Thoughts from 30,000 Feet: Are You Facing These 3 Common IT Transformation Headwinds?

I spend a lot time in the air traveling to customer meetings around the globe. I hear first-hand about their frustrations and challenges in getting started with IT transformation. They are beyond the point of questioning the need to transform; they are asking, “How do I get started?” And I repeatedly hear a common story around the headwinds they face.  So as I contemplated at 30,000 feet what I had just heard from customers, I found myself comparing their headwinds with the headwinds my flight encountered.

Headwinds don’t have the power to stop you dead in your tracks; you power through or navigate around them and eventually make it to your destination, albeit a bit delayed and with some bumps along the way. Here are the top three headwinds I encounter.

Headwind #1:  RESISTANCE

CIOs often face stiff resistance from their engineering organization when moving from a developer of IT services to a broker of services. Many feel threatened and believe they could develop better apps in-house.  My response to CIOs:  “Yes, perhaps they could. But what if…”  And I paint a vision of reduced costs and increased agility. My advice is to take a fact-based approach, look at the real costs and benefits of IT transformation objectively, and then deal with any resistance.

I’ve found that once you share that vision with developers – specifically, what’s in it for them – they come around. If you are willing to help them build their own next-gen skills, they get excited about their role in the future state.

Headwind #2:  INERTIA

When EMC loses a transformation deal, it’s typically not to the competition. It’s to “doing nothing.” CIOs are often overwhelmed with the enormity of transformation. Among the many challenges to sort through is how to make any progress while all resources are tied up in “keeping the lights on.” They don’t know where or how to start.

A good first step is to gain consensus on desired business outcomes, followed by creating an IT roadmap of achievable building blocks. Prioritize these and identify an initial quick win that can demonstrate the value and show early momentum. With each step toward building an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model, you free up more time and money — resources that can be redeployed to your transformative efforts. In our experience, moving to an ITaaS model has saved companies 20 to 25 percent over legacy IT costs, and has substantially increased their agility to meet their business demands.

Headwind #3:  MISALIGNMENT1

The IT department has an identity issue to overcome, and some of it is fueled by the IT team itself. They often engage in technical conversations with their business partners when they should be engaging in business conversations. The IT leaders and business leaders are often flying on different levels. My advice to IT:  change your altitude! Think business outcomes first; then think about how IT can help. Understand what’s important to your business and what digital-age opportunities you can bring to the forefront.

Agreeing upfront on what “good” looks like for your specific business and what business applications will be required to power success takes a lot of turbulence out of transformation. Decisions (like, which apps to replatform or retire, which to move to the cloud, and which to develop yourself or broker from a third party) will be easier to make with an aligned vision. For those who need help gaining alignment or getting started, EMC offers the IT Transformation Workshop (ITTW), facilitated by our subject matter experts; customers have told us the third-party facilitation has made a huge difference.


Reverse the Headwinds!

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to navigate the headwinds of IT change. And if you need extra help getting started, we’d love to conduct an ITTW with you. Part of the workshop is assessing your organization’s IT maturity level and providing you peer comparisons; this may help you get the attention of your business partners, as well.

To learn more, check out these 15-minute video interviews on IT transformation from theCUBE’s coverage of EMC World 2015:

Here’s to turning your headwinds into tailwinds that accelerate your IT transformation! Please share your experience in getting started and how we could help.

About the Author: Mike Koehler