Surviving and Thriving in an Era of Continuous Transformation

In a recent roundtable moderated by Peter Stojanovic, editor of HotTopics.HT, a group of panelists explored the challenges that companies encounter when faced with not one but multiple, ongoing transformations.

Among the panelists were LeanIX CEO André Christ; Dax Grant, CIO Global Operations, HSBC; Denise Day, CIO, Dunnhumy; Freddie Quek, CTO, Higher Times Education; Juan Villamil, CIO, Imperial College London; and Kshitij Kumar, CDO, Farfetch UK LTD.

The group zeroed in on three key themes during the conversation:

  1. The importance of culture
  2. The need for simplicity and data-driven insight into the current state
  3. The importance of walking the line between stability and agility when transforming

The Importance of Culture

The consensus among participants was crystal clear when it comes to transformation: “Culture first, then processes and technology.”

Everyone agreed on the importance of thinking about culture before processes or technologies are even considered. Transformation, after all, is not possible without the understanding, support, and commitment of the people in the organization who need to make it a reality.

So, what can data and technology leaders do to ensure that the company culture embraces change? Emphasize soft leadership skills. Use storytelling to educate stakeholders about the options being considered and the choices being made. Practice active listening and two-way engagement to drive collaboration. Redirect conversations to focus not just on outcomes, but also on values, the keystone of any culture.

It’s also critical to establish a common language with common goals so teams don’t waste time battling over processes. Business capabilities, which serve as a non-technical way to discuss organizational change, can provide that language. When we view our IT landscape through a business capabilities lens, we can quickly rationalize our application portfolio, accelerate growth, and enable strategic IT investments in a way that makes sense to both IT and the business.

Organizations that have and embrace a culture of innovation and dynamic change are more successful when it comes to transformation and attracting people who want to be a part of it. Once people are on board, then the focus can turn to driving real change.

The Need for Simplicity and Data-Driven Insight into the Current State

Change always involves understanding where you are today, where you are going, and what’s the best way to get there. To improve decision making all along the way, you need complete visibility into the current state, even as it evolves.

It’s important to make this visibility simple for all team members – whether seasoned or new. An easily accessible bird’s-eye view of the complete environment has three benefits. It makes understanding the company’s current state possible; it allows people to identify any challenges that may block progress towards the transformation goal; and it supports any decisions to be made along the way.

These decisions, however, will only be as good as the data at hand. In order to be analyzed appropriately, this data needs to be accurate and current. Without accurate data, there really is no meaningful visibility on which to base decisions.

For example, you might ask, “Do we have a complete view of all our legacy solutions?” If they aren’t identified and analyzed in terms of their relationships to other systems, you can’t understand what should be taken along during the transformation, what needs to be modified, and what can be left behind.

As our companies grow, so does the complexity, cost, and vulnerability of the tech stack. The key to taming this complexity lies in identifying opportunities to eliminate, consolidate, and replace applications in the portfolio. We call this process application rationalization.

By looking at the overall IT footprint and setting the right path from the start, it’s possible to simplify the complexities that slow transformation down. The right tools, on the other hand, can speed up the process, save money, and reduce risk.

An Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) solution, for example, provides the transparency and insight needed to tame complexities associated with transformation. EAM provides a real-time overview of your IT landscape and the business capabilities it’s meant to support, accelerating business transformation, and optimizing IT investments.

Balancing Stability and Agility During Transformation

Companies that thrive are agile. To remain competitive, you need to constantly reinvent yourself and adapt to change. Juan Villamil stated during the roundtable that: “Thriving is to be able to embrace change as an opportunity for the future.” This really resonates because transformation never stops, it’s always continuous.

Companies that thrive are also methodical. They think everything through before it happens, using data to prepare and lead the culture in the right way. For example, a fundamental element of business resilience is understanding downstream dependencies and their impacts. When something disrupts our business, how can we get back to normal? By adhering to standards and fostering a culture where it’s the norm to deal with issues in a data-driven way. When orange flags appear, don’t ignore them. Do something about them before they turn red.

Transformation often provokes a survive or thrive mentality. Do we simply react? Or do we try to be proactive? But it’s not about either surviving or thriving. A dynamic, data-led company can do both if it cultivates a culture of continuous transformation, embraces processes that reduce complexity, and uses the right technologies to ensure that decisions are data-informed and future-focused.