The Deadly 7: Why So Many IT Transformations Fail

Solid planning and effective execution of that plan can help an IT transformation set the stage for a new era of enterprise success.

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

November 8, 2018

4 Min Read

There’s a good chance your massive investment in IT infrastructure will fail. Not fail technologically. It likely will fail economically, by not yielding intended business value. And that could be career-crushing for those who led or championed the project.

From my 20-plus years of industry experience, and a thorough review of over 350 analyst reports, articles, and white papers on the topic, I’ve found that certain mistakes crop up, over and over. By my estimation, 90% of IT failures stem from one or – more likely – several of these Deadly Seven.

Let’s explore what they are and how you can sidestep them. In doing so, you can strengthen the likelihood you’ll be viewed as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time), and not the forlorn goat who got it so wrong.

Poor planning

Get this right, and the other six mistakes fade into the mist. You must develop a holistic, integrated, end-to-end IT transformation plan in order to succeed. Too often, IT leaders fall in love with and purchase technology first, from a vendor they admire. Or simply follow the latest trend, like moving everything to the public cloud.

But even a proven solution from a reputable provider is no magic bullet. Does the upgrade address business goals? Will it cause security issues? Will staff need to be retrained? At what cost?

Numerous questions will be identified, and addressed, by a holistic plan. Many providers have proven frameworks that can be adapted for your situation. It’s best to tap the expertise of a seasoned, been-there-done-that advisor who can formulate and integrate a smart, achievable plan.

Feeble finances

During those giddy days at the beginning of a technology overhaul, managers are prone to overestimate anticipated financial or operational benefits while understating costs. This problem is often exacerbated by the changing landscape, such as availability of consumption-based models.

IT transformations are massive undertakings, requiring finance department involvement from the beginning to accurately identify the true costs, the required investment and how to measure the return. If you align real-world financial implications with the holistic project plan, you will avoid further surprises later.

Out of sync with objectives

A major retailer pursuing an IT transformation was at a crossroads. IT assumed better network uptime and reliability, and lower latency were the goals. But its digital group wanted a development platform to help marketing quickly drive teen traffic during slower summertime periods.

If a project is not aligned with business requirements, or inadequately addresses line of business needs, it will disappoint some of your stakeholders. To succeed, the plan must be written and measured in business terms, not purely in metrics only prized by IT.

Project (mis)management

IT teams are good at program and project management, especially traditional transaction-oriented, waterfall-based processes. But an enterprise-wide IT transformation is a different animal.

It is complex and multi-faceted, requiring well-credentialed internal or third party talent to get it done right. Most likely, the existing members of your core team – while adept at “typical” management duties – will not have the experience to tackle large-scale, complex transformations. So, recruit aggressively and find someone with that level of knowledge.

Bad choices

There are countless vendor and technology options, but not all are good. What if your primary vendor goes bankrupt? Or what if it’s not right for your particular project, despite a stellar reputation?

For a company-wide IT transformation, each decision must stem from your holistic plan. Choices typically made in silos – like selecting new monitoring software – must support today’s needs, as well as tomorrow’s more complex hybrid environment. Be sure all choices support enterprise business objectives.

Security glitches

Security is always an IT concern, especially when preparing a complete transformation. But the biggest mistake is waiting too long to get security involved.

While developing the project plan, tap into the security team right away. They should help develop the solution, not scramble to validate it after it’s already selected. This will ensure you have the tools, talent and processes in place to maintain cross-company protection at all times.

Outdated governance

Hybrid IT operating models are unlike anything you have previously tackled. Existing processes and governance models may be obsolete in the new environment, with unintended consequences.

Learn what you’ll need in these areas early in the project, examine and model after best practices, and take the right steps to implement them. Hybrid IT can reduce operational friction, streamline and speed operations, and deliver desired results. First, though, consider all implications – in business, financial, technical and functional areas.

Well-planned and well-executed, an IT transformation can truly transform an enterprise, ushering in a new era of value. Poorly-planned and -executed, the project just may usher out of the organization those who were responsible.  

Erik Vogel is Global Vice President at HPE Pointnext, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s future-focused services division focused on creating an optimized end-to-end lifecycle experience – from the core to the cloud to the intelligent edge.

About the Author(s)

Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT professionals in a meaningful way. We publish Guest Commentaries from IT practitioners, industry analysts, technology evangelists, and researchers in the field. We are focusing on four main topics: cloud computing; DevOps; data and analytics; and IT leadership and career development. We aim to offer objective, practical advice to our audience on those topics from people who have deep experience in these topics and know the ropes. Guest Commentaries must be vendor neutral. We don't publish articles that promote the writer's company or product.

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