Fireside Chat: Top priorities and challenges for digital transformation

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    Lessons learned, the power of people, how best to implement cloud services and the importance of playbooks were key discussion points during a fireside chat at the Digital Transformation Conference 2022 with Franco Chirichella, the president and chief executive officer of Innovapost.

    In a conversation with Jim Love, IT World Canada’s chief information officer and chief content officer, he outlined how the organization, which is the IT Shared Services provider for the Canada Post Group of Companies, has evolved and grown since its founding 20 years ago.

    Operating out of offices in Ottawa, Mississauga and Toronto, the staff of 750 business and technical professionals provide IT, IS, and business solution services to Canada Post, Purolator and SCI Group.

    Core services include application development and maintenance, IT infrastructure and network management, and IT architecture and technology development.

    “Innovapost is a unique company and not a lot of people may know about it, but it plays an important role in Canadian business,” said Love, adding that the firm has been pursuing a digital transformation (DX) agenda for a few years now.

    The primary goal, said Chirichella, who is also Canada Post’s chief digital officer, was to bring the division further into the fold of the three companies it services.

    “We do operate as a separate subsidiary, and at times that separation can cause a bit of a gap, a bit of a divide. For a few too many years, Innovapost focused more on technology and the business of running technology versus how do we help our member companies achieve their goals.”

    And while the transformation began with an internal review of how the organization is structured and what needed to change, this particular DX kicked into overdrive when a decision was made, said Chirichella, to move from “a waterfall pool-based development shop to a true product-based agile one.

    “That that was basically the core that influenced everything else. And you know, arguably one of the more disruptive and tough ones to do. But it’s the one that we are seeing now as we emerge through it, where we truly have derived most of the benefit or the benefit that was intended.”

    Being agile, he said, produces two outcomes. First, it allows new and innovative software and services to be delivered faster, and secondly, architecting “solutions not only for what the business is currently aspiring to do, but for things they have not yet thought of.”

    Asked to describe how such a big shop moved from waterfall to agile, Chirichella said it began incrementally with the formation of a small group of teams, “literally in the basement of a different building, and doing that sort of skunkworks type of stuff. They really displayed the true value and the power of what agile can bring and with that as a proof point, we slowly rolled it out.

    “And when I say slowly, it probably took us about two years to deploy it to all of our 65-70 product teams. And so that’s where we are in our journey now. We’ve deployed this agile methodology across all our product teams, and they’re all implemented.”

    In terms of what has been learned to date, it is, he said this: “Nothing gets done without the people.”

    Everyone in the organization “has to believe in” in the DX project and once they do, it becomes a game changer. “Why have 15-20 people try to drive a transformation when you can have 750 people drive it,” he said. “I have to give credit to my predecessor who was fantastic at building that excitement from the ground up. That’s where the magic happens.”

    As for plans for accelerating a move into the cloud, Chirichella said Innovapost has created what he called a “cloud smart approach.

    “Ultimately, we see that the vast majority of our footprint will migrate to the cloud. But we’ll move them in tranches, tranches that make sense, that add business value, and at a pace that doesn’t add risk to the business, but also doesn’t consume resources to a point where I can’t do anything else.”

    Finally, a key part of the organization’s DX strategy was the creation of a playbook, which allows it to not only plan for the short-term but also for the long term.

    “It allowed us to think three, five, seven or 10 years out and say for example, if we want to provide five-nines availability, by year seven these are the initiatives we need to put in place.

    “It represented the basis of the transformation and allows us to be far more strategic.”