Ignorance is a bliss IT teams can't afford. It would be lovely to whip up a customer-facing application, with all the excitement and promise such a creation holds, without having to entertain those buzz-kill thoughts about how you'll maintain and support the app 11 months from now when it's in desperate need of a refresh.
I was chatting about such true-life situations with Michael Healey, who as president of Yeoman Technologies sees challenges like this one every day, as his teams help companies execute on their digital marketing and multichannel strategies. Healey will dig into the scenarios described below, and more, at our InformationWeek IT Leadership Summit on Sept. 30 in New York City, being held in conjunction with Interop New York. (To join us there, use the registration discounts below.) See if you can relate to these digital business meltdown moments.
Problem: A division developed a miserable mobile app in a rushed effort to "go digital."
"Nothing worked," Healey says of this iOS app. Once the mess became clear, the division wanted to dump the app in IT's lap. The IT team had to decide whether to take over the problem, push to scrap the app and start over, or argue with the business unit to ditch the strategy entirely.
A product development group wouldn't launch a new durable product without a plan for how it would roll out improvements and subsequent versions, but that same due diligence and long-term view can get lost in the rush to launch digital apps.
IT's understanding of how to support software over time can be invaluable. Any customer-facing app "is a product," Healey says. "It has to have a lifecycle.” Spoiler alert: IT stepped up and took over the project, realizing, among other things, that the majority of customers use Android, so that was the higher priority platform.
Problem: Your CEO and CMO have been gung-ho digital advocates. They just got fired.
This becomes a decision both strategic to the company and personal to your career. Do you continue to champion a digital strategy, and search for allies, even if the new leadership seems poised to pivot away? Or is it time to polish up your resumé?
Another Summit speaker, Josh Oakhurst of Skookum Digital Works, recently wrote about the importance of companies having an influential, singular champion for a company's digital efforts. Lacking that person, you're pushing a boulder uphill, and it might be time to move on if you think digital innovation is vital to your industry. Or if you're patient, you might find the pendulum swinging back to digital, as it did at this company, Healey says -- though only after a painful downturn.
Problem: You want to go digital. You don't have the right talent.
This talent shortfall is all too common, Healey says. IT leaders see where their companies need to go with mobile/Agile development, modern web languages, and data analytics. But the staff doesn't have the skills, experience, and customer understanding to execute.
You could shift your IT model to become an architect and manager of contract resources, drawing on outsourcers, cloud software and infrastructure, and specialist contractors such as mobile developers. You could keep the needed digital work in-house and embark on a training mission -- we've seen companies train thousands of IT and business unit pros on Agile techniques, for example.
Regardless of which strategy you pick, not everyone will make the transition. As an IT leader, you must make tough calls about who stays and goes. And as an IT pro, you also must be honest about whether you yourself have the digital skills to make the cut.
Need to sharpen your leadership skills around issues like analytics and project development? Join Chris Murphy, Michael Healey, and leaders from Fidelity, State Street, McGraw-Hill, Atlantic Health, and more at the one-day InformationWeek Leadership Summit, Sept. 30 in New York City. It's part of Interop New York. Use the half-off promotion code BLSUMMIT.Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio