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Culture Shift and the Future of IT

Innovation Executive Forum | Posted on March 29, 2019 by Karen Bader

When we talk about Digital Transformation, three key topics always come to the fore: optimizing IT investments, enabling end users, and IT agility. On a granular level, these three factors form an axis of issues companies must deal with when making the digital leap.

At our recent roundtable dinner in Boston, we sat down with a group of seasoned IT professionals to talk about what sorts of changes are needed to ensure companies succeed in an increasingly digital world. Whether you’re selling lettuce or server space, the big picture issues are largely similar.

Over dinner, we discussed what people are seeing at the ground level. Here’s what we learned.

1. We Need to Recognize Shifting Culture

Culture is behind every decision made to drive the business forward. When we talk about enabling end users, what we’re really talking about is shifting the culture to allow all employees to have a hand in day-to-day IT functions, where possible.

Cultural change is no longer optional

The days when business decisions were made by the suits upstairs are over. Across the board, forward-thinking organizations are discovering that in order to maintain competitiveness and keep projections headed in the right direction, change needs to happen across the whole organization.

Clients are evolving. The world is evolving. Everything is evolving.

As customers in every vertical begin to expect more from the companies and brands they do business with, companies must take every opportunity to keep up. At issue is the fact that many established companies are still struggling with how to modernize legacy systems.

“Right now we’re transitioning from folks who’ve been there for 40 years,” he explained. “So how do we carry that culture, something that has made us a very successful organization, and hand that off to a different generation with a different philosophy of technology? There’s a gap we need to bridge.”

The answer to the question, like everything else, will continue to evolve.

Big data needs a big data strategy

With digital transformation well-underway, another attendee explained that the amount of unstructured data being collected is simply incredible, and growing exponentially.

“The explosion of data is incredible,” he said. “The amount of data that’s grown in the last 3 years is so off the charts we’re going to be at zettabytes soon. The legal and security implications are enormous.”

Clearly, in order to rationalize those zettabytes, culture needs to change. It’s no longer good enough to say, “we’ll keep everything forever!” Rather, a solid data strategy needs to be drawn out, implemented and supported across the entire organization.

2. Digital Transformation Means the Sky’s the Limit

From AI to hybrid cloud environments, digital transformation is changing how and when things get done, and how successful a company can be in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace. Here are a few notable topics presented by our roundtable participants:

AI can transform the way we deliver services

The rise of AI is creating new opportunities for delivering content. An attendee explained that his company is now using Azure to collect data on how their customers are using the software. AI is helping them adapt to customer progress and finding ways to accelerate learning.

Cloud Architects can change the way we see ourselves

An attendee explained how they’d recently hired a Cloud Architect and made it their mandate to evangelize digital transformation to corral engineers in the right direction. As he pointed out, however, this didn’t happen overnight.

“We never had a chief cloud architect in our company. We hired one, and it raised a lot of questions. Who is this cloud architect? Why are they telling me what to do? It required a lot of executive acting.”

3.The Rise of the 24/7 Workplace

Our conversation also covered the challenges of delivering services and optimizing IT investments in an always-on workplace. With employees connected around the clock from anywhere, IT management has decentralized. Here’s what people are doing.

Flexibility is the name of the game

According to an attendee, as more millennials enter the workforce, we’re seeing a new generation of workers expecting full IT functionality on-the-go. The key is giving them the tools they need, and rethinking how tasks are accomplished. An attendee noted:

“It’s easier said than done, but companies that are making it work, and giving employees the collaboration tools they need to stay flexible, are coming out ahead.

Setting core IT hours

On the flip side of flexibility, one attendee noted that their company found success in setting fixed hours for day-to-day IT services. IT staff could then plan their day around these set hours, with non-IT employees coming to understand that the role of IT isn’t to hand-hold, but rather to deliver outcomes.

Failure is an option…sometimes

According to some attendees, when it comes to managing teams that are spread out across geography and time zones, companies need to be able to take risks with new collaboration tools. Whether it’s Slack, HipChat or Teams, organizations may need to take different solutions out for a test run, and see what works.

Final Thoughts

Before our evening ended, our attendees also had a robust discussion around a few solutions to many of the issues raised. Some of the highlights included:

  • Investing in employee education
    Scheduling 90-minute education blocks each week to go over an agreed upon education plan. One guest at the table took this a step further by providing $10k toward a learning plan for each employee.
  • Using common tools like LinkedIn as an educational resource
    One attendee mentioned that LinkedIn was effective at offering education on the non-technical aspects of IT – leadership, negotiation, how to build a business case, etc.
  • Ensuring business people and IT are speaking the same language
    While this is often easier said than done, creating specialized communication dashboards can help unite IT and business units to ensure everyone is on the same page.

In Summation

  • The cultural shift is no longer an option for companies who want to stay relevant
  • Digital transformation is changing everything – from IT to HR
  • 24/7 workplace is driving innovation across the board

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