IT transformation - it's about destroying fiefdoms

Summary:Larry Dignan thinks the key to IT transformation success is having the CEOs attention:These big technology architecture overhauls require CEO participation and folks like Cisco CEO John Chambers are on board. The CEO also can’t blink when your SOA/consolidation/automation project doesn’t go well.

Larry Dignan thinks the key to IT transformation success is having the CEOs attention:

These big technology architecture overhauls require CEO participation and folks like Cisco CEO John Chambers are on board. The CEO also can’t blink when your SOA/consolidation/automation project doesn’t go well. That’s what makes HP’s overhaul a bit different. Hurd won’t blink–he’s obsessed with efficiency. What happens when another non-technology CEO blinks? The project stalls. Even worse the IT overhaul disappears and all those old apps keep chugging along. There’s a reason your company has thousands of old applications–somebody choked.

I'd like to think Larry is right but it's not quite that simple. As Mike Krigsman often says, the key to project success comes from attending to the numerous management issues. But CEO's have many calls on their time so their ability to supervise must necessarily be limited. That's why they need the support of a crack team.

Transformation is almost always about how power will be redistributed. That's a middle management issue where resistance to change is often at its strongest. In short, it's about resistance to the breaking down of fiefdoms.

History provides excellent perspective. In ancient Chinese history:

Before the conquest of the other kingdoms by Qin and the creation of the Chinese Empire, what is now China consisted of a multitude of principalities wracked by chronic warfare. Not only did the seven kingdom go to war with each other, there were feudal subdivisions within the kingdoms which fought with each other and with the rulers of their kingdom.

If you're engaged in an IT transformation project you might relate to that comparison. The creation of the Chinese Empire required the destruction of the feudal lords. It worked. In today's parlance, we'd probably call it 'creative destruction' and yes it requires an iron will. But it also requires loyal lieutenants. In ancient China, the first emperor Qin Shi Huang relied on one man - Li Si, a lawyer. Today, that one person is likely to be the CFO.

As an aside, I'm sure Vinnie Mirchandani will be pleased to hear HP indicate that success in its transformation project can be sold as knowledge to its customers. With the caveat that in turn, it will lead to savings.

Topics: CXO

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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