IT workers lack faith about digital transformation: survey

There’s lots of talk about digital transformation within organization to respond to customer demand and leverage new technologies such as cloud computing, but is that transformation actually happening?

The answer is no, at least according to a global survey of IT professionals released Monday as part of the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network’s “Transform to Better Perform” knowledge transfer initiative. The study found that most IT professionals give their companies failing or near-failing grades on their ability to implement transformational technologies and drive IT innovation to gain competitive advantage.

“Bringing Dexterity to IT Complexity: What’s Helping or Hindering IT Tech Professionals” was done in collaboration with Dimension Data, and illustrates how front line IT workers running network, data centres, and back-end systems see lack of planning, deficiencies in key skills, insufficient funding, and a lack of communications and collaboration with the business side impeding the transformation of ageing IT infrastructures within their organization.

The survey found that just 35 per cent of IT workers rate their company’s ability to adapt to new transformative technologies as good or very good; more than 70 per cent report they have not even begun or are just “getting started” on the road to IT transformation; and, only 15 per cent say they have a clear and detailed plan for transformation. More than 80 per cent of respondents said their plans provide only general direction, need updating or don’t exist at all, while 45 per cent saw a need for improved collaboration between IT groups and business leaders.

This was just the beginning of a laundry list of concerns IT workers in the trenches had, according to the study:

  • 52 per cent said business managers wait too long to bring them into the process;
  • 48 per cent said not enough funding and resources are provided to get the job done, with slightly less (46 per cent) saying job requirements are changed before work can be completed;
  • And, half of IT respondents believe their companies will eventually either move “everything” (13 per cent) or “most operations” (37 per cent) to the cloud with 11 per cent of respondents saying the cloud “doesn’t make sense” for their business.

While this report suggest the blame falls on the C-level executives, even those CIOs committed to leading the digital transformation of their organizations are going to run into challenges, according to a report released in the summer by the Information and Communications Technology Council, which found the pipeline that produces workers who know how to leverage modern technologies is not keeping up with demand.

That report provided some action items to address the skills shortage and bolster the pipeline; the BPI Network study makes several recommendations for organizations that are serious about transforming their IT infrastructure.

It noted that failures in transformation start at the top where there is a clear desire to adopt new technologies, but often a lack of the clear direction and funding needed to succeed, so there must be an unequivocal commitment from the C-suite. The CIO needs to take the lead on the issue of resources, and must also produce a detailed plan and budget before getting funding. This means showing business value but also involving business managers and IT staff to determine what’s needed and what’s possible.

The process of defining needs should be supported by establishing cross-functional teams, which will improve internal processes and bring more value to customers, the report concludes. This will also help to bridge the communication gap between business and IT.

These cross-functional teams need to be established early on so that IT is brought on board at the beginning of a long-term, detailed planning process that lays out IT roadmaps, as the IT team understand the “constraints, choke points, and opportunities” in a way no one else will.

Organizations must be prepared to address a lack of IT staff, training and infrastructure, particularly in the areas of application development and software engineering as moving to a software-driven IT systems is a key part of a digital transformation for any organization. It’s not enough to buy expertise, the report found. Enterprises need to find creative avenues to address the skills shortage, including repurposing existing staff and outsourcing routine tasks. New recruits must not only have the right skills, but also the right mindset.

In the long run, maintaining momentum and measuring achievements are essential to transforming an organization – this means balancing day-to-day activities of keeping the lights on while rewiring the enterprise.

Organizations should approach any transformation by taking small steps to make the larger project more manageable. But more importantly, it triggers buy-in across the company and shows quick returns on early investments.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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