Dual-Speed IT Drives Digital Business Transformation and Improves IT-Business Relationships


Don’t try to turn all of your traditional IT into a digital unit.  

You’ll break both, or do neither well.

Instead,  add a Digital Unit.   Meanwhile, continue to simplify and optimize your traditional IT, but, at the same time, add a Digital Unit that’s optimized to operate in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.

This is the Dual-Speed IT approach, and, with this way, you can choose the right approach for the job and get the best of both worlds.

Some projects involve more extensive planning because they are higher-risk and have more dependencies.

Other projects benefit from a loose learning-by-doing method, with rapid feedback loops, customer impact, and testing new business waters.

And, over time, you can shift the mix.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are Digital Masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.

Build Digital Skills Into One of Your Existing Business Units

You can grow one of your existing business units into a Digital Unit.  For example, marketing is a pretty good bet, given the customer focus and the business impact.

Via Leading Digital:

 

“Changing the IT-business relationship is well worth the effort, but doing so takes time.  Your company may not have the time to wait before starting your digital transformation.  Rather than improving the IT unit, some companies try to build digital skills into another unit, such as marketing.  They try to work around IT rather than with it.”

Don’t Mix Your Digital Unit with Your Traditional IT

Don’t throw away your existing IT or break it by turning it into something it’s not, too quickly.   Instead, leverage it for the projects where it makes sense, while also leveraging your new Digital IT unit.

Via Leading Digital:

“Although building digital skills is useful, trying to work around IT can be fraught with challenges, especially if people do not understand the reasons for IT’s systematic, if sometimes ponderous, processes.  This kind of flanking action can waste money, make the digital platform more complex, and even worse, open the company to security and regulatory risks.”

Create a Dual-Speed IT to Support Both Traditional IT and Faster-Speed Digital Transformation

You can have the best of both worlds, while both evolving your traditional IT and growing your Digital Unit to thrive at Cloud speed.

Via Leading Digital:

“A better approach is to create a dual-speed IT structure, where one part of the IT unit continues to support traditional IT needs, while another takes on the challenge of operating at digital speed with the business.  Digital activities–especially in customer engagement–move faster than many traditional IT ones.  They look at design processes differently.  Where IT projects have traditionally depended on clear designs and well-structured project plans, digital activities often engage in test-and-learn strategies, trying features in real-life experiments and quickly adding or dropping them based on what they find.”

Optimize the Digital Unit for Digital World

Your Digital Unit needs to be very different from traditional IT in terms of the mindset and the approaches around the people, processes, and technology.

Via Leading Digital:

“In a dual-speed approach, the digital unit can develop processes and methods at clock-speeds more closely aligned with the digital world, without losing sight of the reasons that the old IT processes existed.  IT leaders can draw on informal relationships within the IT department to get access to legacy systems or make other changes happen.  Business leaders can use their networks to get input and resources.  Business and IT leaders can even start to work together in the kind of two-in-a-box leadership method that LBG and other companies have adopted.”

Choose the Right Leadership Both in the Business and in IT

To make it work and to make it work well, it takes partnerships on both sides.   The business and IT both need skin in the game.

Via Leading Digital:

“Building dual-speed IT units requires choosing the right leadership on both sides of the relationship.  Business executives need to be comfortable with technology and with being challenged by their IT counterparts.  IT leaders need to have a mind-set that extends beyond technology to encompass the processes and drivers of business performance.  Leaders from both sides need to be strong communicators who can slide easily between conversations with their business- or IT-focused people.”

Great IT Leaders Know When to Choose Traditional IT vs. the Digital Unit

With both options at your disposal, Great IT Leaders know how to choose the right approach for the job.   Some programs and projects will take a more traditional life-cycle or require heavier planning or more extensive governance and risk management, while other projects can be driven in a more lightweight and agile way.

Via Leading Digital:

“Dual-speed IT also requires perspective about the value of speed.  Not all digital efforts need the kind of fast-moving, constantly changing processes that digital customer-engagement processes can need.  In fact, the underlying technology elements that powered LBG’s new platform, Asian Paints’ operational excellence, and Nike’s digital supply chain enhancements required the careful, systematic thinking that underpins traditional IT practices.  Doing these big implementations in a loose learning-by-doing method could be dangerous.  It could increase rework, waste money, and introduce security risks.  But once the strong digital platform is there, building new digital capabilities can be fast, agile, and innovative.  The key is to understand what you need in each type of project and how much room any project has to be flexible and agile.  Great IT leaders know how to do this.  If teamed with the right business leaders, they can make progress quickly and safely.”

Dual-Speed IT Requires New Processes within IT

It takes a shift in processes to do Dual-Speed IT.

Via Leading Digital:

“Dual-speed IT also takes new processes inside IT.  Few digital businesses have the luxury to wait for monthly software release cycles for all of their applications.  Digital-image hosting business Flickr, for example, aims for up to ten deployments per day, while some businesses require even more.  This continuous-deployment approach requires very tight discipline and collaboration between development, test, and operations people.  A bug in software, missed step in testing, or configuration problem in deployment can bring down a web site or affect thousands of customers.”

DevOps Makes Dual Speed IT Possible

DevOps blends development and operations into a more integrated approach that simplifies and streamlines processes to shorten cycle times and speed up fixes and feedback loops.

Via Leading Digital:

“A relatively new software-development method called DevOps aims to make this kind of disciplined speed possible.  It breaks down silos between development, operations, and quality assurance groups, allowing them to collaborate more closely and be more agile.  When done properly, DevOps improves the speed and reliability of application development and deployment by standardizing development environments.  It uses strong methods and standards, including synchronizing the tools used by each group.”

DevOps Can Help IT Release Software Better, Faster, Cheaper, and More Reliably

DevOps is the name of the game when it comes to shipping better, faster, cheaper and more reliably in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.

Via Leading Digital:

“DevOps relies heavily on automated tools to do tasks in testing, configuration control, and deployment—tasks that are both slow and error-prone when done manually.  Companies that use DevOps need to foster a culture where different IT groups can work together and where workers accept the rules and methods that make the process effective.  The discipline, tools, and strong processes of DevOps can help IT release software more rapidly and with fewer errors, as well as monitor performance and resolve process issues more effectively, than before.”

Driving Digital Transformation Takes a Strong Link Between Business and IT Executives

In order for your Digital Transformation to thrive, it takes building better bridges between the business leaders and the IT leaders.

Via Leading Digital:

“Whether your CIO takes it upon himself or herself to improve the IT-business relationship, or you decide to help make it happen, forging a strong link between business and IT executives is an essential part of driving digital transformation.  Strong IT-business relationships can transform the way IT works and the way the business works with it.  Through trust and shared understanding, your technology and business experts can collaborate closely, like at LBG, to innovate your business at digital speeds.  Without this kind of relationship, your company may become mired in endless requirements discussion, filing projects, and lackluster systems, while your competitors accelerate past you in the digital fast lane.”

If you want to thrive in the new digital economy while driving digital business transformation without breaking your existing business, consider adding Dual-Speed IT to your strategies and shift the mix from traditional IT to your Digital Unit over time.

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