FLUENT: Perspectives from Softcat

INTRODUCING... THE ALL NEW 'SOFTCAT BOX III'SIGNATURE EDITION

DELIVERING EFFECTIVE, STRATEGIC IT AND BUSINESS CHANGE

We’re proud to announce the launch of The Box, Mark 3: from on-premises to the cloud, applications, services, data, and more – all of your current IT needs solved with one simple solution, in just a single plug and play box. Not really.

As much as we would like there to be a single, total solution to all IT needs, delivered in one fell swoop, it isn’t really a thing. As is often the case, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And I’m not even sure the keenest, hungriest and most bombastic of Softcat’s Account Managers would try and sell that one! In reality, real change from an IT landscape viewpoint takes time, effort, experience and, most importantly, a desire for change.

SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE?


I’ve worked with, and for, different types of organisations for nearly two decades across a variety of strategic engagements – creating, refining and delivering IT transformation or digital strategies. What I have learnt in this time (besides how not to do certain things) is that organisations successfully deliver on strategic goals on purpose. This seems like an obvious statement to make, but it is important, because it takes both deliberate action and a desire to change to deliver anything, particularly a strategic outcome. It doesn’t happen by accident or serendipity. It certainly doesn’t happen by simply plugging in a brand new, ‘does it all’ box! Just like the well-crafted presentations, complex Visio diagrams or even workshops don’t themselves deliver change – it’s about what people do as a result of them that is important. In the end, people enact change – incremental, measured and constantly validated change.

STAYING THE COURSE


People also need a course to follow in order to deliver, otherwise strategic workshops and meetings end up as grand standing sessions in which all the talk is about where you’d like to be rather than what you need to do to get there. In fact, as opposed to being used to stay on course by managing scope creep and remediation, they can often end in straight shouting matches.

So governing change is key. Measuring what you do against business goals and operational objectives; as well as the perceptions and needs of your customers, users and staff, is what makes things strategic rather than just random technology solutions that were deemed a good idea. Deploying Alexa or Siri integrated flush mechanisms to the toilets that work when someone shouts “flush” might seem like a good idea, but if no-one wants it, it probably isn’t.

Ideally you employ the use of frameworks, methodologies or processes to ensure that the effort, ideas and any actual ‘doing’ is focussed. But before you unleash the ITIL Red Badge Monks, Agile Scrum Masters and TOGAF architects (although I’m pretty sure ITIL Monks aren’t real), ensure that whatever framework or methodology you use is appropriate for the task. Be cautions of running ahead with the latest fad or buzzword methodology, because a single approach may not meet your governance, management or even IT needs.

There is no silver bullet, no single answer. Context, specificity and a tailored approach to your business and its needs is key. You are the arbiter of what good looks like for your own business, users and customers. You understand how your organisation can succeed, so apply your context and unique position, and adapt the processes, methodologies and dogma that exists to achieve it. And as a ITIL Red Badge Monk (if they were to exist) might say, “balance is also key.” They won’t be able to do their job if all of the process and oversight put in place cripples the ability to actually deliver.

THE HUMAN FACTOR


A particular barrier that often exists is one of human behaviour, or more specifically a fear of change. Culturally, organisations often don’t react well to change, and people just don’t like it very much, so in IT teams, as well as across the rest of the business, the inertia caused by a fear of change can stymie progress. Through effective, direct and honest communication strategies and engagement at all levels, you can push through that inertia. People do have the capacity to accept change, and change within change, if you consistently communicate with them about it. Conversations need to be more “why shouldn’t we?”, rather than “we can’t because…”. Discuss the opportunity to do things in better ways with stakeholders and avoid pointing out what is wrong, but rather focus on what could be better. I cannot stress how important engagement is at all levels of a business when considering strategic plans for change in any form. In real terms, that engagement can ultimately determine how successful your transformation lands and is adopted.

TWO DECADES, THREE POINTS

In summary, from all of the experiences I have had, some other key take-aways are as follows:

01.

Drive change from the operational needs of the business, which can be formed as functional outcomes. Focussing on what you want to achieve by using technology can make this a lot easier to describe to the business and, importantly, measure.

02.

Communicate the opportunity to the business, the users and your customers. Understanding the opportunity space for improvements, rather than the direct personal impact, is a positive narrative which will encourage better engagement and reduce that fear of change.

03.

Define a plan and deploy a structure and a process that is tailored to how the business needs to operate. Utilise the methodologies and frameworks that exist and fit them to your business, not the other way around.

Follow these principles, make sure you drive things forward, and you have a greater chance of success. In short, this is all about people plus process plus technology.

A U T H O R

James Seaman Public Sector Chief Technologist for Softcat


James Seaman is a Public Sector Chief Technologist for Softcat. James is aligned to an exclusive set of our customers to work as a part of the IT Team assisting with strategy and larger scale outcome-driven projects.


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