Closing the IT Transformation Gap: Outside Help Can Bridge the Chasm

Making the transformation from the old, traditional IT world to the new IT as a service (ITaaS) world is about more than technology. It involves the much more gradual and, at times, more challenging evolution of your operation’s people and processes into a new operational and organizational structure, while maintaining the old processes and structures that need to exist until the transformation is complete.

This split focus of having one foot in the traditional IT world and one in ITaaS can undermine your transformation journey by adding complexity and uncertainty that conspire to prevent true change from taking root in the organization.  The reality is, every IT organization on a transformational journey faces this type of challenge and there’s no need to tackle it alone.  You may want to take the time to get some help from someone who’s done it before and can provide some “tough love” to get you over the hump.

After years on the IT Transformation trail, EMC IT recently re-enlisted the help of EMC Consulting to help us gauge the maturity level of our ITaaS model and work with us to set a clearer roadmap to bring our people and processes fully into the ITaaS world.  It wasn’t an easy process to subject our effort to an independent critique and admit that some of the things we’d tried hadn’t worked out exactly as we’d planned.  But we found it was immensely helpful in overcoming some barriers that hampered our progress in getting to the next level of ITaaS.

Beautiful infrastructure, split organization

Forced into our IT transformation by economic pressure, infrastructure complexity and quality-of-life induced staff turnover, we made some big bets on a future centered around a consolidated, standardized, tape-less, 100 percent  virtualized infrastructure to host all our business applications and IT workloads in multi-tenant fashion.  We adopted converged infrastructure early on and pioneered migrating mission-critical applications into the virtualized environment.  We made a big bet on what was at the time vFabric, now the Pivotal platform, to create our own data fabric and application integration cloud.  We saved tons of money in the process of adopting this new architecture and aggressively sweeping the floor of legacy solutions.

It was very much an infrastructure-led initiative, and we spent much more time thinking through the technical aspects than we did worrying about the people and processes.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t ignore the people and process.  We did a lot of very meaningful and innovative work there.  However, we found ourselves with a beautifully standardized and virtualized infrastructure, but with an Operating Model and 2,000-person IT organization that had one foot in traditional IT and one foot in ITaaS.  And it felt like we were doing the splits.

Not only were we straddling two worlds, but we’d stalled.  A chasm had opened up between those deeply involved in the shared services, where most of the ITaaS work was centered, and those affiliated with traditional application development and business engagement.  We were speaking different languages and even though some of the words were the same, the meanings were not.  Even the word “service” meant different things to different teams across IT.  Consequently, some very visible pain points were negatively affecting the psyche of the organization.

We decided to do a bit of a re-boot.

Getting a baseline and facing our gaps

We asked the IT Transformation team from EMC Consulting to run us through a formal ITaaS assessment and work with us on a plan to get as many feet into the new world as possible, and make whatever straddling was necessary more comfortable.

At the beginning of 2014, we kicked off the discovery.  A short time later we had the quantitative assessment of our maturity.  EMC Consulting uses a proprietary maturity model that they have developed, based partly on CMMI and partly on ITIL.  It looks at infrastructure (both data center infrastructure as well as end-user compute), applications and data, and the IT operating model.  They have defined 7 levels of ITaaS Maturity:

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The methodology is unforgiving, and partial effort is not rewarded!  We thought we had done well by getting most of our infrastructure services into our catalog and had exposed many of these through a portal.  We had even automated and orchestrated some of them.  We had gone to an OPEX-based consumption-funding model (with a little cost allocation happening behind the curtain).  However, we hadn’t done all these things across the board, and especially for the services “higher up the stack,” we were still operating very traditionally.  Much to our chagrin (but not unsurprisingly based on the evaluation criteria) our level was between 2.5 and 3.5.

The purpose of the assessment was to establish a starting point and baseline, as well as to enable a conversation on the desired end-state.  That, in turn, led to developing roadmaps to address the gaps and inhibitors and enabled a quantitative process for tracking our progress.  It also did a great job coalescing divergent opinions and getting everyone focused on one version of the truth.

In our case, we determined that our aspiration in Corporate IT was Level 5 – Market Focused.  There is no plan for us to begin selling services to external customers (that’s what EMC Global Services does) nor are there any plans to secede from the EMC Federation and open up our own company!

Once we had the read-out and got over the sting, we put together a Transformation Management Office (TMO) and established a program structure.  In a past white paper, I expressed that transformation could not be run like a program, with Gantt charts, dependency maps, etc.  I still believe that is correct, to an extent.  People don’t change the way they think and act because a Gantt chart indicates the task is due next week.  However, transformation cannot be left to a random, open-ended process.  I am hopeful that the approach we are using finds the sweet spot.

In my next blog, I will talk about how we leveraged our partnership with EMC Consulting to structure the work streams to reshape our organization’s processes and the roles of our people in the new ITaaS world.

Read Jon’s previous blog on IT Transformation The EMC IT Transformation: Making Big Bets and Taking Bold Action. 

About the Author: Jon Peirce