Perhaps the most difficult aspect of a successful transformation to a software-driven organization is change management, and it requires a top-down approach. According to Coté, “In studying how change happens in large organizations, Iʼve found that the most sustainable change begins and ends with management.”
Leaders can cultivate support for transformation across the organization in various ways:
Get the business on board: Doug Safford, Vice President in the Allstate Technology & Strategic Ventures Group, describes the importance of finding the right partners within the business, “Find the right early adopters. We needed ... people that didn’t want to avoid the risk and wanted to jump off the cliff with us early, both in business and technology. Now CompoZed Labs is an entire technology effort and a business transformation.”
Communicate clearly, again and again: While weʼd like to think individual staff members have a clear understanding of how their daily work helps achieve corporate goals, thatʼs not always the case in large organizations. It’s up to leadership to communicate the organizationʼs strategy, explain how a software-driven approach supports the execution, and continuously promote successes. A good guidepost of whether they’re getting it is to pay attention to your complainers—how many people are asking, “Why are we doing this?”
Champion a quick win: According to Coté, “Choosing these first [software] projects wisely is also important for internal marketing and momentum purposes: the smell of success is the best deodorant, as they say, so you want your initial projects to be successful.” Early software projects should be meaty enough to provide business value, but low risk. In Home Depot’s cloud-native initiative, the team chose applications for projects like managing tool rentals and running the in-store custom paint desk.
Encourage continuous learning: On the flipside of a quick win is embracing learnings from fast fails. As Stephen Bird, CEO of Citi Global Consumer Group puts it, “In order to grow Citi, we have to grow our own perspective, skills and capabilities… Our curiosity, our openness to learning and trying new things, our ability to adjust and adapt quickly and our willingness to fail fast and fail small are the essence of a culture that innovates and exposes new value to our clients in real time.” To support continuous learning and experimenting, leadership must remove the roadblocks that prevent it, possibly even de-emphasizing metrics for the first year of the transformation. At least, traditional project management metrics that come in red/yellow/green.
Build excitement and evangelize: Allstate went so far as to brand their transformation effort, complete with a logo, website, and swag. At the 2016 Cloud Foundry Summit, Matthew Curry, Director of Cloud Engineering at Allstate, described the branding, “What we really care about is embodying the behaviors and the ideals of a Silicon Valley startup and transplanting that within our organization. So we loved this name CompoZed because it gives us visual indicators of an orchestra and a conductor and all these people working in harmony to something that’s of a greater good.”