Preparing for the Next-Normal in IT Transformation

nextnormalThe phrase ‘new normal’ has been used a lot in technology, marketing and even has it’s own TV show on NBC (I’ve never seen it). The term ‘New Normal’ is fine for understanding what is happening today, but CIO’s really need to focus on a few things when planning  for  ’the NEXT-Normal’ .

BE LEAN  Why plan for the Next-Normal? Because it will be here much faster than you can imagine.  Business and technology trends are moving so quickly, tech-leaders must be attentive to new enablers to support the business.  Exploiting these technologies require that you also be lean and agile, so that you can quickly make decisions that will differentiate your company from the competition.  I have primarily used the term ‘lean’ in context of ‘lean startups’, but now am applying the same lean principles to IT transformation.  It’s not about saving money; it’s about IT ‘health’, much like being lean in your physique is about your personal health.

plansvbudgetPLAN, DON’T BUDGET   Let’s start with last years budget.  I’m not asking whether or not you were over or under your target, but did you execute on the priorities you originally planned?  I would guess that most of us would say “things changed” during the year.  Our IT Department never even uses the term ‘budget’.  We call them ‘plans’, because we understand that business priorities change, technology evolves and people change their minds.  We are chartered to maintain financial governance but we are evaluated based on value, productivity and innovation.  A good plan beats a budget any day.

FINE-GRAINED TRANSPARENCY  The next thing to do is account for every penny that is allocated, and do it for every business-unit, corporate entity and customer you support.  It’s a lot of work but the Next-Normal requires that you provide services competitively.  Does this mean that a business group can bypass your services for outside services?  YES!  In the past, this was called ‘shadow-IT’ and it was a good excuse for corporate IT to command control. Command-and-Control is gone; the Next-Normal requires Communication-and-Collaboration.  Yes, it is a good idea to take advantage of centralized services where operational scale means better value, but internal IT must be cost-competitive and be able to prove it.  Fine-grained analysis provides the transparency needed when transforming IT to the Next-Normal.

ThumbsUpHIRE PROFICIENT, PROLIFIC PEOPLE   Finally, the most important part of the Next-Normal.  Being lean is about running your organization with less people, but higher talented (and pricier) staff.    I have experienced much greater success with a smaller group of highly-skilled technicians than a large group of ordinary technicians or a super-large outsourced group.  The ‘Next-Normal’ in IT requires you to have smaller teams of talented individuals who are smart, motivated, optimistic and goal-oriented.  This is where you demonstrate your value to an organization.  The ability to hire and retain such staff is a skill that you must have in the ‘Next-Normal’.  It’s the same skill that you must have with your customers to ‘communicate and collaborate’ with your staff so that they operate in the same ‘lean’ philosophy across your organization.  I find it very easy to justify more expensive, local talent that delivers results than a large organization with large project schedules.

START THE NEXT-NORMAL TODAY!  So, how does an IT Department make the transformation?  First, by NOT considering it a TRANSFORMATION.  The Next-Normal requires constant change, so transform yourself into an entrepreneur running a startup, embrace the startup relationship with your internal customers, and motivate staff to become startup employees. Learn more about the consumer driven IT strategy forcing all this transformation talk here.

Want to learn more about “lean”?  Go to


 About Paul Czarnik

Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

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