As a 30-year veteran of the IT industry, having led two companies to successful exits, it shocks me to see the level of failure within organisations who promote themselves as “Leaders”. In this article, I will be discussing some of the key failures within the business and technology transformation sector.
Culture and mindset
Culture is often an afterthought, something that executives class as a “workstream”. Culture should be the basis of any organisational change or indeed at the grassroots of any organisation. Attitude, motivation, loyalty and success, to name just a few traits, all stem from an organisation’s culture. Take Nokia in the early 2000s; the leadership culture was a lack of respect for their competitors, slow innovation and the sheer arrogant belief that they couldn’t fail; today they’re barely to be seen in markets they once dominated.
More recently, take Arcadia; although a victim of COVID, technology, specifically e-commerce was never at the forefront of the leadership team’s agenda. It has been widely quoted that the group head was known as “Analogue Man”, not a title to revel in this digital age. Like Blockbuster, they will be consigned to the digital recycle bin with the remnants of the organisation being consumed by tech-savvy competitors who will integrate them into their existing “build once, deploy many” e-commerce platforms.
During 30 years in the IT sector and increasingly so today, I have had discussions with board members and executive sponsors across global organisations embarking on change and transformation programmes who tell me “we can do this but it has to fit into this model”, “we will still need to lock budget, scope and launch date” to start the programme.
The number one rule of organisational change, be it technology, business or finance, is to start with your culture. If you are used to weekly management reporting on project delivery, don’t agree to a two-week sprint cycle, don’t move to Agile if you still demand an end to end Microsoft Project plan, locked scope, fixed budget or fixed launch date.
Be willing to embrace change, sponsor change, be part of the solution and most of all be willing to feel uncomfortable. If you don’t feel uncomfortable, you’re not challenging the status quo and by that, I mean you’re not changing enough or perhaps you’re lucky enough not to need to change that much, but I would bet my car that’s not the case.
Progress and Visibility
Senior leadership team meeting, transformation board, programme board, portfolio review, delivery meeting; sound familiar?
In my experience, and at this point I’m going to say I have a bucketload; most of these meetings are nebulous.
If you’re lucky, you’re merely wasting the time of key people, whose time could be better spent elsewhere, to attend and present using the tools they use on a day to day basis to manage team workload and productivity. ; At worst, you’ve just asked your Scrum Master, Product Owner or other Agile practitioners to take information from the same tool and put it into a presentation format, because that’s what management is used to!
So, what should you do? First of all, throw out the rule book, forget the weekly update meetings (whatever they’re called) and align with the team rhythm. Remember that your team, be it technology, sales or product, are delivering customer value; not the executive weekly review. Utilise tools to deliver the updates that you need at the frequency you need them; if the frequency or timing of your meeting doesn’t align with customer-facing teams, then this should be number one priority to sort out.
Data, Management information and KPIs
The saying used to be “Cash is King!” Today the currency is data, it drives management information (MI) and key performance indicators (KPIs). Used effectively data can unlock your business potential and empower you to target your investment to drive critical business growth and immense financial reward.
Let’s look at how this can be done, with a few simple questions (these aren’t exhaustive by any means):
- Do you know with a reasonable level of surety about how much a feature costs you to develop prior to it being allocated to a sprint backlog?
- Do you have a revenue forecast, be it “incremental” or “revenue protection” against a feature?
- Can you report on capex vs revex spend against your development/delivery?
- Do you know the capacity and throughput of your team so you can manage your resources accordingly?
- Can you report on research and development investment to ensure you get the right tax offset?
- Can you predict the delivery date of a feature based on the above?
- Can you access this information on demand?
- Does everyone see the need for this information as an enabler rather than a whipping stick?
- Is all of this MI and data accessible across the business?
- Is this the way management keep up to date on progress?
If the answer to any of these questions IS NOT YES, then you’re not set up for success. However, the cost of putting this in place will, in my experience, payback tenfold within one year in 90% of cases.
There are countless tools in the market that can enable you to have access to this data, some are cloud-based subscriptions such as the Atlassian suite, some are Opensource and can be deployed in your own data centre or cloud infrastructure.
If you choose a tool such as Jira to manage your tech team backlog, it isn’t necessary to pay for all the reporting add-ons. With some Opensource customisations such as Kibana, you can access infinitely configurable and dynamic MI. I’m more than happy to give some advice on this is you reach out.
Cultural change; don’t make it a workstream within your programme, live it, breath it, embrace it and the discomfort that comes with it; if you don’t feel uncomfortable you’re not changing enough.
Progress and visibility; change the way you stay up to date with delivery across your business. Management should utilise the mechanisms and tools that teams delivering customer value already have in place
Data is king; it should enable every decision you make and can with the right tooling, the ROI on investing in data and MI will significantly outstrip the cost.
What to learn more? Contact our Transformation Team.