Driving the culture shift towards the successful IT department of 2020

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken a lot about what the successful IT department of five years from now will look like and the core skills CIOs will need to to manage that IT department. Getting to that vision will require well planned leadership because it requires a culture shift within the IT department as much as a change in technology.

The biggest challenge is that IT needs to become a trusted advisor and service provider to every line of business. The days of IT as the arbiter and authority over all technology in an organization are fading fast. The ability for executives, line of business managers, ad-hoc teams, and individuals to source their own technology solutions and support themselves is becoming the norm. IT’s value proposition going forward is going to be working with all these stakeholders to build a consistent strategy that meets individual and organization-wide needs.

A top-down approach is required

Without a doubt, the biggest requirement to successfully building the IT department of the future is a consistent and clearly defined vision. This vision needs to be set by the CIO and senior IT leadership. It needs to address the change in relationship between IT and the rest of the organization, the change in technologies, and the adjustment of key skill sets across every IT team. Everyone needs to be on the same page and everyone needs to be on board with the process.

Executive sponsorship is also critical as this shift in IT means redefining the relationship between IT and the rest of the organization. This sponsorship ensures that you have the backing of the overall organization, access to resources needed for transforming business processes, and the buy-in of line of business managers and individual users. It also helps to develop a closer relationship with other key departments like HR that you will need to work with in order to ensure overall success.

Be honest and transparent

In driving a shift in both the structure and culture of the entire IT organization, you are asking your staff to take a leap of faith into a future that may not be entirely clear. You need them to trust in you, your vision, and the future of your organization. The biggest driver of trust is transparency.

Be completely honest that this is a big shift within your organization and within the overall IT profession. Clearly define each step in the transition process and articulate how it impacts each team in the department. Identify the new skill sets and professional development that will be required for each team and individual to be successful going forward. Most importantly, ensure that you can offer guidance, retraining, and resources to help everyone be successful in this new paradigm. At the same time, set clear expectations for everyone at each step in the process and ensure that those expectations are met.

Agility isn’t just for app developers

One of the first associations that IT leaders have with the word agility is app development. This is a natural starting point when thinking about agility. Mobile apps and cloud services have trained consumers to expect solutions that are released quickly and then iterated upon just as quickly to address bugs, feature needs, and overall user experience. Enterprise app development must now meet those expectations.

Agility isn’t just a development method, however. It is a mindset and one that needs to pervade the entire IT department. Agile requires extensive collaboration among different disciplines as well as collaboration with managers and end users. It means creating a flatter org chart with more direct links between teams and far fewer vertical links that encourage just managers and IT executives to be the only links between divisions.

Plan out the puzzle and don’t try to run before you can walk

The journey to the IT deparment of 2020 is just that - a journey. You need to take that journey one step at a time. That means identifying the changes that need to take place, prioritizing them, and starting with small but very visible successes. This is where pilot projects and the development of a mobile center of excellence is key. These offer first steps where you can begin to define what works and what doesn’t. From there, you can iterate into a successful model or template that can be used for larger initiatives.

Although planning and growing in stages is important, it is equally important that you get started with the process. These changes are on their way and you need to begin preparing for them and putting the required processes in motion. 2020 may seem like a long time away, but with the pace of change in today’s world, it will be here before you know it and the overall impact will be vast. It’s time to get started.

Ryan Faas