You have been hired as the new “Chief Architect and Strategist” or “Chief Information Officer” for an organisation that is struggling to deliver services to their customers. Customers are not satisfied, the company is losing money, staff are demoralised and looking for new jobs; things do not work – how are you going to transform the IT Division? How do you make sure that your plans and actions will actually fix the problems your customers are complaining about?
This is a six part series describing Information Technology Transformation within a struggling company:
- IT Transformation – Part 1 – The 90-Day Plan
- IT Transformation – Part 2 – The “A-Team”
- IT Transformation – Part 3 – The Baseline
- IT Transformation – Part 4 – The Target Architecture
- IT Transformation – Part 5 – The Five Year Strategy
- IT Transformation – Part 6 – Communication
The first thing to remember is that Information Technology has three fundamental components: People, Process and Technology. You will have problems in each area that you need to recognise and isolate before you can provide corrective reactive or proactive action.
Information Technology Transformation is not easy, it is complicated and needs to approached in the correct way. You have to break everything into bite-sized pieces that can be diagnosed and corrected in the most efficient manner – otherwise you will “spin your wheels” trying to “punch above your weight”.
This series of posts provides a repeatable methodology that you can use get Information Technology (People, Process & Technology) under control and back on track. The major steps of this methodology are:
- The 90-Day Plan – meet and greet, collect information, fire-fight reactive issues and start planning your corrective strategy
- The “A-Team” – recruit the experts you need to implement the strategy and put the framework in place to control the people, processes and technology.
- The Baseline – document what you currently have in a series of blueprints and posters.
- The Target Architecture – develop and document where you want to be.
- The 5 Year Strategy – create the tracks and projects you will need to execute over the next 5 years to transform the Baseline to the Target Architecture
- The Broadcast (TX and RX) – start spreading the word (TX – Transmit) about the 5 year strategy and once transformation begins make sure you listen to your customers and colleagues (RX – Receive) to make sure it is working.
The 90-Day Plan
It is very important to start work with an initial plan in place and to avoid looking like a “stunned mullet” which will not inspire confidence. You want to walk in, take control and start providing value immediately. Senior Management approves of the “man with a plan”.
During the first three months (or more), you will have two concurrent roles: reactive fire-fighting (fix and patch the current issues) and proactive planning (developing the 5 year strategy).
Here are some of the things that have worked for me over the past 10 years:
- Meet your colleagues, management team and decision makers. Be polite and courteous, arrange to meet them ASAP, you will need their support to be successful. Depending upon the size of the organisation, it may take 3-4 months to meet everyone. I find that two 1 hour meetings a day work best (morning & afternoon).
- Begin the process of bringing the new architecture team on board (covered in Part 2).
- Understand what the pain-points are with the current solutions and infrastructure. Develop a micro-strategy for fixing these reactive issues which will allow the business to continue running without downtime. You will need this breathing room to implement your 5 year strategy.
- Understand the current infrastructure strategy of the IT Division. Collect these through interviews, conversations and surveys. It is very important to be respectful of the work previously done, otherwise you will alienate your colleagues.
- Make sure this strategy aligns with the customer requirements, this will feed into your 5 year strategy (covered in Part 5).
- Understand the current and planned projects that the IT Division has. These must also be aligned with the 5 year strategy you will develop (covered in Part 5).
- Create a baseline of what the IT Division has from an application and infrastructure perspective (covered in Part 3). Collect these through interviews, conversations and surveys.
- Create the target architecture and ensure it aligns with the goals of the business (covered in Part 4). If an architecture already exists, it must be validated and updated where necessary.
- Start the creating the 5 year strategy with which tracks and projects will be necessary to implement the target architecture (covered in Part 5).
- Once the target architecture and strategy is agreed and approved, start knowledge sharing with the rest of the organisation so that everyone is on the same page (covered in Part 6).
- Develop the business cases for each priority 1 track to justify the business benefits and budget (CAPEX/OPEX) so that you can start the procurement process (covered in Part 5).
Common Reactive Operational Problems
Here are some of the common issues I have experienced during my first 90 days in a new company:
- Production Databases are bloated with data that should be archived – offload the unnecessary data to a Data Wharehouse or Archive Database. You want your Production systems to store the required operational data only (typically 1 – 12 months, depending on the system). Production systems need to be “lean and mean”.
- Mission Critical and Business Critical systems have design and configuration flaws that need to be rectified – use SMEs from the relevant vendors to fix these issues.
- Infrastructure is incorrectly sized and has never been corrected because the people operating it do not understand infrastructure – provide corrective action to resize the infrastructure accordingly.
- Resetting a system to fix issues is part of the operational process – obviously the root cause needs to be identified and corrected and operational procedures should never have system resets as a “fix”.
- Backups are running during business hours – make sure the Backup Administrators have backup windows that are during non-business hours and that all backup jobs are completed during this period.
- New Company, New Job: Empty Your Cup
- Rise of the Super Architect
- Evolution of the Super Administrator
- Enterprise Architecture – Do you have one?
- Promoting Cloud Automation within your Organisation
- Data Center Facility Strategy
- Evolution of Storage – What is your strategy?
- vBrownbag TechTalk at VMworld 2014 US – “Application Transformations”