We just had a pretty busy 3 weeks, which started with putting into place your very first digital initiative, then moved on to establish your phased Digital Vision along with your Digital Strategy and its roadmap.
By now, you will have drawn your roadmap full of projects. You now need to assure that you build it as a highway and not a forest trail full of pitfalls, and to do so, you will need key partners to work with you.
Who’s first? As new technologies are inherent to any Digital Transformation, your CTO must be the first person onboarded.
To succeed, your CTO cannot be just a technical provider or, worse, the driver. He must be your partner, your associate… your twin: together you should have one common voice to reach your Digital Vision.
I want to emphasize this crucial element. Most of the time, the business complains that IT is too slow and too costly. While IT thinks that the business changes their mind all the time – and is a nasty impatient punk…
As the business and IT seem to be at odds, having a peaceful cohabitation is already a success… But you need more than that, you need a real collaboration for this profound structural change to be a success: Digital Transformation might business driven, but it relies heavily on technology.
Prepare your CTO
Your CTO, as your key partner, means that you must be his too. As soon as you have set your Digital Vision, your collaboration with your CTO must begin.
That will require you to work in close collaboration with your IT team to determine the phases needed to achieve the Digital Vision. It would just be a waste of time and effort to set these phases only according to business needs without IT considerations incorporation.
As fundamental as new technologies are to your Digital Transformation, you will most probably also need to make some deep changes to your legacy systems.
As fast as you want to go, there is a speed limit over which you will start to drastically increase your risks and, as a logical consequence, to lose control, time and money.
Your CTO is the only one able to set that speed limit. Of course, as in any partnership, you can challenge him. However, if you do, then you must listen to him and, finally, come to a common agreement.
Given that IT has no direct relation with your clients: frequently they seem disconnected (or too far away) from your business realities and not really, or fully, aware of your market challenges.
So, you are responsible to share these with them and to onboard them into your business challenges and your Digital Vision.
Once they understand where you want to go and why, they will be able to prepare themselves and to advise you accordingly.
Let your CTO prepare you…
You must understand that your CTO is the one responsible for the perfect operational run of all systems: from security to availability to assuring the coherence of the technical environment and all operations.
The security committee, the architecture study, and the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration defines how your projects and systems are documented)… are all necessary in order for your CTO to guarantee the systems on which your business relies.
All of these take time and are not there to make the IT team happy, but to ensure your day-to-day business operations. Any change in legacy generates instability risks and your business needs stability.
But you want to go fast… you want to deliver added-value at a regular pace… you want to start your Digital Transformation right now.
Is it incompatible? Certainly not. Setting the phases and the roadmap together with your CTO to reach your Digital Vision is the best countermeasure.
Let’s say that you have 3 phases of 9 months (your Digital Vision being your 4th and final phase):
- Phase 1: no new technology
Your first step towards Digital Transformation cannot rely on new technology impacting your legacy.
Nevertheless, your CTO uses this time to prepare the legacy systems and to evaluate (and learn) the new technologies requested for your next phase.
Is this phase pointless then? Not at all, rather you should use this time to implement quick wins, initiatives and new technologies with no (or very limited) legacy impact and… pilots, POCs (proof of concepts), prototypes…
- Phase 2: first new technologies
As your CTO had the opportunity to prepare the technological environment, your second phase can involve implementing new technologies that will modestly impact your legacy.
- Phase 3: ambitious new technologies
The third phase will, at last, be THE step for integrating the new technologies that will strongly impact your legacy.
Your CTO has worked hard during the previous 18 months to get the legacy systems to the level you need. This phase is all about in-depth technical (r)evolution.
- Digital Vision: finalise and stabilise
After any revolution, you need to institutionalise all changes and to stabilise your organisation.
Of course you will still have some new initiatives, but you must allow your CTO to strengthen all the changes and to fully include all new technologies in a balanced legacy operational management.
Your strong partnership with your CTO is a constant two way consensus and will facilitate determining your Digital Vision phases and your Digital Roadmap.
I am fully aware that it is frustrating to wait for the disruptive initiatives. I, too, would love to have some external partners who will deliver revolutionary solutions in the cloud within 3 months…
But we will see next week that change management takes not only time for its execution but also for its preparation. So why rush in with new technologies and disruptive solutions? (Especially when they will most probably have deep organisational impacts and profound effect on commercial approach.)
Phase 1 is also the time to prepare your change management program.
And don’t forget, if a new technology or disruptive solution cannot be entirely implemented within one phase, you can work on proof of concepts and pilots. This is also an ideal time for:
- You to test and learn your coming solutions to improve your business knowledge and to best prepare the required change management actions.
- Your IT to better master the coming new technologies.
A joint proof of concept is the perfect glue to bring all your partners together through an intense collaborative work.
IT agility… and yours?
Having your CTO as the key partner for this revolution will help to prepare your phased Digital Vision, your Digital Strategy and roadmap. Your IT needs you to be fully involved with these projects: the business and IT must work together as a team.
To meet your digital expectations, your IT will most probably use new project methodologies such as Agile Scrum. In (very) short, scrum is a time-boxing development based on a list of requirements. Through short development sessions (called Sprints and usually lasting 2 to 6 weeks), a sub-set of your requirements are tangibly delivered (something you can see and use). After a re-evaluation of your remaining requirements (called the backlog), the next Sprint starts. For more details on Scrum, please refer to this well-done wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(software_development)
Your IT is used to learning and working with different methodologies. But an Agile IT is a non- sense without an agile business.
Let’s be honest… It is quite common for the business to complain about the deliveries which are not what they expected. However, the business has the benefit of dropping ideas onto IT and simply waiting for the results. The business is not often prepared, and sometimes not willing, to daily work with the project team as requested by the Agile Scrum methodology…
Your key partner needs you to prepare the business and teach them the new ways of working, the new ways of collaborative work. In a few words: teach Agile to the business (or the chosen methodology your IT will use).
This must be a part of your change management program and I will come back to this next week.
You are in charge
My leadership is based on several strong statements, the first one being: shit happens and belongs to me.
I am highly solution-oriented. Thanks to more than 20 years of experience in program and project management, I can certify one thing: shit happens. Of course I dislike it, but when it happens, I look for solutions with my teams, not for the one to blame.
If it cannot be solved by the team managing the project without external impacts, it is my own responsibility and I manage the external impacts.
As such, you will never hear me blaming IT in executive committees or rejecting failures. We are a team and I am in charge.
“We have an issue with IT impacts” is fundamentally different than “IT has an issue”. Solving an issue is never only limited to IT. Finding the best solution also involves having the business adapt to determine the best approach to take.
Your team is a group of committed people and they must focus on working together collaboratively in order to reach the goal.
Digital Transformation involves new technologies which are more difficult to master and implement. These projects can be complex and raise many issues. You must be in front of them to ensure that your team is comfortable with these new challenges.
For the fun of it, I have had teams who nicknamed me Houston, as in … “Houston, we have a problem” from Apollo 13. And as Apollo 13, they all survived and I got all of them back to earth.
Success is not yours
I said that I have several strong leadership statements. My second one is: success is not mine.
In all initiatives, I have just allowed the team to work. They got the job done and any success was theirs.
I want to insist: it is always a team success. IT must be share the spotlight with the business for any communication made around the success and for the party.
Digital Transformation requires intense work and strong commitments – both of which are accompanied with a lot of pressure and stress. Let the teams be proud of their achievements.
Several times we have been awarded internally and externally. Myself or my direct team have almost never been on stage to receive any awards as our job is to support the business and project teams. Allow your key partners to enjoy and feel the success.
Thanks to your partnership with your CTO, you will have established a coherent, strong and realistic phased Digital Vision and its roadmap.
With your partner, you have presented these to your CEO and your executives to get their validation and the budget you need.
Congratulations, you and your CEO are not anymore digital aliens but digital leaders with your CTO.
It is now time for a new top-down communication’s plan and to onboard the employees. Change Management from now on will require all your attention. See you next week.