In the past, Bechtle’s IT department was made up of two essential areas, namely application development and infrastructure. This was considered the way to go for a very long time. The application developers’ primary job was to continually adapt standard software to the mounting requirements of a growing organisation using a plethora of custom code. They were busy integrating newly acquired companies and implementing new applications. That’s plenty of work for any team—and they had no time to spare for innovation.
The data centre, covering a wide range of workplace solutions, network operation and server operation, was also under huge pressure to do justice to the strong growth and constant integration of new companies, as well as the demand for current technology.
What often fell by the wayside was a targeted approach to the future with the big picture in mind. Innovation management was practically non-existent. But in these times of heavy technological development, companies need to take a long-term approach to keeping their business and IT aligned, with structured project or programme management to handle the increasing number of business projects and ITIL-based service management to build, structure, run and actively introduce new products and services.
TRANSFORMATION IS A CHALLENGE THAT PERMEATES THE ENTIRE ORGANISATION:
Ulrich Baisch, CIO Bechtle AG
In initial workshops, Bechtle’s inner circle of IT management zeroed in on the answers to three questions:
It’s important that the focus here isn’t drawn onto internal IT itself, with their processes, models, and structures, but rather puts the spotlight onto the future challenges of the business.
This approach has a clear goal of developing a business, service, and project oriented organisation. To do this, you first have to blueprint your transformation.
Once you have the full picture laid out in front of you, it’s time to involve the next management level to add the finer strokes and take on enterprise-wide implementation. As the framework models are being fleshed out over time, they should not only be regularly discussed among teams and departments, but also in general staff meeting in order to unfurl the development in a wider forum.
The Enterprise Transformation Cycle (ETC) enables a comprehensive picture of the conditions and dimensions in the ongoing innovation process.
Innovation and change are ongoing processes with recurring milestones and measures. The Enterprise Transformation Cycle (ETC) illustrates this with all of the dimensions of the company which build upon each other. Complementary checklists help you systematically cover all process steps in their entirety.
A close look at Bechtle’s business model, service portfolio, and position in the market made for the perfect starting point. Key questions were:
In this context Bechtle was looking at three distinct tiers of transformation: Innovate, Change, Adapt. Some processes and models have to be built from scratch if they do not already exist or have not previously been needed. Others may have to be changed fundamentally or gradually adapted over time.
This model allowed Bechtle to view each project in its appropriate place in the big picture, and prioritise them with regard to their effectiveness and impact on business development. A good example is the industrialisation of the IT infrastructure including the data centre, corporate network, and workplace environment.
A gradual development of as yet highly manual processes would qualify as an adaptation. An ongoing increase in automation that would, ideally, integrate every relevant tool would constitute a change. Finally, industrialisation—i.e. a transition from individual, customer-specific production to unified, highly automated and dependable, factory-like mass production—would be the equivalent of innovation.
Ultimately, the future organisation of IT will be heavily underpinned by agile services. These include:
In this way, corporate IT becomes a truly driving force for innovation and doubles as a blueprint for business with the end customer.
A future-oriented IT organisation no longer plays a merely supporting role, it is no longer considered a mere means to an end, or, worse, nothing more than an expense. Now it’s the motor of dynamic businesses that can quickly and succinctly implement innovation and change. Questions like “What is our purpose?” or “What is our contribution?” are being answered with a complete reassessment. With dramatic effect on the entire organisation, on the mindset and qualification of employees, and also the value proposition and how it is fulfilled.
The Business Model Canvas is a great tool to map out the way from repositioning to realisation, putting employees, customers, partners and processes all up front and centre as you build the future IT organisation. At Bechtle, that means:
In order to answer these questions, you have to dig deep and work on the very foundations. For instance, Bechtle has built up a completely new sales process for IT services. Supporting customers—both internal and external—requires a consulting organisation that sees eye to eye with executive management. In addition to technical expertise, the fundamental understanding of business requirements is also strengthened and entrenched.
A unified support model on the basis of ITIL processes end to end leads into a comprehensive service catalogue with clearly defined descriptions of all products and services. This includes not just standard products, but also highly individual projects.
All of this goes hand in hand with structured project management with thoroughly documented processes and all roles and responsibilities detailed in a manual.
These three processes are essential to realising a business, service and project-oriented IT organisation and must be embraced by all employees.
When developing a strategy, a clear, transparent, powerful and widely accepted model is recommended: The Business Model Canvas. Download it here.
For the IT organisation, it is important to make a distinction between roles (in a process) and functions (within the organisation). People may have a single function but exercise multiple roles—and may even be senior to their line manager in a specific role. Underlying the definition of roles at Bechtle was, again, a business, service, and project-centred organisation.
To optimise the organisational structure, at Bechtle, a second and third management level were established under the CIO, allowing for responsibilities to be segmented more effectively and more clearly distributed. Especially noteworthy is the introduction of Professional Experts, enabling employees with expert skills to take on management tasks without personnel responsibility typically associated with managerial positions. Professional Experts share a tier in the organisational hierarchy with line managers with a similar scope of responsibilities. This allows employees to explore their potential and use their skills far better than previously.
The new position is accompanied by a corresponding development programme. An in-depth understanding of the people in an IT organisation, as well as their roles and tasks, is key to making the Enterprise Transformation Cycle a success.
In business, he who dares wins, not he who merely thinks about doing it.
Ulrich Baisch, CIO Bechtle AG
Finally, supportive methods, systems and tools ensure consistent implementation, controlling, and compliance with governance of the relevant measures. This makes the success of the IT transformation measurable using key performance indicators (KPI) that systematically align towards objectives and can be read according to defined processes. This is the only way to ensure that high-performing IT operations, value and resource management, ITIL-based service management and other tasks can be properly managed.
Talking the talk can be a far cry from walking the walk. A successful transformation hinges on how well employees are informed of and involved in the process. If they feel their input is valued, they will want to contribute. If they don’t, they will most likely keep their distance or even stand in the way of progress. Communication encompasses many things: regular meetings in the right setting, newsletters, workshops, coaching… A multi-pronged approach to communication pays dividends. It creates positive dynamics and keeps tensions at bay. Because once you make the first step, you have to go all the way.
Bechtle has successfully transformed its IT organisation. Ambitiously, systematically, and comprehensively, and with a clear reorientation towards business, services, and projects. All on target. But transformation is an ongoing process. Now what’s needed is sustainability, and the agility to tackle future challenges—riding through the rapids to reach new horizons.
Published on Jan 8, 2019.