For decades, IT departments for the most part, have worked in companies in a cooperative model. With advances in technology and employees becoming increasingly more technically adept and cross-platform and data integration also becoming standard, the IT service model needs to change. We feel that model is one that is more collaborative. It’s on the agenda of more than a few CIO’s and it’s not an entirely new concept. The challenge however, is getting to that style of operating.

The Collaborative IT Model

In the cooperative model, IT departments cooperate with other departments to deliver on needs, but they have no ownership stake in the outcomes. The apps or tools are delivered, some training provided and on to the next project. In a collaborative IT services model, the IT department takes an active ownership stake right from the start and beyond deployment and training. This means that IT departments are directly accountable for the outcomes of the project with a vested interest in its success. So, how to get there?

How to move to a Collaborative IT Services Model

If your IT department or service provider is entrenched in the cooperative model, moving to a collaborative model can be challenging at best. This is where strong change management skills and capabilities come into play. We’ve seen these attempts fail because good change management isn’t applied, desired outcomes aren’t made clear and expectations aren’t properly set to a reasonable time table. There are steps you can take.

Step One – Research & Dialogue

Before moving to this model, do some research into industry best practices in your industry and a complementary one. Talk with other CIO’s or COO’s that lead the initiative to understand how they overcame challenges. Understand good change management such as the ADKAR model. This may also be a good time to start communicating with IT management to obtain their input and feedback so that they can be a part of the initiative. After all, you’ll be asking them to collaborate! You may also want to bring in Human Resources to help.

Step Two – Understand your IT team

It’s surprising how often this step is overlooked. But it is critical. In this step, you’re looking less at technical skills and more at people skills. Collaboration means humans working together. Social skills and the ability to be diplomatic, negotiate and empathize are critical. Assess these skills in your IT leadership. If they don’t have these skills, can they be provided the necessary training to help empower them to get there? Some roles and responsibilities may need to be shifted.

Step Three – Skills training, communication and preparation

Good, consistent communication is critical throughout the process. Empathy is a key factor as well. At this point you’ll know the types of skills training that may be needed. From communication to collaborative models. If you’ve decided as an executive this is the model you will implement, be very clear and definitive that this is going to be the new model of services. Put your change management process into play. Begin setting expectations, KPI’s or whatever metrics you’ll be using to track performance. One great methodology we employ is Design Thinking that brings together not just the IT team, but other departments. This can be a great learning experience and help to start building inter-departmental relationships that will be key later.

Step Four – Design and Deploy

If you’ve done some Design Thinking or other forms of planning, this is where you design what the collaborative approach will be. Expectations are set and metrics for success put in place. Again, communication is critical as is empathy. Set a reasonable timeline for deployment, anticipate where you can, the roadblocks and how they can be removed. We also recommend picking an initial project to start that isn’t too onerous and can be delivered in a reasonable time. Be sure to involve the members of the other department that will be impacted and involved and educate them on how this new model will work, expectations and objectives.

Step Five – Manage the initiative

Have bi-weekly or monthly check-ins with the team and the managers. Connect with other department managers and front-line employees to obtain feedback. Change takes time and some adapt more quickly than others. You want to find a path to success and not set things up for failure. Be aware of egos and turf wars.

There’s more to consider, but this can serve as a rough guide to getting to a more collaborative IT services model. While this is possible if you are in a managed services environment, it’s not ideal. Unless very carefully managed, scope creep can happen and the service provider can see this as an opportunity to crank up billable hours. Be careful.

You may also have some IT team members decide to leave the company. That is okay. When new operating models are brought in, some will find it’s not a way they can work. This happens. In some cases it can be good for morale. Ensure your IT management is truly on board as well. If they have some bad feelings with other departments, this needs to be something you pay attention to. Trust will be a major factor at the start.

Carefully managed and well designed, transitioning to a collaborative model can help projects get completed faster, on-budget and bring IT out of the black hole and into the light.

We will have more on the collaborative model later.

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a digital anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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