Transforming to A Smarter Way of Working

Two thoughts struck me on a recent flight home from a round of business meetings.  Firstly, organizations seem to be in a continuous state of transformation, as Heraclitus allegedly put it “there is nothing permanent except change”, and secondly people love attributing names to things.  Take Digital Transformation for example, the hot topic on every corporate agenda.

Digital transformation is on every CEO’s agenda

Digital organizations, the likes of Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, have successfully leveraged technology to disrupt the markets they operate in, enabling them to deliver more and more services that target specific customer needs faster.  Their users (“customers”) consider the quality of experience afforded by these services to be the norm.  Thus, setting their level of expectation when interacting with other services, inside and outside of their working environments.

The road to achieving a successful outcome when “Going digital” can be arduous, as not only does it compel an enterprise to challenge the status quo in terms of their business processes, the way they organize themselves, the supporting technical landscape and their ways of working, but it also means contending with the difficult balancing act of “keeping the lights on” whilst ensuring there is enough resource focus (people, time and money) to drive the transformation program forward.

In my interactions with different organizations, I’m observing 3 consistent themes in terms of direction of travel, 2 common challenges that must be overcome, and 1 fundamental question to answer.

3 Themes:

Become Service Led

The “customer” is the stimulus for Digital Transformation, irrespective of whether this is a true enterprise-wide initiative or one focused on IT.  Services provide benefits to the “customer” and as a result deliver value back to the business.  My phone, my personal medication, my taxi to the airport, my hotel and restaurant bookings, my new development environment and even the engines on my recent flight are all provided as services.  Today, everything’s a service.

To better connect with the “voice of the customer” organizations are restructuring themselves around the services they offer.  By bringing themselves closer to the “customer” they’re looking to better understand their ever changing and increasingly exacting requirements, so that they can target their often scare resources and spend on deriving the right outcomes faster.

Be More Agile

Keeping pace with this accelerating rate of change necessitates organizations increasing the velocity and efficiency of their business processes.  To that end, I’m consistently seeing organizations actively exploring how they can adopt process models that leverage and apply the principles of agile software development to the wider enterprise.

There are a number of published frameworks, including Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile, Large-Scale Scrum.  The “Spotify Model” frequently crops up in conversations.  But this is not simply a matter of copying any one specific model or framework, rather organizations should be looking at what others are doing and adapting it to their own business needs.  After all the benefit of taking an agile approach is to be able to continuously learn, revise and improve the ways of working to better meet the challenges of the organization’s specific business environment.

Multi-Disciplinary Teams

Having everyone pulling the same direction and focused on the outcomes is fundamental to increasing the velocity of delivering change.

Multi-disciplinary teams (referred to as Squads in the Spotify model) are an important component in the move to more agile ways of working.  Such teams have a defined common goal, focus on the end-to-end “idea to value” process and are made up of a mix of resources with different skill sets.  For example, a team may comprise a product owner, developer, a market specialist, a QA engineer etc.

The aim is to create an environment that fosters and speeds innovation.  Multi-disciplinary teams tear down traditional barriers, encourage greater levels collaboration between team members and enable faster iterations on solutions.

 2 Common Challenges:

 Silo’d Working

In my whitepaper “Transforming IT into a Catalyst for Business Growth” ( I discuss the challenges all organizations face in delivering meaningful change and innovation.  Silo’d working is identified as massive obstacle and the root cause of many of these challenges.

Silo’d teams tend to have a myopic focus on managing their own work, resources and spend, often to the detriment of the overall process.  Velocity and efficiency suffer due to the number of handovers (“things being thrown over the wall”) between silos and the number of meetings needed to coordinate activities; Alignment is impacted, as it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure that scarce resources and spend are being targeted on the right things in line with strategic priorities and “customer” needs, and that the portfolio is not being filled with just incremental improvements.

Complex Technical Landscape

The proliferation of business applications, architectures and vendors is an unintended consequence of silo’d working.  The delivery tool chain supporting the end-to-end process in most organizations consists of multiple tools across a host of disciplines, including requirements, projects, development, testing, deployment, enterprise architecture, release management, supplemented by a plethora of spreadsheets and point solutions to address any gaps in capability.

This increased complexity not only leads to increased costs, redundancy and licensing compliance issues, but also detrimentally impacts process efficiency.  For example, producing management information and reporting packs is often only achievable with a significant bureaucratic overhead i.e. lots of status chasing, manual data collation, rekeying information between different systems (“swivel chair integration”) etc.

Simplifying this landscape doesn’t mean that everything needs to be changed. The problem for an organization is getting an accurate picture of their estate i.e. what applications and tools they have, what’s adding value, what’s not, who’s using them, what they cost and how they’re performing. Without this level of insight, it becomes very difficult to make decisions on what to rationalize and where to invest.

1 Fundamental Question: “How?”

There’s no escaping the significant amount of organizational change that digital transformation entails, in terms of structure, process and culture. It also raises the fundamental question of how best to support these new ways of working and address those immediate challenges.  Below are three examples of why ServiceNow believes it has the answer:

  •  A single platform supporting the end-to-end process eradicates silos

With organizations clamoring for increased Visibility, Alignment and Velocity across the end-to-end process, the benefits of a single record of the truth cannot and should not be underestimated.

That’s why the ServiceNow takes a holistic approach, providing a single strategic platform that manages and coordinates all work across end-to-end process, from initial idea, through development and delivery of service to the “customer” and its ongoing support.

  • Application Portfolio Management rationalizes the technical landscape

Leveraging the CMDB, discovery processes, performance metrics and cost modeling ServiceNow is able to provide an organization with complete picture of their business application portfolio.  Having a Business Capability Map dynamically linked to a centralized inventory of business applications affords enterprise architects and application managers with the visibility to make better decisions on how to address gaps in capability, which rationalization opportunities to pursue and what to retire.

  • A common view and management of all resources and work

To realize the benefits of multi-disciplinary teams, organizations need complete visibility of all their resources and what they’re working on, including project and operational work.   This is just not possible if resource capacity and demand is being tracked across multiple systems of record or in spreadsheets.

By challenging convention and bringing full Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) capabilities onto the platform, ServiceNow is uniquely able to provide organizations with that common view and management of all resources and work, irrespective of methodology i.e. Agile, Waterfall or Hybrid (“Water-Scrum-Fall”). Consequently, multi-disciplinary teams can work faster, smarter and collaborate more effectively.

Closing Remarks:

Whatever it’s called internally, you can guarantee that there is some form of digital transformation activity underway in your organization.

So, imagine if could you have a single platform to help put the promises of transformation into action.  A platform to support the end-to-end “idea to value” process, providing 360-degree visibility of all resources and work, the ability to orchestrate and leverage key assets in your delivery tool chain, and delivering real-time visibility of financials and performance to ensure investment is in line with strategy.  That would be a real game changer.  So much so you’d probably want to give it a name.  We have at ServiceNow, we call it IT Business Management.

To see how ServiceNow leverages its own products and philosophies I encourage to watch our CIO, Chris Bedi, explain it in this recent webinar, The Journey to IT Innovation. Also if you’re interested in how our customer Novartis creates mutual value between IT and the business I urge you to view the July webinar The Lightspeed Enterprise: Novartis Creates Mutual Value Between IT and Business.