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“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”          – Buckminister Fuller

In the last couple of weeks, I have visited a number of IT organizations to discuss strategic investment planning. Great discussions but what is interesting is that the same challenge emerged in every discussion. The main challenge related to a rapid flow of new business directives. What is expected from IT is changing at a rapid pace (approximately 4-6 times a year) affecting the IT strategy, governance and investment portfolio giving rise to enormous frustration. The real dilemma is how to address this challenge – which in essence is not a specific IT problem. There are really only two choices to address change – to accept or to resist. What is your way forward?

I must confess that I have been in that same situation and it was very frustrated with the constant flow of new directives and expectations. My first response was of pure frustration! How can we live with this level of uncertainty and unpredictability? I then tried explained how strategic IT work, our challenges and that we cannot live with this level of uncertainty. To be honest, that did not work! The interesting thing is that I initially did not see the big picture but rather viewed change from an IT perspective – not understanding the reality. But what if we learned about reality – saw change from a business perspective and accepted the prerequisites for change? It was the starting point for my journey to see and accept change to be a natural part of my professional life. Was there an alternative?

“Almost half of CEOs rate their CIOs negatively in terms of understanding the business and understanding how to apply IT in new ways to the business [HBR 2013].”

The fact is that many of the IT organizations I have visited are still in the resist phase and not fully understanding the business reality. The answer to great business is not in another IT platform, application or sourcing partner but rather the knowledge about how business and customers are changing – and how IT can contribute to success. We must start from the customer expectations and link everything we do (including IT) to the corporate value proposition. The key question is how to avoid frustration of rapid change and turn that energy to something more innovative?

“If we accept rapid change, making change part of our lives – how would that look like?”

 When challenging our selective truths about the role of IT and reality with one single question, we see a new ideas and curiosity emerging. An atmosphere of frustration quickly vanished and changed into curiosity, structure and creativity. Innovation! This is probably the essence in IT change management, to view our role and reality in a different light. We challenge our governance, strategy and way of working. We have taken the first step toward something new.

What is interesting is that the structure and principles discussed are, more or less, similar to the principles of Agile IT Strategy! Principles designed in the light of change and business reality with purpose to optimize business value – and drive IT change. There is nothing magic about the principles but rather common sense.

Principles of Agile IT Strategy

  • IT strategy work is not a time bound project but is conducted continuously and iterative over time to ensure optimal business value.
  • Minimize lead time from situation (environmental scanning) to IT strategy revision/implementation (maximum 4-6 weeks)
  • The IT Strategy should only include relevant strategic information to optimize business value (role of IT, Strategic direction and guiding principles)
  • The IT strategy is built on generic strategic elements that are all well defined, loosely coupled, and directly linked to our situation.
  • The IT Strategy supports the investment planning to define how each investment contributes to the strategic objectives over time.

It is amazing how one single question to view reality in a different perspective can change the mindset and atmosphere of an IT department. It made us to view reality from a business perspective and not from IT perspective. It made us ask ourselves how we can change to create more business value, not ask someone else to change. It is amazing!

The real challenge is to convert a creative discussion into actions and solutions. An idea on a PowerPoint is worth nothing if not converted into real change. For that reason, The Goodwind Company introduced a number of tools and models to take one-step towards an agile IT organization. It is one step to test the hypothesis and principles. It is about accepting the situation and doing something about it.

“An atmosphere of frustration quickly vanished and changed into curiosity, structure and creativity.”

 We introduced Return on Strategy method (part of Agile IT Strategy) to understand how the IT organization and investments contributes to the strategic objective.

  • We now understand how investments create business value in a dynamic and unpredictable business environment.
  • We now understand how to prioritize investments in the optimal way (contribution to strategic objective).
  • We have identified focused KPIs to enable strategic benefit realization.
  • We have defined projects and investments (scope, budget and time plan) based on high unpredictability (4-8 weeks lead time).

After a few workshops, coaching and great discussion, we found a system accepted the high pace of change and created an IT organization aligned with business challenges.

My recommendations:

  1. Ask yourself and your management team your view on change. From what perspective (business or IT) do you view change? Do you understand and accept the reality?
  2. If you would accept high rate of change – how would that look like?
  3. Learn more about Return on Strategy and Agile IT Strategy. Please mail me for more information!
  4. Contact The Goodwind Company to support and coach your change journey!

Living with uncertainty is what digitalization and ‘new normal’ is all about. How you succeed with uncertainty is very much about mindset and how you view change. Do you accept or resist change? We must understand that enabling business and customer changing is the main purpose of the digital IT organization and hence enabling value creation and customer engagement. There are a few IT leaders understanding the new role of IT and have a new view on change. These companies will have a bright future – others with fall behind. So, do you accept or resist change?

– Hans Gillior


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