You're buying a service now! You don't get to set the pace of change.

There’s a huge power shift taking place in corporate IT.

Previously Jane in Manufacturing would use the tools that were deployed to her by Frank in the IT department at a pace defined by Frank or Frank’s boss, Mary.

Vendors would provide updates to Frank annually and Frank would decide whether to deploy the updates or not. If Frank didn’t like the update, or didn’t have enough time to deploy the update because Mary had him busy on other things, Frank would skip an update and wait for the next one.

Before Frank could deploy anything, though, he would have to prove to Mary and the business management that the planned change wouldn’t impact the business too much. He’d do this by putting the updates into a number of test environments. There would be a ‘sand-pit’ testing area where he’d get to see what the update looked like. He’d then move on to the ‘pre-production’ environment where he’d show that the update didn’t impact other system. He is likely to use a ‘pilot’ before eventually deploying the updates to the rest of the business. In each phase various people would be involved to make sure that the planned change did what was expected of it.

If Jane wanted something that was in the new update she just had to wait. Likewise, when Frank decided that an update was being deployed Jane didn’t have much choice whether to accept it or not, she normally didn’t even have a choice about when the update was happening.

In recent years the IT market has adopted as-a-Service as the way of delivering capability to the people like Jane.

Previously Frank in IT decided when updates were going to occur, now the person who decides on whether an update gets deployed isn’t Jane, it’s someone in the provider of the Service. The rate of update is intrinsic in the Service being used.

The pace is no longer being set by Frank, the pace is being set by the Service Provider. Frank, and Mary, just need to keep up. Frank is still involved in this as-a-Service world because he is still providing support for the tools to the business but he’s no longer in control of the rate of change.

To compound Frank’s problems, the Service Provider is no longer updating the Service on an annual basis, they are updating the Service every day with significant changes coming, at least, every quarter. The Service Providers need to keep up with their competition and that means rapid change. Some of the time Jane is delighted by the new capabilities, at other times she’s dismayed that something has changed or been removed.

The previous testing process has lost most of its relevance because it’s the Service Provider doing that testing, but there are still areas where the Service integrates with other Services that Frank would like to test but there simply isn’t the time to keep up with the pace of change.

There are times when Jane comes in to work and needs to do something quickly, only to discover that everything looks different and she’s no idea how to do what she needs to do. She phones Frank, but he has no idea either and it’s going to take him a little time to talk to the Service Provider and work it out for her. The work that Mary had planned for Frank will have to wait because operating the business is always more important than the IT department’s priorities. Jane asks if she can talk to the Service Provider directly, but the contract with the Service Provider only allows a set of named people to contact them.

Not only is Frank in IT having to get used to the pace of change, so is Jane in Manufacturing and so are all of her people. With a higher rate of change the impact of each change is lower, which is a good thing, but the overall volume of change is much higher.

The issue for Jane isn’t just about getting today’s job done though, the other challenge is keeping ahead of the competition. The services that she uses are evolving rapidly and she can’t afford to be behind her competitors who are using the same services. The competition gets the new capabilities on the same day that she does and her ability to exploit them has become a competitive differentiator.

Many services mitigate some of these issues by giving service users a time when they can choose whether to adopt the update. In these schemes, though, the update eventually becomes mandatory and you no longer have a choice. Other schemes include pioneer approaches that allow businesses to give some people insights into the next set of changes prior to the majority of the service users. This approach would allow Frank to use the next iteration of the tools before Jane gets them so that he could be ready, this doesn’t help Jane keep ahead of the completion though.

Rather than treating change as a constant risk it’s time to step aside from the old ways of doing things and adopt new ones that support change as a mechanism for growth.

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional”

John C. Maxwell

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