Successful IT makeovers are aligned, agile & affordable

24 July 2015 4 min. read
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As customers are becoming more digitally savvy and digital operations more cost effective, many businesses are transforming or planning to transform their operations. How such transformations are most effectively made within the IT and the wider business environment remains a key question for business leaders however. To identify good practice in IT transformation, Bain & Company looked at the successful transformation of 250 companies.

Digital channels, including the leveraging of big data and connecting with customers through multiple channels, are of increasing concern to businesses. The technology that drives these functions is quickly changing. So quickly, that what was decade ago state of the art may now be part of the seemingly ever growing legacy IT systems.

To stay competitive, companies need to carefully consider how to best develop their IT organisations to meet the challenge of keeping up with changes in customer expectations, as well as technological changes around product development. Starting fresh, by ditching legacy systems and going ahead with a whole new IT system, is one way to go. However, a recent Bain & Company report, titled ‘Rebooting IT: What separates digital leaders from the rest’, highlights that there are a number of strategies available for dealing with IT transformations. The aim of Bain’s analysis is to identify what differentiates leaders in transformation from the laggards.

Digital technology reference model

The report explores the ways in which 250 companies across Europe and the US have dealt with the development of digital capabilities in areas like mobile enablement, a seamless omni-channel experience, next-generation payments, flexible fulfilment and advanced data analytics. These companies are then compared in terms of performance in a number of key metrics to identify what successful companies are doing well and what unsuccessful companies could do better. The study finds that transformation leaders, who successfully manage their IT transformations, are involved in commitments in three broad categories: the alignment of priorities, agile operating models and an affordable journey.

Transforming IT
Aligning priorities is a key factor for the development of a strong long-term business plan in line with the demand of customers. Another factor in this category involves the alignment of business and IT in the development of innovation. The study finds that 71% of the leaders co-created and funded multiyear innovation efforts, compared to 47% of the laggards. When it comes to innovation, leaders tend to prioritise a streamlined agenda. Of the laggards, 37% say there are ‘too many projects’, causing high IT costs, compared to 21% of leaders. The visibility of the CEO is also seen as important in defining the overall success of IT transformations, with 82% of digital leaders and 71% of all companies believing their CEO had clear visibility into IT innovation priorities.

Digital leaders outperforming peers

Agile operations also set precedence as an area in which companies could set themselves apart from each other. The biggest issue highlighted by many companies is the attraction and development of relevant talent. Bain’s research indicates that more than half (51%) of companies say talent is one of their top three issues. In addition, 35% of current IT staff will need to improve their skills for the next wave of IT evolution. Another successful – but short term – solution from leaders is to deploy two-track IT operations, where legacy systems and new developments are segregated under one CIO, to help bridge the gap between systems. Other agility setting processes are the use of DevOps to attain considerable improvements to IT deliverables, reducing costs by more than 30%and cutting development time in half. The final agility gaining stratagem is the use of public based cloud providers, including a modular approach with effective data governance.

The more successful companies also tend to approach the transformation of IT with a cost-cutting, value realisation approach. They refocus on the most critical priorities and embrace next-generation development models and cloud capabilities to reduce costs and speed time to market. This leads to a ‘blank sheet’ approach, which requires functional areas within businesses to justify their use of IT funds, thereby developing a relationship for innovation as well as highlighting that IT is not merely a service provider but also a driver of change.

“A complete IT reboot is a non-negotiable requirement for most large companies,” says Vishy Padmanabhan, co-author of the report and Bain partner in the firm's global IT practice. “If a business can't deliver on customer expectations for transparency, convenience and personalisation, someone else surely will.  The digital leaders that emerged from our research are several years ahead of the competition. They have embraced a holistic approach towards transforming the entire IT operating model designed to support desired business and customer outcomes.”