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A few years ago, we published a book called Jar(gone) to translate overused and often meaningless buzzwords used by consultants. Our purpose was to present tongue-in-cheek explanations of what the buzzwords really mean and, more importantly, what they don’t. Spoiler alert—buzzwords are the bane of consultants’ existence and are typically created as an excuse to try and squeeze more money out of clients. One chapter we never published in our book was on IT transformation.

The term “IT transformation” sounds good, but if you ask ten IT executives what IT transformation means, you’ll get ten different answers. If you ask business executives what it means, you’ll receive the same answer: money for expensive IT stuff that doesn’t help me run the business. Well, maybe not exactly those words, but something very close.

Given the scenario and conflicting expectations, how does a company actually transform IT? Is it converting an IT department from a centralized to a de-centralized model? Is it changing the IT business model so it becomes a value creator? (Sorry, threw another buzzword in there.) Is it creating an IT model that drives business growth and improvement?

We suggest it’s something a bit simpler. Transforming IT involves making changes to IT processes, organizational structures, and tools to ensure predictable, reliable, secure, and cost-effective services. Do that, and the business can operate efficiently and grow as planned. And the CIO gets to sleep at night, enjoy life, be better aligned with the business, and keep their job.

4 Elements of IT Transformation

1. Predictability

What it means: behaving in a way that is consistent and expected

Providing predictable IT services is typically the result of good processes around interactions with internal and external customers. One of the first and most obvious steps is developing clear communications and adhering to response time service level agreements (SLA’s). Customers need to be confident that IT will respond in a consistent and expected manner to service requests. Hint—it’s easy to create SLA’s with a lot of padding so IT can be predicably slow. Instead, Make the SLA’s aggressive. Customers are impatient and shouldn’t be kept waiting for solutions.

A second and equally important step is to schedule system maintenance on a regular basis. Many IT shops will patch systems as vulnerabilities are identified, often causing system reboots when business least expects it. Instead, cluster this type of maintenance monthly or bi-monthly on the same weekend. This way, business knows when systems may not be available to support day-to-day operations and can plan accordingly.

Finally, there’s no getting around emergency maintenance that can take systems offline. In this case, clearly communicate to the business why the system needs to be taken down, when it will be taken down, and when the system will be available again. Don’t take the system down without notifying the business.

2. Reliability

What it means: dependability

Is there a difference between predicability and reliability? Yes and no. The bottom line is that IT can provide predictably bad service and customers can rely on systems to be down more than up (a scenario that most IT departments want to avoid). However, providing an environment that customers can depend on isn’t that difficult.

Reliable IT starts with having a clear picture of the IT environment supporting the business. Many businesses can have thousands of computing platforms running a larger number of applications. Creating a strong Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which contains a comprehensive inventory of systems and applications, enables IT to know what’s owned and what needs to be maintained. Surprises are minimized and IT can properly keep critical systems running.

End users want to know they will have access to their tools when needed. Implementing a robust monitoring system helps IT spot and address issues before customers are affected. Extra storage, CPU capacity, or memory can be allocated long before system performance degrades and end users’ ability to use the tools are affected.

3. Security

What it means: trustworthiness

Much can be written about the importance of securing IT environments from nefarious parties. IT and business need a two-pronged approach to providing a secure IT environment. The first prong is technical. Turning on dual authentication, providing strong firewalls, implementing zero trust authentication, identifying and patching security vulnerabilities, monitoring external emails, hardening customer-facing websites… the list goes on. These are table stake IT actions that all shops should consider.

The harder component of IT security lies in the hands of the business. It’s crucial to train end users to use the “software between their ears” and not click links from unknown sources, visit websites that could infect the environment, or click on infected cat videos. It requires partnership with the business to hold their team members accountable when violating these rules. Setting up a governance model so business takes ownership of this risk is key to solving this problem.

4. Cost-effectiveness

What it means: producing good results without spending a lot of money

Most business executives feel that funding IT is no different that the government funding black budgets. You spend a lot of money and trust that it’s used wisely to benefit the company, but you don’t know a thing about how it’s spent.

This can be easily solved by establishing a governance model where business stays involved in determining how IT spends money and supports the company. Not only is this a best practice, but it’s also compliant with COBIT 2019. Big hint here: when hosting the governance meetings, IT should not drag business through a discussion of how drivers are being updated on windows laptops to ensure Bluetooth devices can more easily connect. Keep the discussions at a strategic level. Use the business to help prioritize initiatives and address issues and roadblocks.

Trenegy has been helping companies transform IT into high performing organizations for the past 12 years. Contact us to learn more about how business and IT can work together to make sure IT is predictable, reliable, secure, and cost-effective. Our team is made up of some of the best consultants you’ll find.

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