Posted by: Joyce T | 21 March 2012

IT Transformation – It’s Still All About the People

Today I’m all about work and IT transformation.

I currently work for a tech company – EMC – in a position as an evangelist and tech advisor in the executive briefing center, which means that I am paid to have conversations with customers all day. Not bad work in the grand scheme of things. People who work with customers tend to have great passion for technology and what it can do. There is a natural tendency to focus our time and energy on it – yet for all the excitement and discussion that technology engenders, I find that the real interesting conversations revolve around people and the impact that technology has on them.

Many of my current customer conversations focus on how changes in IT are transformative. IT departments are evolving from being cost centers that ration technology, to active partners in the business offering the platforms and know-how necessary to grow the business in the digital age. We’ve worked out maturity models for this approach, and depending on where the customers place themselves in that model, the conversation shifts dramatically. Early on we have a lot of conversations about where the customer is, how much they’ve begun to virtualize their infrastructure, what their philosophy is around cloud computing and what are their challenges are. As IT leaders continue to virtualize their infrastructure, they shift their focus from the underlying technology issues to the greater business challenges. And with that change what becomes clearer is that – it’s the people that matter much more than any technology.

As I said to a customer just the other day – if a server or SAN is going to be virtualized, it has no say in the matter – it’s an object and gets virtualized. That’s straightforward. However, the owner of that server or SAN may not be so easy to deal with! After a lot of head nodding and bemused agreement, we usually try to work out just what the issue is for that customer and see if we have any experiences we can share.

People’s concerns are varied. Sometimes it’s consensus. Some cultures accept directives from the top without question – other groups require consensus and agreement that takes much longer to reach than the actual movement of the workloads in question.

Other times it’s fear. People fear real or imagined loss of control, loss of value, loss of power, loss of prestige. As one IT manager shared with me recently – he told an IT colleague that he needed to virtualize his workload. His colleague told him there would be all sorts of performance issues – then the IT manager informed his colleague that in fact he’d already done the virtualization a month ago and there hadn’t been any problems, performance or otherwise. The IT manager said his colleague was furious with him, but it had been worth it in order to make his point.

In EMC’S own Cloud Transformation presentations, we share that the number one lesson learned is to socialize with internal customers and gain executive buy-in. That’s frequently more important than remembering efficiencies or seeking measurements, or any of the other lessons you’d expect to have learned.

As you proceed with your own virtualization, ask yourself if you’ve done enough socializing? Is there such a thing as too much? Have you found yourself facing people challenges in your IT virtualization or transformation plans? Please share your stories of what you’ve tried or experienced, and what worked – or didn’t work. I’ll run future columns discussing some of our findings and share the good stories.

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