An IT Epiphany: Getting Back to Basics and Defining Our “Wins”

Sometimes simple steps can lead to substantial insights in the midst of transition. One such instance proved extremely valuable in our Redefine IT effort.

In my previous Redefine IT blog, I described the structure of our IT transformation program, the workstreams we used to reshape our organization, and our pursuit of a more inclusive process for driving change.  In this installment, I want to share an elegantly simple exercise that ended up bringing new focus to our IT Strategy.

As our transition to IT-as-a-Service was taking shape, we decided to actually spell out our IT Strategy and how it connects with what matters most to EMC. We have always had an implied IT Strategy that was tightly aligned to EMC’s corporate strategy; however, we had never written it down, and consequently there was varied understanding of it across our IT organization and across the company. 

We commissioned a small team of our strongest thought leaders to work together on how our strategy should be formulated and presented.  The results far surpassed my expectations. One piece of work that was done in preparation for defining the strategy proved to be especially powerful in its simplicity.

Fig. 1 (Click to Enlarge)

The team did a “market segmentation” exercise and concluded that there are three distinct internal customers of our IT Services: the Enterprise, Lines of Business, and Employees (Figure 1.)

The Enterprise customer segment is mainly interested in keeping the heartbeat of the company strong.  This internal customer is interested in core transaction processing system availability, performance and compliance, and the quality and accuracy of data.  Stability and integrity trump agility for this segment.  No enterprise customer would be in favor of a “let’s try something and see what happens” approach.

The Lines-of-Business customer segment is primarily interested in speed, flexibility and choice.  The pace of business continues to increase, and this internal customer needs to move faster to avoid losing ground.  True innovation is what results in business competitive advantage, and innovation requires experimentation and iteration. The LOBs will happily assume some risks in the interest of being able to move faster.

The individual Employees of most organizations just want a seamless and intuitive user experience.  Their jobs are hard enough without having to wrestle with technology.  They want a consumer-grade user experience from wherever and whenever they happen to be working – from any device.

When I first saw this analysis, I had an epiphany.  I realized that this type of segmentation had been completely overlooked in how our IT operating model had been constructed in the past.  In our technical architecture, we had always realized that mission-critical systems required a zero-data-loss solution and that during quarter-end, we locked down the change management process.

But beyond that, we were treating these very different customer segments with a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Because the stakes were so high on the Enterprise segment, we tended to bias our approach toward one that would satisfy those needs, which often was diametrically opposed to the needs of the Lines of Business.  No wonder we had struggled over the years with shadow-IT popping up everywhere.

We realized that if adopting IT as a Service (ITaaS) involved running IT more like a business, no business exists without customers, and it was incumbent on us to have these customer segments at the heart of our IT strategy.  Furthermore, no business exists without offerings, so it was crucial to represent the key elements of our IT value stack (aka service categories) as well.  These include:

  1. End-User Experience: All the services that enable individuals to be productive: computing, communication, collaboration, conferencing, content as well as the ability to interact with and consume IT services seamlessly.
  2. Apps and Data: The services that enable business capabilities: mobile and social-enabled applications, learn data management, data integration, analytics, business intelligence, reporting and the predictive enterprise.
  3. Platforms: Application and infrastructure platforms that are efficient, automated, elastic and deliver feature-functionality that enables mainstream use cases.
Figure 2 (Click to Enlarge)

We also realized that in addition to customers and services, there were a couple other elements that needed to factor prominently in our strategy – our IT operating model and our people. Since the IT operating model and our people are both foundational elements that underpin our services and ability to serve customers, we represented those elements as placemats underneath the customer/service matrix (Figure 2.)

Looking at our IT business this way jump-started and focused our efforts, and the innovative juices began flowing freely.  What resulted was a set of seven statements that represent victories (wins) that we aspire to for each customer segment, service category, and foundational element.  Some wins statements were able to span multiple customer segments, whereas others were applicable only to a specific service category and customer segment.

In our expanded strategy document, each of these wins has a supporting page that provides more insight into its meaning and how we intend to measure progress.  This level of granular translation is often helpful for IT professionals who tend to be detail-oriented and hungry to understand the “how.”

In two pages, we managed to represent several important strategic elements:

  • What we aspire to do to live up to the widely divergent needs and priorities of three distinct internal customer segments
  • How each major service component in our value stack can contribute to customer success
  • How we will know our organization and operating model are flourishing

These two pages have changed the way we think of IT Strategy.  What’s significant to note is that sometimes changing the way we think is more important than changing a whole host of other more tangible things.  We are indebted to our team for their innovation and vision, which will pay dividends for years to come!

In my next Redefine IT blog, I will describe our new IT Organizational Model.

About the Author: Jon Peirce