Look under the surface of any successful business today and you can guarantee that technology has played an integral part in helping them reach the top of their industry.
However, for many businesses the IT department can be a barrier to innovation and technology change, with loyalty to legacy IT having a huge impact upon their ability to keep up with consumer and market demand.
Budget ties and the sheer scale of upgrading or replacing an ageing system are often behind the reluctance to embrace change but, as with all big projects, if properly planned and approached, businesses can mitigate the perceived risks and headaches and reap the significant benefits from better use of today’s technology.
Rather than being seen as a bolt on or nice to have, technology has to be at the heart of a business to enable growth. Today, consumers expect to be able to interact with businesses in more ways than ever before – via a website, mobile/tablet device or through social media channels – at their convenience, any time of day, with no downtime or access issues.
But with technology constantly evolving, keeping up with both the pace of change and user demand can be a challenge for many businesses. The expectations and pressures put on existing systems can cause them to fall over and buckle under the strain.
Despite this, some CIOs still perceive the legacy systems of yesterday to be up to the demands of today. This inability to realise the bigger picture and introduce change in the right way can result in organisations relying on overly complex systems and processes and experiencing a slow rate of change.
In addition, legacy systems are often badly documented and as a result, the thought of re-designing an IT system that only a few long-term IT team members know how to maintain is daunting – especially when the current system is seen as up to the current job.
Many resort to simply rely on middleware as an alternative to replacing legacy systems in a bid to adapt and keep up with budget and time constraints. However, by taking this hand-to-mouth approach, cracks start to appear, as the business objective of speed to market is often prioritised to the detriment of the IT department’s ability to undertake the appropriate due diligence and testing.
Add the often strained and fractious relationship between the IT department and the rest of the business into the mix and it all amounts to a huge stumbling block in adopting a well thought through strategic transformation programme for technology change for the benefit of the whole business.
Taking a leap of faith
Despite the concerns and complexities associated with ousting legacy systems, unless outdated technology is replaced, many businesses face extinction, as demand on their systems outstrips capabilities.
This makes it all the more important for CIOs to work closely with the IT team and put measures in place to instil confidence in the inevitable change that needs to take place.
In order to overcome the fear of overhauling legacy systems and mitigate the risks associated with it, a stringent quality regime needs to be at the heart of the process.
Here are six key steps to transforming the role of quality management within an organisation, to give it the confidence needed to shake the shackles of outdated technology and reap the rewards of IT change.
Identify who needs to be involved in the process (including staff and third parties) and then immerse them in what you are trying to achieve. It is essential for everyone to understand that this is a shared risk and what everyone’s role and responsibilities are.
It is important to understand what talent exists within the organisation and who will be involved in the transformation journey and quality management process. Large scale education may be required and outsourced providers might be needed to supplement in-house skills.
To transform quality management, key roles need to be defined to carry out specific processes including: prioritising and leading IT change; health-checking the outsourcing candidates; identifying opportunities for optimisation and quick wins; engaging with and managing suppliers and defining governance models; operational management and service delivery.
Of paramount importance at this stage is setting up contracts with third party suppliers in the correct way and being crystal clear about the required level of application quality and how it will be measured. By taking this approach, vendors should be willing to share risk in return for generous rewards for success.
The programme required to transform your quality management needs to bring together several building blocks. Some of these are more complicated than others (e.g. identifying outsourcing candidates in your existing IT estate) but everything can be addressed and you already have a lot of expertise in-house.
At regular intervals on your transformation journey you need to prove that quality has been improved. A regular “heartbeat” of measurable value should be delivered to assure stakeholders of the return on their investment. This is relatively easy to do if you clearly articulate the outcomes and quantify the value at the outset to each “product” and reward your new multi-sourced suppliers in-line with the same at agreed stages, along the way.
Sourced form Ben Fry and David Rigler, SQS