Realigning Your Team, Thinking and Focus
Editor: The advent of cloud, mobility, automation and virtualization have dramatically impacted how IT departments function, yet many leaders have maintained the same organizational structure they’ve had for the past 20 years. How do you see the organizational structure changing going forward – and what is the biggest change from the past?
Harsch: The challenge is between being a generalist and having people focus on the business and big picture vs creating more towers of the areas you mentioned.
Many organizations try to re-train people from legacy systems to handling new systems, with mixed success. Another example is how many traditional IT service desk agents can become experts on every type of mobile device? This is a great opportunity to bring in a partner to handle this type of area. The afore mentioned agent CAN and DOES know the business, culture and needs better than an external partner. So moving people to become generalists around the business and focusing on the key line of business owners is a very effective use of resources, provides not only create a nice career path, it also allows you to get laser focused on your business.
Change. We are seeing it across the three key pillars; people, process and technology. The velocity of change that is occurring is probably one of the biggest shifts and it is affecting all of these areas. And the speed at which this is happening is mind blowing. So if we take this speed, take some of these areas you mentioned, that starts to add up to essentially try to create an entire new IT organization within, while at the same time we are trying to keep the old one running. Then you are left to try to merge and interface both of these together into one synchronous team.
Editor: Do you see new roles/ titles as part of this change (for example, do companies need a mobile strategist) – and can you talk about these roles and the skills required for them?
Harsch: As I previously mentioned, we see more people focusing on, and we are encouraging them to move to a service view of THEIR business. Take the people who have the most experience within the org and pull them out of their current jobs to focus on the bigger picture, to look at how the organization functions and where there could be improvements. You can back fill these people from a managed service provider and also bring in whole new areas of specialization (like the aforementioned mobile specialist or cloud, virtualization). Use your people who know the business to find the improvements and make the changes, use an outside partner to fill those specialist roles where you need more specific expertise.
We also see the need to have more of a product and marketing focus. If you are going to create, launch and support “everything as a service”, then who will be those product/service managers? Those people need to own those services from end to end. We have many of those today, things like email is a great example of a service, however, what we usually see is that there is a person who is in charge of managing the email server. They are not usually looking at how email is used, do we provide and how do we support mobile email, etc. That is a service lifecycle approach and mindset. I have asked groups on multiple instances if they have a marketer on staff and the answer is 99% no. So if we stay with the idea of creating and launching services, who is driving the requirements, who is doing the actual service launch, looking at how we get people to visit the portal to access the catalog and what comes next.
And yes, a mobile strategist is a great idea. To be looking at all aspects of the business from that lens, especially around the areas that IT would provide and support. IT will help to craft the device strategy, look at mobile apps, backend application performance at the final end, security, etc.
Editor: How do you see the role of the CIO changing in the coming years – both in terms of what he/she does and where he/she fits into the overall corporate structure?
Harsch: More of a business owner. If you compare IT to that of manufacturing, a lot of firms have moved to contract manufacturing on basic things and kept specialized mfg and design in house. Establish the best of breed partnerships that bring you the capabilities, data and specializations you need without a large capital and time outlay. Make speed a core requirement and visibility (data) your product in which you manage the business. They don’t call it Chief INFORMATION officer for nothing. I like to use Jeff Bezos of Amazon as a great example. He does not write or print books, but he gets them to you when you want and without a lot of hassle. And from your mobile device I might add. And he has also brought you streaming content, and that requires to monitor and manage those pipes. Then there is the compute on demand. Raw horse power that you can quickly access, without a presentation to your capital committee, all you need is a credit card. The part I think most people don’t see, is that it leverage a core strength.
It is that type of leader and that type of role that I see the CIO of the future. How they will shape and mold their organizations. The type of challenges they will try to address.
Editor: What is the biggest change you see happening in tomorrow’s IT organization as cloud adoption increases?
Harsch: Keeping track of the assets themselves and the costs. Just like any new thing that cannot be easily seen in the data center, you have the real chance for uncontrolled sprawl and costs. So a real focus on core IT Asset management and costing will be key. And if you have a way to order this resource without going through a central point of control (e.g. Service Catalog), you can see your costs easily double as the bar to access has been lowered with no subsequent process of tracking in place. Ideally you want a central point to order, and then make sure you fulfillment process is highly automated with a lot of logic built in, for example, any qualified engineer in development can get a Dev system provisioned quickly. You can still alert the manager and the total should go into the overall list, the second one might require a manager to OK to ensure people are not ordering multiples and forgetting that they already have “stock” checked out.
Editor: What happens if IT organizations don’t change?
Harsch: The department can fall behind, lose relevance and be a prime candidate for partial or even complete removal. This can then start the domino affect. Look at what happened to both the steel and auto industries that failed to keep pace with trends, technology and automation. Their fixed costs remained very high, higher than the competition, they required then massive amounts of capital to modernize and that takes a long time. We have already been seeing this over the last several years with the advent of do it your self cloud, SaaS applications, etc. There are a lot off tools and solutions that you do not need to go through IT to source. IT needs to become a better partner to the business, to become a true service broker and enabler of the business, not an impediment. We can still put discipline, process and controls in place, things we really like to do, however, we must adapt and be focused on the needs of the business, their ways of operating, their sense of timing, etc.
IT should also look at itself and figure out a way to obsolete itself. Find places that they can remove the waste, introduce automation and then take the people and the savings, and plow those into new ideas and innovation.
Editor: What do you believe is the biggest stumbling block most CIOs make when reengineering their organizations – and how should he/she avoid this?
Harsch: Trying to do it all themselves. Previously I mentioned you need you core SWAT team, those people who know the business, the culture, the people. You need them involved and vested to make the change. However, you also need someone from the outside to assist in pointing out the things you should do, to bring you the best practices from other companies and their vast learnings. Together you have someone who will not be afraid to tell you the truth and if you core team is on board, they have the means to execute. And as I mentioned, get out of the manufacturing part if you can, find partners you can become extensions of your team instead of trying to grow your team to do everything. Stick to your core business, build expertise in areas that support your core and then bring in the specialists for those areas not essential to your core.
There are a lot of great examples out there of companies who have executed on this and yes, sometimes you find those that do not fit this example, like an Amazon. They actually found that building a data center and cloud based infrastructure was a core part of their business and then as we all know, launched THAT as a new line of business. However, I would argue for the most part, most orgs would not achieve this, however it is a nice strategic question to be posting to the team each quarter. How can we further leverage our skills and expertise? What business could we get out of by turning it over to a partner? What core skills do we have, what do we need?
Editor: Is there anything we didn’t talk about?
Harsch: Get out of the data center. If you don’t have a marketing person on board, you are just being a science lab. But in reality you are a business, you are getting funding from your “VC” (e.g. the board) and you are expected to deliver core services as well as new ones. So if you are not talking to your customers, understanding their requirements and then marketing the new services, you risk having low adoption rates and engagement, low customer sat (question; how many IT architects understand customer satisfaction??).
Key question would be; who drives your roadmap? You the IT org or your customers???