Do you know the one secret to successful digital transformation?

Creating the ideal IT team may seem daunting, but in reality, you already have everything you need at your fingertips

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Devops and cloud are the inescapable words of the decade for IT professionals, and with good reason: making the shift to digitally transform under these models can result in a business-defining transformation with increased speed, reduced costs, and better control and quality much simpler for companies to achieve. And statistics show that these models are taking off. An article in The Enterprisers Project dives into the “2016 State of the Devops Report,” noting the report shows “high-performing IT organizations employing devops practices are deploying 200 times more frequently than their low-performing counterparts,” and that correspondingly “these organizations are also able to enjoy 24X faster recovery from failure and minimize downtime.”

In other words, fast is the new big.

I have discussed in previous posts the importance of digital transformation driven by a devops model and cloud transition and just how enterprises can go about implementing the technology needed for this transformation. But aside from making necessary technology changes, what else do organizations have to do to ensure its transformation is successful and drives positive change?

It all starts with the team

Convincing key stakeholders to buy into the change and thinking about how the IT team is structured are critical to enabling digital transformation—arguably just as much, if not more so, than the technology itself. The ability to make sure these cultural adjustments happen dictates the success of an organization’s transformation and therefore how equipped an organization will be to harness modern datanomics. This scenario is no different than how general managers from professional sports teams assess the strengths, gaps, and skill sets of their roster to determine what new players need to be drafted to compete at a championship level. Without the right players on the team, it becomes much more difficult to meet your company’s business goals and challenge the competition.

The mindset change

This first step to undergoing digital transformation begins with a mindset change for the IT team; it will need to retrain, rethink, and develop differently, and the management team will need to change as well. All layers of an organization need to agree to embrace the digital transformation mindset before an organization can truly move forward in a successful implementation.

Established enterprises usually have well defined processes to accomplish business and IT objectives, and undergoing digital transformation can challenge legacy systems and “the way we’ve always done it,” making any element of change difficult. To shift employees’ mindsets, internal selling and proof of concept must be top of mind, and the benefits of the change must be clear. Ultimately, undergoing digital transformation does not change the essential IT mission, it just changes the “how,” so communicating this clearly to all parties in an organization can make taking the first step toward change a bit easier.

The soft skills needed

So, what traits are crucial for the existing IT team to possess in this soon-to-be devops and cloud-driven digital enterprise?

Strong communication skills

While strong communication skills are necessary for any role and this skill may seem obvious, it is particularly crucial when undergoing digital transformation to ensure IT teams communicate well. While IT pros typically have defined roles and responsibilities allowing them to work independently, since devops is a cross-functional sport, teams need to be clear on what expectations and deadlines are and work more collaboratively.

Team player

Effectively implementing a devops methodology in an organization requires a flexible team. While it’s common for organizations to experience a clash between development and operations teams when first implementing a devops strategy, successful interdepartmental integration requires collaboration in order for the team to reach their end goal of satisfying the needs of the business.

Not afraid to fail

To be on a devops team, you must not only be unafraid to fail, you should be expecting to fail. According to a Gartner study, 75 percent of enterprise IT departments will have tried to create a bimodal capacity by 2018. However, less than 50 percent of them will reap the benefits that new methodologies like devops promise. Willing to fail and being patient is crucial for a team to get the most out of their devops efforts.

What about hard skills?

Given the mass amounts of data present in organizations today and the increasing need to organize and harness this data, the dilemma begs the question: are the existing IT team members who worked on legacy systems enough, or does the additional data lead to new roles at the company that need to be filled?

Lifescript, one of the world’s leading women’s health websites and an Actifio customer, went through a significant transformation and data center consolidation to become a cutting-edge digital enterprise, adopting a devops initiative to allow developers to have self-serve, instant access to data, while the operations team delivered agile, resilient data as a service. But once the transformation was made with the existing team, the company realized the amount of IT professionals with the right data focused skillsets was limited. To account for this gap in skill set, Lifescript created a new role from scratch for an existing Lifescript IT pro: a senior data scientist role. To do this, Lifescript identified a highly skilled DBA who had a propensity for managing large data sets and trained this DBA to become a Business Intelligence strategist. Quickly, this role evolved into a fully qualified data scientist.

It’s a great demonstration of how teams can adapt to gaps in skill-sets that crop up after undergoing a digital transformation. While ideal to keep IT pros in their existing positions, at times, it may prove necessary to create new roles, such as data scientist, to handle larger data loads and as the organization of tomorrow increasingly focuses on tools like data-driven analytics and machine learning.

Creating the ideal IT team may seem daunting, but in reality, you already have everything you need at your fingertips. Communicating the change to the IT team, ensuring their willingness to hop on board and embrace traits needed, and identifying where there might be room for a new role like a data scientist should stay top of mind. With a solidified IT team, organizations can be well on their way to achieving a successful digital transformation and reaping the benefits of datanomics.

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