Learn from companies who’ve already made the journey
As EMC progresses in its transition from a traditional IT operation to a groundbreaking IT-as-a-Service model, I’m not ashamed to admit we’ve had a little help from those who have gone before us. In fact, we are unabashedly using as much material and as many processes and ideas as we can from three world-class companies who forged their own ITaaS programs in recent years.
Learning from their project pitfalls and best practices has saved us a ton of time and countless headaches in our own ITaaS pursuits. And it’s made me appreciate my own penchant for being, shall we say, persistent in getting information on what others are up to in the changing IT world.
We first discovered the three companies (we agreed not to name them) through our association with the Corporate Executive Board, the Washington, D.C.-based best practices organization which was using them as examples in presentations and material about ITaaS. Eager for more information, I cold-called each company months before the ITaaS project officially got underway.
Officials at all three—a large IT products company, a large manufacturer, and a manufacturing supplier—were happy to talk about their experiences. They actually seemed flattered to hear from me.
As our ITaaS project got underway, we sought to tap into their experiences still further. I and some of the other members of the EMC ITaaS leadership team were able to spend the day at two of the companies getting tips from a cross section of their service management leaders. (It did take some pushing to get these meetings set up.) The third company we connected with via video conferencing.
We found that they had faced many of the same issues we were facing. And we found that we could “borrow” some of their solutions to readily resolve what would have taken us numerous meetings and endless debates to work out on our own.
For instance, we essentially copied the service delivery team structure of the manufacturing supplier, quickly resolving a major issue for us in defining ITaaS roles. It saved us a lot of work in what would have been reinventing the wheel.
While it wasn’t an exact fit, we were able to model our service taxonomy after the one created by the large IT products company.
In general, having insights into these best-in-class companies’ ITaaS experiences helped us make progress on our own discussions. Rather than spinning our wheels in internal debates, we were able to consider external information to either validate or redirect our focus.
Then there were invaluable findings each company passed on that gave us a leg up on avoiding strategic missteps, heading off problems, and adopting best practices.
As the power shifted in its IT operations, the manufacturing supplier found that the ITaaS transition can be hugely destabilizing and it needed strong change management process to compensate. Project leaders there advised us to recognize that relatively simple tasks can take way longer than expected and build such delays into the process. We came away resolved not to underestimate the challenge and the intensity in focus for our own change management efforts.
That company also noted that distributing financially transparent invoices—detailing ITaaS costs—had a calming effect on business units, the prime customers of ITaaS. In fact, company officials there told us it was surprising how little resistance to ITaaS there was once detailed financials were released.
The IT products company found that avoiding conflict between two of its major IT groups—its applications and infrastructure organizations—was best accomplished by keeping them as separate entities throughout the ITaaS transition process and beyond. Eventually, the two groups came together on their own to increase efficiency.
All three companies underscored the need for strong project support from their CIO and other top executives. The large manufacturer cited its CIO’s promotional efforts as a crucial factor in addressing its biggest ITaaS challenge: assembling a team of service managers with IT, finance and strong communication skills. That company also advised that the cornerstone of its ongoing ITaaS program is a well-defined and highly-detailed, annual planning cycle.
And there were many more insights we gained and put to use in our ITaaS journey.
For me, this experience has reinforced the value of reaching out to other companies rather than being stuck in what has been termed the Not Invented Here Syndrome (NIHS)—a tendency of many organizations to be reluctant to use other organizations’ ideas and processes and instead insist on redoing everything themselves in-house.
After all, there are lots of companies out there that are doing most of what we do. Particularly for a common function like IT, reinventing things that are already widely used elsewhere is a huge waste. I’m all for benefitting from other successful companies’ approaches, processes, and ideas with wild abandon. I guess that makes me an advocate of PFE—Proudly Found Elsewhere…with thanks.
We should all be much more open to reaching out to other companies to leverage each others’ accomplishments. Why struggle with every change in a vacuum when you can benefit from the experience of others? The pursuit of ITaaS is a great example of when this makes perfect sense.