters of the ‘langauge of Speed in IT’.
And of course it is not wrong to talk about business change in the context of speed and acceleration. After all technology has been an important contributory factor in the business landscape and as Moore s Law continues to drive the bits and bytes so does the generation of ideas and corporate supply and demand. It is inevitable therefore that speed is the right word to use when describing the impact of technology on our lives. Yet the IT organisation which could be pictorially seen as being right in the middle of the organisation along with HR, finance and marketing ( as a supplier of service ) does need to be ever so slightly cognisant of the impact that speed has on its own operation.
Just because the fashionable press, technology organisations and marketing engines drum home the need for IT speed to help drive the business forward it doesn’t equate that the age old legacy platforms, people and processes can overnight pick up the acceleration and be at the fore front of change.
I see many organisations get caught up in the ‘need for speed’ , making decisions that on paper represent sensible direction and promise acceleration to the business, yet in the cold light of day when design, delivery and ongoing support fail to sustain the furore of agile decisions making good, the disappointment and more importantly, the negative impact is often deafening.
The irony is that as they thirst for speed they are actually slowing down. A bit like finding yourself in the fast lane and not realising your handbrake is on or that your fuel supply is about to run out. Frightening when the cars on the inside of you are overtaking you and you thought you were travelling at 80MPH.
To get speed you need sustainablity. Delivery an IT service is not a 100meter race.
And the really tough bit is that these IT organisations are sort of dammed if you do and dammed if you dont. Forward thinking IT leaders are now being bought in to deliver change and building a more accelerated approach to delivery IT services is high on their agenda. However, as they resolve supplier and skill shortages, fix budget management and rebuild core foundations, they do face a number of external influences that will make or break their desire for speed.
Consider this little ‘checklist’ of Dos’ and Donts’ for an IT organisation near you today and reflect on how many Yes’s you would come up with.
- Technology initiatives succeed despite the lack of unanimous senior level support?
- People don’t take time to reflect on project scope and outcomes?
- Team members sometimes switch responsibilities to support colleagues and to get the project completed?
- Too much of the Intellectual Property is owned by third parties who come and go?
Employees are encourgaged to create innovative products and services through a strong culture of collaboration?
- Time is rarely made for training and education on new services delivered?
- Employees settle on fine tuning existing offerings to keep current customers satisfied rather than look for improvements?
- Senior leaders are closely aligned and committed to initiatives’ success through closed loop feedback and review?
- People are moved around too frequently and do not see the results of their work?
- Communication on direction is sporadic and often via email and portal rather than face to face?
- Results of technology impact on successful business outcomes are communicated widely and with senior backing?
What is interesting is that to just come up with 10 thoughts was actually quite hard. There are lots more of them I could have listed but the point was to start gauging where the IT organisation is against these items and whether there are similarities or other aligned characteristics that suggest that ‘going too fast’ may have a detrimental effect.
The problem that we are now all facing is that whilst speed is not a bad thing and the outcomes can often be so rewarding and benefifical on personal and corporate levels.
Take a look at any of the large cloud vendors today and marvel at their ‘speed’ and ‘acceleration’ of change in their products and services. Gone are the days of product lifecycle announcements that talk about delivering large ‘service packs’ on a one two three year turn round. Now they are delivering changes on a seemingly weekly basis and because of their investment plans every likelihood that change will become a daily or hourly occurrence. If you have the tools and consumer demand why not is what I am sure they will say. It will almost become a process that takes place
in spite of their client’s readiness to accept the changes.
So I see that sustaining speed is perhaps the greatest challenge facing an IT organisation today. It is a given that with the technology available to any of use we can experience speed whether it is a personal shopper with Amazon or a corporate wanting to build datacenter capacity in a 24 hour window for a key project. The tools are there to allow us to be that car in the fast lane with a promise that so long as we keep paying for the fuel we can sustain our journey without having to run out and slow down.
Yet the sustainability measurement for the IT organisation often runs contrary to our experiences of speed and their greatest challenge I suggest is building a target operating model that not only has the ‘acceleration’ technology and services built in but also a whole host of external facing challenges addressed through its communication and collaboration techniques with the business.
Going on a journey in the fast lane is one thing but making sure the business leaders are in the same car is the real challenge. Too often they have taken a different car and thought you were following right behind them!