For Richards, that has meant training sessions to ensure his workers know how to use cloud infrastructure tools and services to an optimal degree “so they’re efficient in building software, and so we are able to deliver software faster and can deliver more resilient software with more controls in place to protect us from cyber threats.”
He adds: “It is about changing and modernizing how we work across our technology and processes by making sure our people have the right skills to operate.”
Richards knows firsthand the speed such training can bring, sharing that he lacked enough skilled workers on prior transformative projects and had to go to the consultant and contractor market to find the needed talent — a process that added time to the project’s delivery.
“We learned early on in our journey as we scaled digital capabilities that if you don’t have enough people with the right skills it will slow down your progress,” he says.
7. Invest in modular architecture
In addition to talking about process and people, transformation leaders also focus — not surprisingly — on the third part of the PPT framework: technology.
More specifically, they focus on investing in the right core technologies, architecture, and design to enable their technologists to quickly deliver whatever transformative tech the business needs.
According to the 2022 State of Digital Transformation report from IT service management company TEKsystems, 87% of “digital leaders agree that their organization’s ability to compete in the market is greatly dependent on the flexibility of their technology architecture.”
This goes beyond adopting cloud computing and software-as-a-service, they say. Rather, it’s about building an IT infrastructure that’s as nimble and responsive as the organization itself aims to be.
It’s about being “modular, open, and agile” and building microservices so teams can configure and reconfigure as quickly as business needs change, says Samsara CIO Stephen Franchetti.
“We need architecture that can keep up with the rate and pace of business change,” he says. “So we have to step back and consciously build that architecture [where it’s] easy to connect and easy to access data.”
Franchetti has seen how that speeds up work. “We essentially use these microservices as Lego building blocks, being able to quickly rearrange them to enable outcomes for the business,” he says.
For example, Samsara IT quickly brought together microservices around customer and product usage information to enable more real-time invoicing, payment, and product delivery information on the company’s website. IT then used those same services to enable the company’s go-to-market teams to have better data around customer usage, support cases, and interactions with the company website.
“We were able to achieve these outcomes in a fraction of the time; using the legacy approach would have taken many [more] months to achieve,” Franchetti says.
8. Speed up access to data
Another critical component for speed: ready access to high-quality data.
Many, if not most, transformative efforts — such as automating processes and personalizing user experiences — rely on data. So it’s imperative for CIOs to break down remaining data silos and build a data architecture that supports immediate access to needed data.
Getting that work done means agile teams won’t have to pause and wait for the data they need in the middle of projects, explains Thomas Randall, advisory director at Info-Tech Research Group and its SoftwareReviews division.
“There can’t be independent silos; there needs to be integration across data portfolios,” Randall adds. “[Departmental executives need to ask,] ‘How might we capture, store, and leverage data for the benefits of other departments as well?’”
Samsara’s Franchetti says CIOs often struggle on this front due to the sheer volume of challenges around data. His approach has been to tackle it bit by bit, leaning on a quote (attributed to South African Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu) about there being “only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
“I’ve struggled across companies to get full investments to eat that elephant all at once, so to make it successful, I attach data initiatives to business outcomes,” he says. “And by building out these strategic use cases, doing each one in the right way, ensuring we’re building the architecture in the right way, we build out these bodies of work that get us to where we’re in a position to expand and expand more rapidly.”
This incremental approach to data then produces a flywheel effect, he explains, allowing each subsequent initiative to move faster by building on the work already done. “It comes down to success breeds success,” Franchetti says.
9. Deal directly with customers
Another way to speed transformation: Ditch some of the intermediaries that exist between the CIO and the customer.
“I would challenge any CIO on how much time they spend with their customers and how much direct knowledge they get from their customers. In most organizations the touchpoints with customers are the product development teams, marketing and sales teams. CIOs rarely have that touchpoint,” Valtech’s Lardi says. “But one way to accelerate transformation is to understand who the target audience is today and tomorrow, what problems you are trying to solve for them, and what experiences they want, so you’re building solutions for your customers rather than building solutions to be sold.”
She says CIOs and their IT teams have a plethora of data that they can access to gain insights about their customers. She also says CIOs should find ways to directly engage customers — something that fits well with the modern work processes (such as agile development and human centered design) that leading CIOs have adopted.
10. Align IT’s pace to each business unit
Yes, CIOs do indeed have to move as fast as the business needs. But at the same time, they don’t want to be so fast that they outpace them, Piddington says.
“You really have to be in tune with your organization, because everyone says they want something yesterday. But not all things in all business units need to have the pedal to the floor. There are different levels of speed needed,” he says.
That’s why CIOs must understand the pace of the various business units and their individual needs, Piddington says. He uses that insight to prioritize projects, thereby ensuring he can deliver speed where and when it will make an impact.
“Even if IT can build [something] quickly, if the business isn’t ready to use it then it will sit on the shelf. So we’ve created shelfware, and I could have used those resources to deliver something elsewhere more quickly that could have delivered an ROI right away,” Piddington explains. “It’s about understanding the timing of the investment to maximize its return.”