IT modernisation series – Sumo Logic: cultural process shifts should precede platform lifts

Unlike digital-first organisations, traditional businesses have a wealth of enterprise applications built up over decades, many of which continue to run core business processes. 

In this series of articles we investigate how organisations are approaching the modernisation, replatforming and migration of legacy applications and related data services. 

We look at the tools and technologies available encompassing aspects of change management and the use of APIs and containerisation (and more) to make legacy functionality and data available to cloud-native applications.

This post is written by Iain Chidgey in his role as vice president for EMEA at Sumo Logic — the company is known for its cloud-native machine data analytics platform

Chidgey writes as follows…

It’s lovely to start with a blank sheet of paper (in any aspect of life) and draw what you like.

You can give yourself free rein to come up with whatever suits your needs… and you’re not tied to any one single approach.

For IT teams at new companies, this approach often involves making use of cloud services and systems to quickly construct what would have previously needed armies of consultants and huge amounts of hardware to deliver. What an opportunity to make the most of modern IT.

For companies with existing investments, the sheet of paper is not so blank, but it still probably has plenty of scope for development. Digital transformation projects may be more complex due to the mix of old and new technology, but they should still provide great opportunities to modernise.

Yet according to research by McKinsey, around 70 percent of digital transformation initiatives fail. Why are these modernisation projects not working successfully?

Is your process open to change?

But it’s not just a tech issue here.

One of the biggest problems is that we look at modernisation projects as solely technology-driven, rather than needing changes to processes or ways of working. The ability to get huge amounts of data from multiple applications has been flagged as a great opportunity to change the way that companies approach the market, but this doesn’t necessarily make the leap from design document to real world work without … well, work.

The issue here is that these individual technology elements – cloud services offering more power, applications and information sources proffering more data, analytics tools providing the ability to work with data in real time – is that they lack context. Each of these projects might be a good opportunity to modernise, but they also have to join up with each other and with how people actually work in order to succeed.

To achieve this, we have to look at the processes involved, the business objectives that we are looking to meet, and what intelligence gaps exist.

While we have huge amounts of data at our disposal today, is this data actively shared within the organisation with those who need it? If this isn’t taking place, then there are information gaps in place that can affect decision-making.

Cultural shifts & platform lifts

Similarly, how do we link our objectives at a business level with the ones that IT teams have in place?

We might want to increase sales by 20 percent in a year, but what leads to that from a technical perspective? For an eCommerce business, it might be more website visits and continuous availability for the site so people can check out but, for other organisations, it might not be so direct. However, getting the right understanding of metrics here can make a difference when you carry out any modernisation projects.

Lastly, any work done around modernising IT has to either fit into the way the company works today, or a thorough culture change will be needed. This can be much harder than any implementation of technology, unless people understand the value of the changes and can see how it will benefit them.

Data & process – evolution or revolution

Looking at data as part of any process involves understanding how people make decisions today. For example, how does the security team prioritise its efforts? How do developers spot issues and solve problems? How do teams like customer support look at histories around customer requests and recognise patterns? All of these tasks involve people making decisions using the data they have available.

Some of these processes will have grown over time, based on previous decisions and tech implementations. Some will have ‘always been done this way.’ Others will be dictated by how the company has to operate. Making any changes to these processes may be welcomed with open arms, but they may also face resistance. Sometimes, that pushback will come for good reasons. Modernising IT and using data in new ways – particularly when more automation for tasks is being implemented – needs to be explained and support gained.

For IT modernisation programmes to work, they have to deliver and they have to be seen to be delivering over time. Quick wins can really help, as these can then provide evidence for other teams on how they can use tools like continuous intelligence. The push for businesses to work in real time, using dynamic and changing data, means that digital transformation investments have to work.

However, ensuring that your IT modernisation initiative is part of the 30 percent of successful projects is about more than just being able to analyse data faster – instead, it’s about bridging the information gaps, making the new processes work for those teams, and delivering the results that everyone can see working for them. This requires a pervasive approach to data covering people, process and technology together.

Sumo Logic’s Chidgey: Put people & process before platform, please.

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