What is IT Transformation, Really?


At one point or another, all information technology watchers get a little sick of buzzwords. Maybe not just a little--after all, there are way too many to go around, so maybe the sickness is more like a disease.

I spoke last week about the issue with Dan Roberts, president of Ouelette & Associates, a Bedford, NH-based consulting firm focusing on IT transformation and change management. He and his colleagues authored Leading IT Transformation: The Roadmap for Success, released by Kendall Hunt Professional in September.

Check out the title again, and you'll see one gigantic IT buzzword. Ask 10 CIOs or IT executives what "transformation" really means, and you're bound to get 10 different answers. Does transforming your corporate IT operation mean morphing from a utility/cost center to a value creator? Reshaping your architecture or application mix? Or, perhaps, moving from a centralized model to a decentralized one, or vice versa?

I've heard IT leaders say "yes" to all of the above, all while using the same term--"transformation"--to describe the change.

Part of the problem there, Roberts says, is IT's inability to clearly communicate their goals and vision. "Even when they have a good transformation plan, the communication of that is done so poorly that we don't get people on board or get people driving it across all levels," he says.

Roberts looks at IT transformation as a shift from being reactive, order-taker cultures to driving business growth and improvement. A key part of that, he says, is positioning your IT shop as the "internal consultant of choice," versus whatever consulting/advisory services are out there in the marketplace.

But it's easier said than done. On top of the communication issue, there's another problem that Roberts, among others, have emphasized to me lately: "CIOs and IT leaders easily revert to their technical comfort zone," Roberts says. "You have to think about it as looking from the outside in. People in IT work their tails off trying to hit the bulls-eye on customer value, business value, and being more strategic. They're hitting the bulls-eye every time, but it's their bulls-eye, not their clients' bulls-eye."

Roberts and his crew have put together a nice roadmap for actually figuring out what type of transformation will work for your IT shop and, more importantly, how to make it happen. It's worth checking out.

So tell us, IT execs: what's your take on IT transformation? Do you feel you have a problem explaining your strategy for change? Or do business executives simply turn a deaf ear? We'd like to hear your thoughts.