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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
24 March 2008  
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Home - Management - Article

Lead

Managing technological change

Continuous implementation of new technologies, integrating with existing systems, and ensuring cost-effectiveness, places a never-ending stream of challenges before a CIO. Vinita Gupta examines the role of a CIO as a change manager

Most organizations today realize the criticality of managing technology changes. They understand that by merely investing in new technology, without careful planning and on-going assessment, need not necessarily result in improved business performance.

Consequently, before implementing a technology it’s crucial for the CIO/IT manager to first find out how it is going to affect the business process that is already in place and benefit the company. Another area is the cost involved for making these changes. Hence, the CIO should look into all areas which will be affected, and also what type of improvement it will bring in.

Steps for change management

Change may occur in the internal process, business model, scale of business and technology. It can also occur due to the external environment, i.e. new opportunities, competition, regulations, mergers and acquisitions, etc. Change management is a big question which all institutions face whenever they go for a technological change; proper planning of the change process is required.

The process begins from the moment the need for change arises and continues even after it has been fully introduced in the organization. The specific problem must be analyzed and an effective solution should be implemented and managed.

"CIOs have to scan for new technologies as they become available and in some cases experiment with them with proof of concept to assess suitability within the enterprise. Current technologies are typically managed by IT teams under the guidance of the CIO"

- Arun Gupta
Customer Care Associate and Group CTO of Shopper’s Stop

"A dedicated team of employees is necessary during the implementation stage. Involvement of all, especially the top management, is essential, followed by education and training
(actual operational matters)
on a continuous basis"


- Babu Venkitchalam

EX-DGM IT, Bank of India

It’s important to note that change management is a completely people-driven process and consists of three important factors—involvement, communication and education. It is an art which is not easy for everyone to master. Convincing people to shift from existing routines to something new is always painful. In some organizations, with more tech-savvy people, it is easier.

Once the members of an organization are convinced of the need for change, half the battle is won. What follow next are—relentless follow-ups, monitoring and execution as per schedule. These factors decide the progress and ultimate success of a project.

Tasks for CIOs
  • Learning, understanding, and managing new and different technologies
  • Managing and retaining talent
  • Managing expectations of the business
  • Review the fit to current enterprise architecture
  • Analyzing the cost to benefit of the change
  • Ensure that there is complete collaboration of the IT team with the business leaders in the organization.
  • At times convincing the management about the change

Babu Venkitchalam, EX-DGM IT, Bank of India said, “A dedicated team of employees is necessary during the implementation stage. Involvement of all, especially the top management, is essential, followed by education and training (actual operational matters) on a continuous basis.”

Bank of India’s major initiative was shifting from a total branch automation (TBA) environment to a core banking system (CBS) scenario. Venkitchalam revealed that most PSU banks faced these problems while shifting to CBS. There is no short-cut for change management. Everybody in an organization wants to know why the change is required and what would be the benefits that the company is going to derive from the same. The essential factors are giving proper feedback to staff members, and ensuring continuous training.

During the last two-three years, Shopper’s Stop has implemented many new technologies, including blades, virtualized storage and servers, upgraded many software systems and deployed new solutions. Arun Gupta, Customer Care Associate and Group CTO of Shopper’s Stop asserted that a step-by-step approach with clear explicit communication ensures that technology change has higher acceptance within the company. The downside to this approach is that sometimes it can take a bit longer to execute. This is where the maturity of a CIO and his understanding of the enterprise plays a role. He added, “CIOs have to scan for new technologies as they become available and in some cases experiment with them with proof of concept to assess suitability within the enterprise. Current technologies are typically managed by IT teams under the guidance of the CIO.”

There must be policies and incentives that drive desired behavior. It is important to see transformation as an ongoing process rather than as a one-time initiative. Therefore, metrics created to help stimulate an organization toward change and to measure progress toward that objective must be continually reviewed for relevancy.

Essentials of change management
  • Update knowledge in terms of the latest industry developments
  • Team-building capabilities
  • Develop leadership skills in members
  • Clarity of what is required
  • Assess cost of change
  • Defining the process of and the expectations from the project
  • Understanding the technology
  • Realizing the core functionality
  • User expectation management
  • Realistic estimate of targets and timelines

Challenges faced by CIOs

During this process of change, CIOs face different challenges based on the industry that they work for, the organization’s IT maturity and the environment in which they operate. The common challenges faced by them are managing and retaining talent, and managing expectations of business folk.

A CIO is just a facilitator. He needs to put in place different technologies to meet the business requirements and ensure that they are appropriately adopted. He also needs to ensure that there is complete collaboration of the IT team with the organization’s business leaders.

Venkitchalam felt that generally people are not interested and find it difficult to change from the routine that they are used to. He added, “Suppose you are used to getting up at 7 am in the morning and one day you have to get up at 5 am, you will start thinking about getting up at 5 am from the previous day itself.”

Also, according to him, learning, understanding, and managing new and different technologies are part of any IT manager’s job, but new technologies are not learned in the timeframes usually requested by others in the organization. “Convincing the management about the change is the most difficult task if it involves any cost,” pointed out Venkitchalam.

Gupta evinced an alternative viewpoint, “If the CIO is looking to create change within the enterprise, if he embarks on any such journey without commitment from the management, then there is a high propensity to fail.”

He added, “An IT manager has to be ahead of the learning curve to be effective by exploring the market and experimenting with new technologies even if there is no visible need within the company. The fit can only be ascertained if you understand the technology. So I would recommend a proactive approach versus a reactive mode of operation.”

Managing technological change is nothing but using human psychology to convince people to accept change and CIOs must have these skills. A CIO has to review the fit to the current enterprise architecture and an analysis of cost vis-a-vis benefits accrued from the change. If the new technology does not make a difference as compared to the results obtained with existing systems, then change is not warranted.

vinita.gupta@expressindia.com

 


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