To get where you are going...you have to know where you are! Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it. To arrive at any destination, you have to leave where you are and move toward that destination. At the very least, you have to know where your starting point is in relation to your ending point.
Our journey started with my interview for the position of CIO. As a candidate for the role, one of the steps in the interview process was a meeting with the entire team. WOW! Talk about intimidating...walking into a room of 15 people, all of whom had your resume in front of them and you know nothing about them them. I kicked things off by introducing myself and then having them introduce themselves. I then asked for questions. Two questions in particular stood out.
“I see from your resume that you have worked for XYZ Company. I know they use Oracle. Are you going to replace our Microsoft stuff with Oracle?”
Interesting question for an interview. My answer? I couldn’t possibly make any recommendation or decision of that magnitude with the information I have today. I would spend the first several weeks and months learning, listening, asking questions. If any change in technology seemed appropriate, it would be because WE decided it made sense.
“I see from your resume that you have done a lot of outsourcing. Are you going to outsource us?”
Another interesting question. My answer? Similar to the first. I couldn’t possibly make any recommendation or decision…
This time however, I went deeper into the answer. I explained each of the outsourcing projects that I had been involved with in prior roles. I explained the business reasons for each, the benefits achieved, and the issues we experienced. Every business is different, every company is different. I would never sit before you and say “never”, but I will say, we will come to those conclusions (whatever those conclusions are) together.
I got the job! A few weeks later, as an initial step in the creation of an Information Technology Strategic Plan, an assessment and evaluation of Goodwill’s current application architecture, infrastructure, staffing levels and skills was performed.
The project was conducted over an eight week period. During this time we reviewed system documentation, attended various staff and project meetings, interviewed key IT resources, participated in issue resolution and analyzed application configurations.
The purpose was to review the company’s Information Technology assets and deliver an executive-level report; detailing and summarizing our evaluation of risk associated with the current IT environment, platforms, and required level of support.
The approach during the assessment focused on the following key characteristics:
1. Scalability – how would the current environment handle double the volume or more
2. Maintainability – how much duplicate effort is spent supporting the current environment
3. Reliability – how well does the current environment perform
4. Supportability – what organizational skills or investments in end-user training/tools are needed
5. Controllability – how secure is the environment
This “Current State Assessment” was based on the principles of Control Objects for Information and related Technology (COBIT), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). It did not, however, represent a full audit under any of these frameworks.
In addition, the current technical architecture “as-is” was reviewed and areas of risk, potential bottlenecks, and deviations from best practices were identified. Those observations and others are detailed in the document. As the risks were identified, the estimated probability of the risk occurring and the impact an occurrence would have on the organization were identified.
During the assessment we used the “Business Model Continuum” from Gartner. This continuum categorizes IT departments into five different business models:
- Silo Model is a department that is very reactive, viewed as a utility, and is treated with uncertainty. These departments have difficulty planning, typically do not adhere to schedules and have very little documentation.
- Process-Based Model is a department that has begun to implement some repeatable processes. This adds some predictability to the services they provide. They are able to be more proactive, even though they are still viewed with skepticism.
- Internal Service Company Model is a department that has matured into an organization that proactively manages its assets, works with the business to enhance the systems thereby providing more value. They have a list of services they provide and act like a company within a company. They are an accepted partner with the business.
- Shared Services Model takes the ISC model a step further and provides additional services to the organization by centralizing some of the operation and maintenance of the applications themselves. Typically this is found in large multinational organization with disparate business products.
- Profit Generator Model is a department that truly becomes part of the product. They are creating new ideas for generating revenue and are imbedded in the process of design of new or enhanced product offerings. Very few companies ever reach this stage.
In understanding these models and using them to transform an IT department, there are two fundamental principles that must be adhered to. First, you can only move along the continuum as far as your business wants you to go. You cannot operate under the profit generator model, if the business doesn’t want you operating in that way.
The second principle is, as you move along the continuum, you cannot skip a model. For example, you cannot move to the Internal Service Provider business model, without first becoming process-based.
At the end of the eight week period, we believed ourselves to be operating under a Silo-based model; while occasionally exhibiting traits of a Process-based Model (some processes where implemented during the assessment because they were too important to defer until after the assessment). Our report included approximately 25 “Action Areas” that would later be turned into projects. These areas ranged from applications requiring an upgrade, filling open positions, to remodeling the IT area and everything in between.
It had been a difficult, yet revealing eight week introspection of the department. However, we now knew where we were! We knew our strengths, we knew our weaknesses. We had identified and prioritized areas of risk and quick wins for improvement. We had identified projects that had the potential to deliver outstanding results for our company.
We were about ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, well, ok, the adventure of a career, at least. There was tons of work to do, dozens of projects to execute, thousands of tasks to complete, so what did we do? We partied of course! We partied like it was 2015 (apologies for the lame reference to Prince). Next up in this series: “Happy New Year 2016!”
The series, “Amplify Your Value” explores our five year plan to move from an ad hoc reactionary IT department to a Value-add revenue generating partner. #AmplifyYourValue
Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.
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