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Author's profile photo Andy Lawrence

Laying the Foundation to Drive Innovation

This 3-part blog discusses the key foundation qualities which can describe an IT organisation who excels in running their systems of today whilst simultaneously driving transformation into their new solutions of tomorrow.

Part 1 – Confidence

Taking the leap ..


As with any leap into the unknown, confidence in where you start is required to make sure you believe you can reach the other side in one piece. When you reach the other side intact, you walk away with more confidence so that you can do that again and – just maybe – even a little further than the last time.

This principle holds true when applied to taking your business on an innovation journey.    Business expectations for technology are growing rapidly to the extent that solutions are expected to be ‘always on’ to support their customers 24 x 7.  With constant pressures for business to evolve and adapt to new delivery models, a business needs to be confident that a solid foundation is in place to support the transition from its current processes to its new business model.  But if the current processes and systems are causing disruption today, then the business will not be confident that the right foundation is in place to deliver the new processes and not to cause further disruption to the business as a whole.

Many organisations I have worked with struggle with the daily fire-fighting of issues that are affecting their systems and are preventing one or more business areas from supporting their customers.  There are specifics to each case but common themes exist within each: –

  • Inefficient incident processes that do not support the IT organization
  • Lack of collaboration across teams
  • Lack of visibility of solution health
  • Difficulties in extracting detailed data to diagnose problems quickly
  • No continuous improvement process to ensure incidents are not repeated

With an overloaded and largely reactive support team, the business loses confidence in its ability to support change (tweet this). It becomes increasingly cautious in taking the bold leap into the unknown. It gradually approves smaller and smaller changes, leading to less significant benefits and creating a culture of change avoidance and one that is reluctant to innovate.  To quote a recent SCN blog, “Risk aversion is the antidote for innovation”

What needs to change?

The culture of operations needs to be turned round from providing reactive support to proactive operations. This is not a trivial exercise, so how can an organisation approach this?

First of all, new operational concepts and processes need to be defined to introduce a level of consistency and control across the support the teams.  These concepts need to provide end-to-end visibility and deliver continuous improvements to the solution.  Simplicity, stability and automation must be the core values when re-designing the operations framework (tweet this). The project rollout must focus on the key pain points first so that efforts move from fire-fighting to more value-add tasks that will improve operations.

Find the right balance

As organisations transform their operational foundation, a common mistake is to purely focus on building the management platform and ignore the requirements, people and process elements that ensure a solution is fully adopted into day-to-day operations. A good balance of effort is roughly 60% on people skills and process development, and the remaining 40% on building the new IT management platform.

With increasing transparency, teams start to gain visibility in near real-time of their operations, and can begin to proactively prevent risks from turning into issues that disrupt the business.  Deeper insight into solution operation means problems are resolved more quickly and overall performance and availability improve steadily.

Can this really work?

One organisation I work with created a new collaborative contract with its support provider.  New processes and platform were established to support this.  Within 3-4 months of live operations, operations transparency and incident resolution time were significantly improved to the point where their partner met all their SLA’s and business satisfaction with IT service started to turn round to become an overall promoter of the service received.

Where are you and how far can you go?

By asking yourself the following questions, you can see where you need to focus at a high level: –

  • Are your operations processes proactive or reactive?
  • Is your IT Management platform simple, automated & integrated?
  • Can you easily access the status of your end-to-end solution?

The end result of your effort is a proactive operations team that keeps solutions running smoothly and efficiently whilst constantly adapting to their changing needs seamlessly. The model organisation I describe here generates trust for itself in running their solutions, and breeds confidence with the business in its ability to keep running smoothly.  So the question from the business can evolve from “How can we take the leap?” to “How much further can we leap this time?”.

I hope you find this blog interesting and one that allows you to reflect on where you are or where you want to be.  If you have any thoughts or experiences to share, I would be very interested to hear them.

In the next part, I will discuss how improving your capability to deliver change also contributes to accelerating your adoption of new innovations.

Andy Lawrence

IT Delivery & Operations Architect at SAP

You can connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

Image under Creative Commons licence

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      Author's profile photo Habib HALABI
      Habib HALABI

      Perfectly put Andy, if foundation is not setup properly, then driving innovation would be painful and time consuming. Thanks for sharing your ideas