Transforming IT (and me) into the ‘New Normal’

pervasive-technologyTalking about the ‘New Normal’ is fun, until your CEO asks “what’s your plan?”

We, like most companies, are going through change which requires dramatic transformation in the way we do things.  Extreme application agility and operational leanness are mandated to service the way the business needs to run.

Welcome me to the New Normal.

As I’ve written about in the past, the New Normal is the reality that technology has become so pervasive that it is becoming a company’s primary way to engage with their customers.  And in order to support this, every company must think of themselves as a technology company first, their main product or service is secondary.

Working for a technology company with the main product being technology products and services means that EVERYBODY thinks they can do IT’s job better, faster and cheaper.  In many ways this is because EVERYBODY hasn’t considered the things that IT does very well, like securing business information, maintaining audit standards, ensuring export compliance, IP protection, disaster-recovery, business-continuity, keeping the networks operating, the data-center certified, should I continue?  IT all looks easy until you’re sitting across the table from an auditor explaining process-control and systems-of-record. #shoemakerschildren

Doing important work, however, doesn’t absolve us from transforming IT, because the business needs technology services that brings us closer to our customers.  Transformation requires a good hard look at some of the heavyweight systems and processes we’ve accumulated and quickly abandoning them while maintaining high service-levels and best practices.

ITIL, CMDB, CMMi?  We have to lean this out.  We need problem-solving and critical-thinking and most of all, quick delivery.  This requires staff that are adept to change and finding technical solutions to difficult problems.  That means taking the concepts and best-practices of, well, best-practices and incorporating them into the IT processes and services without the costs and burdens of implementation and certification.  Sacrilege, I know, but internal customers are asking for agility and value more than certificates.  Perhaps a lean MOU (memorandum of understanding) with customers and a simple RACI(responsibility assignment) matrix will serve as a guideline.

So, where to start?  We start by taking a good long look at budgets and staffing.  Hardware and software maintenance?  Are we getting value for that maintenance contract?  This is going to sound a little strange coming from a technology executive, but we should be getting discernible value for our IT spend.  Looking at budget also requires a good long look at contracts.  Many of these can be rewritten to our benefit if we work closely with vendors who are considered REAL partners.  Partners negotiate because good contracts bring more business.

What we don’t want to do is indiscriminately reduce headcount.  The New Normal requires new skills and people that have deep technology expertise are easily re-purposed.  Sometimes leaders have to encourage and mentor change, but it is quite easy if we are direct and transparent with staff.

OK, that’s all nut-and-bolts savings and we’re in the middle of executing projects based on these opportunities.

But the New Normal requires that we invest in areas that provide differentiated value to the top-line as well as the bottom-line.

So, how do I do that?  As a technologist I need to focus on ‘gap technologies’ that will elevate our business value to our customers.  If I write about it here, I’m giving away the differentiated value that we’ll provide to our customers.

How about you?  How can I help?  Let’s talk.  Give me a call, send me an e-mail, meet me at the Detroit Hard Rock, let me buy you lunch in our cafeteria.  Because differentiated value starts with a real conversation and, as much as I love to talk, I love to listen even more.  Hopefully we both gain from each others experience.

P-Cz

Filed Under: Tech Talk
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.