Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Written by Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director, METNA at Riverbed

Overcoming IT Barriers to Digital Transformation

Today, the role of the CIO and IT department is more closely aligned than ever to business operations. This is because, in order to ensure a seamless digital transformation, both CIOs and their IT departments have to be able to ensure that business objectives are at the centre of their strategies. In fact, this is critical if they want to drive innovation, deliver better customer satisfaction levels, increase workforce productivity, and reduce bottom line costs during a new project.

Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director METNA at Riverbed
Elie Dib, Senior Managing Director METNA at Riverbed

There is one element of IT delivery that is however often overlooked within all these considerations. This is ensuring excellence in user experience. It is the most fundamental measure of success, as without measuring this before and after any digital transformation programme, there is no empirical metrics to help validate claims of any clear change in the experience with confidence. And user experience often determines increase of productivity, employee engagement, cost savings and can also result in better customer service being delivered.
There are four common barriers to digital transformation initiatives. Below we explore the steps an enterprise can take to overcome them.

1. Operational In-Efficiency

Business unit leaders and IT professionals, are often summoned to a war-room meetings to explain why an IT-related project or change aimed at improving business productivity or customer service resulted in so much negative feeling toward the initiative. Unfortunately, this is often because all parties are not aligned. More often than not, these situations can easily be avoided by first starting at the vantage point of the end-user experience to see how IT services are being consumed.

Both business unit leaders and IT professionals need to sit down together and map out objectives and KPIs for technology changes. The plan could be tested with a small group of end-users. But ultimately if both parties know what the outcome must be, there is no room for confusion in delivery — and it can help both parties to get back to their respective roles in supporting the business.

2. Sub-Optimal Application Performance

Organisations are using hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications. New applications are constantly being deployed, whether the new version are upgrades or replacements for old legacy applications. This all brings risk. Poor application performance can significantly impact competitiveness, and, in sectors such as healthcare, can directly affect patient care or put sensitive data at risk.

Application upgrades can be a key catalyst for issues that impact productivity. With so much variation in hardware, location, network, and user expectation across the business it becomes an ever bigger and more complex task to thoroughly test every combination of how an application could be consumed by different users. Data centre monitoring solutions are partially helpful in reporting on the availability of centrally hosted applications, backed by reports and dashboards with lots of positive results. However, this information alone is rarely indicative of a positive experience for end-users on the receiving end.

By contrast, effective end-user experience monitoring allows benchmarks to be created over time which clearly show precise historic application performance metrics. Then, upon application upgrade or migration, any positive or negative deviation in performance can be viewed immediately with the analytics to show exactly where the change in response time and experience is occurring.

3. Ineffective  Change Management and User Adoption

Adoption is key to the success of products and services. Within Riverbed’s collective frame of reference, users tend to only embrace change when they feel confident and experience an incremental improvement in their interaction with an application or desktop.

Users need to be brought on the journey of change. Reasoning behind the changes need to be explained, and effective training put in place to make any change in strategy or a transformation as positive as possible. In addition, for future change initiatives, empirical evidence in the form of data from monitoring can prove invaluable. Businesses must be able to measure system performance against end-user productivity over time to ensure there’s no real negative impact, but rather only improvement.

4. Pure Visibility of the End-User Experience

The three previous topics can easily be combined within the one single category of poor visibility of the end-user experience: in other words — the visibility gap. In short, this relates to the lack of insight into how IT services or change initiatives and digital transformations actually impact the experience of users, which ultimately impacts business performance.

The key thing to keep in mind is that any effect on end-user experience can only be measured from the end-user’s perspective of how they are consuming IT services — and with proactive alerting so when there is a deviation in performance, IT is notified directly, and doesn’t rely on the workforce calling their IT team or the CIO to complain.

So what has enables organisations to embrace IT change for the greater good of the business?

Close the Visibility Gap and Overcome Barriers to Change

The bottom line is that no enterprise business can manage or improve until it can measure. Therefore, the recommendation is equally simple. Measure and benchmark your business’ existing user experience and instantly compare any variations when a change is made.

To conclude, whether the business is looking to change a specific IT component or to enable full-scale digital business transformation (in a positive manner) CIOs, IT professionals and their business unit partners need to ensure the experience for their end-users is optimised as part of the project — in effect, treating them like IT consumers.

What’s more, no business can rely on IT end-users as the primary source to the business to problems. To achieve this, the business needs easy access to real empirical user experience data that enables it to easily compare the before and after of changes. So, the first step in this approach, and for your next IT transformation task, is to start with end-user experience to help ensure a successful outcome.


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How to Survive a Management Audit

How would you fare if auditors walked in the door tomorrow morning and started scrutinizing all your processes, policies and procedures? Here are descriptions of several types of audits and four tips for making your management audit less stressful.

This is a test. Which of the following are common occurrences during IT Management Audits?

1. Staff members quit.

2. Staff members break down in tears in front of the consultants.

3. Staff members fly into a screaming rage at the consultants.

4. Staff members lie to the consultants.

5. Staff members refuse to cooperate.

6. All of the above.

If you selected item 6, you get a gold star! There is no reason for any of these behaviors but they occur all too often, especially in organizations in which audits are not routine events. The consultants are there to identify problems and help improve operations. They wouldn’t have been hired if everything was peachy keen, but Information Technology management and staff members rarely see it from this perspective. Identifying the problem is the first step to recovery. All Information Technology organizations should be managed as if an audit is imminent. How would you fare if auditors walked in the door tomorrow morning?

Why are you being audited?

There are many reasons for conducting audits, but following are the four I encounter most often.

Regulatory compliance audits

In market sectors such as Financial, Behavioral Health, Medical, and Pharmaceutical, periodic audits are the norm and the guidelines are clear. In any given year, a Behavioral Health clinic in NY State, for instance may be required to undergo 4 separate audits including Medicaid, HIPAA, OMH (Office of Mental Health), and OASAS (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services). In many of these cases, the auditors show up unannounced or on very short notice.

Compliance audits aren’t technically management audits, but the scores on such audits are certainly a direct reflection of management’s performance. Would your policies, practices, procedures, and documentation measure up to the scrutiny to which a Behavioral Health clinic is subjected?

Performance audits or ‘What’s wrong with our IT operation?’

Often, members of the IT management and staff think they are doing a spectacular job but the customers and executive management disagree vehemently. In the worst cases, end users are preparing their pitchforks and torches in case the audit doesn’t bring about some positive performance outcomes. These audits are tough; the IT staff is defensive and they all assume that the consultants are there to fire them. Sometimes, the hostility reaches levels that make me feel like Patrick Swayze’s character, Dalton in the 1989 movie Road House. I have been accused of cherry-picking information, interrogation, and cross examination and I have been screamed at in front of a large audience. The truth is, I am simply researching a complex problem and I will work diligently to provide answers to the people who are paying me to do so.

During these audits, employees sometimes resign even before the final report is released. This is unfortunate because poor performance is a reflection of management rather than staff. At other times, excellent employees leave because they have had their fill of ineffective management. Frustrations become bitter tears dripping on the conference room table, even from managers.

New management

Sometimes, incoming executives want an X-Ray of organizational performance and requesting an audit is an intelligent professional move. They want a clear distinction between the previous management’s practices and their own and they use the final report to establish a program of organizational change.

IT is too expensive

Occasionally, IT audits are conducted because executive management considers the IT operation too expensive. They want an independent audit and a strategic plan that shows all the viable options.

4 tips for a lower stress audit

If the auditors are coming next week, there probably isn’t much you can do to improve the outcome, but there is plenty you can do to make the process more comfortable for everyone involved.

Answer binary questions with binary answers

When questions requiring a Yes or No answer are met with lengthy explanations, it is a clear indication of a problem. When I ask if you have documentation of your daily security log validation, just say yes or no! If you don’t have the required documentation, no amount of explanation is going the help. Also, I am not really interested that you are going to begin implementing your security program next month. Good for you, but I only care about what your actual practices are at the time I ask.

Don’t lie, embellish, or bury information

I always walk into audits and assessments taking a neutral, objective stance and I appreciate clients who don’t try to pre-program me. I will selectively ask for evidence or documentation for every statement you make and false statements will certainly damage your credibility. When subjects provide evasive or ambiguous answers, my inner Columbo puts on his trench coat. Equivocation and rationalization drive me to keep searching until I get the answer. Just tell the truth.

Instruct your staff to cooperate politely

I recall one compliance audit where a staff member served up every document request with a plate full of anger and hostility. The odd thing about it was that all her ducks were in a row, which is pretty unusual. So, why the anger? Don’t unleash it on the consultants.

I remember several engagements where the IT staff tried to tell me that their IP addressing schemes and Visio diagrams were secret. Huh? As soon as I retrieved my jaw from the floor, I went over their heads and arranged for delivery of the requested information. These events created suspicion and hostility that weren’t required.

In two organizations I contracted with, staff members claimed their Security Policies were secret! How does that work? These sorts of behaviors are indicators of significant departmental and organizational problems.

Prepare documentation in advance

All documentation including policies, procedures, infrastructure documentation, logs, hardware and software inventories, PSA system reports, etc. should be readily available for the consultants. They will ask to see it. I generally ask for all this information before I go on site for the first time and I am always appalled by the number of organizations that have none of the documents that are generally accepted to be components of a solid Information Technology Governance program. Sometimes these data dumps include reams of irrelevant information in the hope that I won’t find the smoking gun.

Auditing for organizational culture

I include a frank assessment of departmental and organizational culture in my reports and it is sometimes less than flattering. Delivering this information to executives and managers generally creates a tense silence while they try to chew and swallow that particularly tough piece of meat. They rarely argue because they know it’s true, but few have dared to state the obvious out loud. A realistic and objective assessment of company culture is required to address the root causes of problems. Bad management, inefficiency, malfeasance and incompetence have often been enabled for years before an audit is finally initiated. Interdepartmental politics, turf wars, jealousy, meddling and backstabbing all contribute to the problems at hand and managers throughout the organization are responsible.

In many cases, executives and managers have worked in large, bureaucratic organizations for their entire careers and they can’t see the signs of broken company culture. They think bad behavior and dysfunction are the norm.

The final report

If the final report is not a testimonial of glowing praise for your IT operation, I urge you to sit back and reflect carefully before lashing out. The report is a mixture of data, facts, and input from your coworkers and end users. I always base part of my conclusions on both formal and informal interviews with end users and managers from every department in an organization. What ends up in the report is a reflection of what your colleagues really think about your operation. My career started with a four-year stint in army intelligence and I actually do cross examine and interrogate. The natural inclination of some IT Directors is to argue and pick apart every statement and conclusion in the report, but this is definitely the wrong approach.

A nearby local government entity with which I am familiar recently received a failing audit from a state regulatory agency. It wasn’t a first-time fail and the endemic problems have been simmering for decades. Several executives from this entity made statements to the press that the audit “was a gotcha audit. It’s all about paperwork and there is nothing real here. We’re providing excellent services.” Talk about denial! I believe they will come to regret those statements since the infractions were extremely serious and they will likely have to return millions of dollars to Medicaid. They may call a missing signature “a gotcha,” but Medicaid calls it fraud. Their culture is so broken that they really need a turnaround expert and complete replacement of the management, but they haven’t reached rock bottom yet, apparently.

In recovery

The correct response to a failing audit is to contemplate the report carefully and develop a proactive remediation plan immediately. Humility may save your job, but you can’t step off onto the recovery road until you admit you have a problem.

Ask for help. Operations that have been dysfunctional for years can’t be turned around overnight. Organizational culture may inhibit a turnaround and objective, external assistance may be required.

Listen to what your colleagues and objective auditors had to say and take it seriously. Don’t go swimmin’ in denial.

This article was originally published in CIO as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

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Source: How to survive a management audit | CIO