After helping to lead transformations for over 20 years at a global asset manager, I found my true passion is leading change. Examples of these engagements include a successful migration off the mainframe, a cross functional leadership team focused on the customer experience, a large business unit technology divestiture and several technology migrations.
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead the development and execution of a digital transformation strategy that included migrating workloads to the cloud, implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), creating a DevOps initiative and expanding data governance.
The first workload we moved to the cloud completed 15 times faster than it did on-premises. With more than 100 people trained in SAFe, the firm started speaking a new language, with terms like scrums, ceremonies, burndowns, retrospectives, product owners and value streams, and a new Agile culture started to emerge.
Now, as a Strategic Account Lead with Cloud Technology Partners, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, I meet with many firms as they embark on developing their cloud strategies. One of my key learnings thus far is the need to proactively engage stakeholders across business units at a deeper level, in a collaborative fashion. When information technology professionals say “agility,” “velocity,” “elasticity,” “customer driven design” and “innovation,” we must confirm that they understand the benefits of what we refer to as the innovation enablement value chain.
In this brief article, I outline the importance of enabling the innovation value chain, building consensus on its benefits with key stakeholders/change agents and gaining alignment on the roadmap to the future.
Enabling the Innovation Value Chain
The innovation enablement value chain is a combination of design thinking, The Lean Startup, SAFe, cloud acceleration, DevOps and cloud native architectures. Starting your initiatives with the customer empathetic approach of design thinking allows you to narrow your hypothesis prior to developing your minimally viable product (MVP). In one of the most popular books on innovation, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries teaches us the benefits of defining a hypothesis, building an MVP and rapidly learning, with the goal of a pivot or preserve decision after hypothesis testing. Implementing SAFe allows a firm to gain the benefits of the Agile Manifesto at an enterprise level. Leveraging cloud automation allows a firm to quickly engage technical solutions that would otherwise be cost prohibitive. In fact, much of today’s disruption concerns are driven by the removal of the barrier-to-entry costs associated with setting up compute resources. Leveraging public cloud providers allows firms to access compute resources on demand, which previously would be unattainable due to the long-term capital commitment required. Combining empathetic design, hypothesis validation, SAFe, and cloud automation, with the ability to deploy, change and remove solutions quickly through DevOps and cloud-native architectures, truly enables your business to innovate.
The Benefits of Building a Common Understanding
Each of the solutions mentioned above are part of the digital transformation strategy at many companies. We frequently talk about them independently or discuss them in the vague terminology of digital transformation, but it would be better to explain to our business units that these solutions together enable innovation at scale — that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual approaches.
At a prior firm, I started regular educational sessions on new approaches to technology delivery. I met an expert in design thinking who agreed to help educate the firm on its benefits. Together with an internal expert who taught design thinking at a local university, they launched the series. We then reached out to Cloud Technology Partners to keep our momentum going. Over the course of the well-received series, we covered many topics, including SAFe, blockchain/distributed ledger and data analytics. We leveraged vendors and our network of contacts to find the right experts to talk broadly to the firm about the possibilities in front of us.
Many industries are looking for technology to take a more active role in leading innovation. Therefore, explaining the impact of the entire innovation enablement value chain is critical. Collaborating on the dynamics of customer led decisions through enabling an innovation value chain can be truly impactful. Our engagements that incorporate close alignment across the organization provide the best opportunities for creating a sustained cloud strategy. A clear shared vision of the value offered by the entire suite of transformation solutions, produces transparency around how technology is enabling innovation. The term digital transformation alone does not speak to this innovation enablement.
Innovation Enablement Alignment
One of our largest and most successful programs benefited from strong organizational change management and buy-in from all the key stakeholders and change agents. We set out to migrate off the mainframe and completed a proof of concept leveraging a replatforming approach. While the proof of concept was successful, the change agents in the organization recommended that we take the time to refactor the final solution to take better advantage of the new infrastructure. This early collaboration (and the resulting agreement to refactor the solution) gained alignment from our key technical change agents, which helped the program throughout the migration. The refactoring solution also laid the foundation for taking the next step to the cloud. The program finished on time, on scope and on budget. Having strong commitment to and belief in the direction across the entire organization allows you to overcome significant obstacles.
Successful and sustainable cloud migrations start with organizational change management as well. The depth of the impact, the number of solutions involved, and the volume of people impacted require complete alignment. At the heart of organizational change management and alignment are clear messaging and communications. When speaking to your peers within the organization, do they understand the value of the complete solution set? Is there clarity regarding the current status of enabling the firm’s innovation push? We once asked an entire information technology management team to write down the reasons for our transformation. It was very interesting to see the different answers. This allowed us to revisit the drivers and build a common elevator pitch. Without a consistent message, a large transformation program can develop unneeded noise and confusion.
To help build a transparent roadmap of the current and future state, many organizations turn to a cloud maturity assessment. Our comprehensive approach to cloud adoption includes the critical domains required to enable the innovation value chain. Working from an agreed upon transparent roadmap provides an organization with insights to build an organizational change model. The individual in your organization who owns your cloud program is ultimately the same as a product owner on an agile team. They are both responsible for building consensus across all stakeholders to facilitate a shared strategy. With an agreed upon, transparent roadmap that defines the future state, the work of alignment eases.
Building a governance team including key stakeholders and empowering them with a transparent roadmap, stakeholder map, marketing plan and clear communications provides the tools to begin an organizational change management program. The entire team must be able to articulate the benefits of the transformation efforts in terms of the customer led value and the importance of each component in the innovation value chain. The elevator pitch should be consistent across the entire team.
If you have embarked on your cloud journey, take a moment and ask your key change agents (not just your management team), about the value of the transformation underway. Those change agents have the trust of your organization, and ultimately define your culture. Combine the insights from your change agents with the perspectives held by the key business unit leaders, and you have a picture of how your cloud transformation strategy is perceived.
If you would like to explore the enablement of your innovation value chain, an assessment of your cloud maturity or an approach to align your ongoing cloud adoption efforts, we are ready to help.