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13 ingredients for IT transformation success

Richard Pastore | March 28, 2016
Transformation and change leadership are not new challenges for CIOs. However, today’s CIOs are faced with the digital remaking of the entire business landscape. This baker's dozen recipe will help you cook up an IT transformation success.

Transformation by nature is not formulaic—every business is different, and culture plays a huge role in what can be done, and how. But, there are common elements that, according to members of the CIO Executive Council, CIOs ignore at their own peril.

1. Articulate the motivation – Change is tough, so there needs to be a damn good reason to care, to commit and to act. The motivation for IT transformation should tie to business success and jibe with stated business goals. But don’t forget the personal motivation. What’s at stake for our IT organization and the people who comprise it? What positive outcomes will transformation make possible? What negative consequences will it avoid?

2. Create a vision – What will the future-ready IT organization look like? How will it be different from today’s incarnation? How will it function in the context of the rest of the enterprise? How will roles and duties and job satisfaction be different? How will IT’s rank and file employees fit in this vision?

3. Develop a strategy – Adapt successful IT strategy development formulas to create a transformation strategy. Leadership, responsibilities, accountability, timing, milestones, phases—all the typical elements apply. IDC research shows that the transformation must be done in three years or less, otherwise it could drag on indefinitely, and ROI will evaporate.

4. Get CEO backing – IT transformation not only needs buy-in from the top, but air cover. Another reason to keep the timetable short—Fortune 500 CEOs have a median tenure of 4.9 years. They are less likely to care and go to bat for a transformation effort that will last longer than they will.

5. Get the CIO on the executive team – Sorry, but the C-suite (and the board) need to hear about the transformation—plans, progress and setbacks—directly from the CIO. This is too important to be filtered through a CFO or COO.

6. Enlist stakeholders – Don’t go it alone; transformation needs allies. Even IT’s biggest critics might be so happy to learn that change is in the offing that they may be eager to help. Look for partners to participate in agile or DevOps pilots, to offer job shadow opportunities for IT leaders who need business immersion, and to provide introductions to end customers. And bring enterprise HR on board—you’re going to need talent resources and support.

7. Put someone in charge – This is not a part-time role or another project lead assignment. Dedicate someone who knows the organization, is respected, and has a record of influence. People who need to be liked are not appropriate—there will be ruffled feathers and unpopular decisions.

8. Cultivate ambassadors – The CIO and his/her lieutenants can’t be the only ones beating the transformation drum. Find respected middle-level managers and rising stars who can carry the beat into the rank and file, and incent them to do so.


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