Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Jan 9 2015   2:52AM GMT

Managing Change

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Business strategy
Change management
Digital strategy
it management

We see changes that take place all around us and realize that nothing remains static. The Earth moves around in space and so do all objects in the Universe. Situations change, so does the environment people change and so do businesses. With so much going around can we afford to sit pretty and resist change? Perhaps not.

We also get bombarded with lots of phrases like ‘change is the only constant’, ‘perish or change’, ‘run even if you want to stand at the same place’, ‘embrace change if you wish to survive’ and so on. Management jargons and clichés thrown at the CIO make him run for cover. Facing such intimidation, the poor CIO reluctantly decides to go for a change. He may not be quite clear what he has to change but he knows he has to. This is where the problem takes its shape.

The change program

The CIO sometimes takes this change business a little too seriously. When he joins a new organization he notices that IT has still not achieved the star status that is should have with the previous incumbent. Loaded with the knowledge that ‘change’ does the trick, he tries his hand at making changes all around him. He relooks at the hardware and network architecture, changes IT vendors that the organization has been dealing with, reworks the application priority list and starts fresh dialogue with some users. If he has been in the same place for a while, he tries to reshuffle his team, rework user interface screens and may be try to aggressively introduce new technologies. However when all these measures do not seem to impress the management, the poor CIO looks crestfallen not knowing what more he could do. The same is the experience when I see CIOs executing their role as members of professional associations ; they bring about changes and when they don’t work, they blame the CIO community, the vendors, the industrial environment etc.

I agree that their predicament is genuine. An era where ‘change’ is touted as the most powerful tool of governance, how is it that the changes carried out by him are not accepted by the organization that he works for. While he may not have the answers some others may have.

Untangling the mystery

Now let us look at a some of the reasons why organizations adopt changes ;

  1. Change in the marketplace – New challenges often crop up in the form of new players, new products, price wars, new methods of distribution etc. to which the organization develops its responses.
  2. Change in consumer behavior – Customers needs change over time and they may have different demands to which the company has to respond to.
  3. Internal drive to excel – When companies try to get better, improve its working and want to scale new heights.
  4. Change in circumstances – Like new laws, political and geographical changes etc.
  5. Technology developments – Necessitate use of technology to ride a few notches above the competitors.

Now when organizations set on this journey of change and in the right manner, they are aware of the objectives they are trying to meet. They are clear about their purpose and targets they are pursuing.

The lesson

CIOs can take a cue from this illustration and work out their change program to lend it purpose. A change for the sake of change leads us nowhere. It is important to have an agenda for change. He has to ask a few questions of himself when taking on this task. For example he can look at the unfulfilled business needs from the technology standpoint, he can assess if the technology infrastructure is the bottleneck, he can seek external advice to reorient his IT plans, he can find out delivery failures or inefficiencies etc. and devise programs to tackle these problems. If he finds that no IT Plan or strategy exists he should work to prepare a new document.

In the end a change has to have some end purpose which acts as a beacon to guide their path. The CIO has to define a specific business purpose that he is attempting to tackle and one that is in line with the business objectives and goals. Just making a few technology changes or restructuring his organization without a business purpose in mind does not find purchase from the management. A change is a powerful tool which could either help meet a challenge, scale new peaks or win over competition, only if it is properly targeted.

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