26 October 2021

Should you keep BAU and transformation project teams separate?

By Marcelo Goncalves, Head of Enterprise and Government Sales

Organisational and digital transformation is the norm across all industries as we continue to navigate the technology revolution; as well as the evolving impacts of the pandemic on our society. Accelerated digital transformation is one of the most significant of these change drivers, with many leaders rethinking how their IT strategy is managed and delivered.

Today, this really means what systems and workloads will be managed in house, in the cloud (hybrid/private or public) or, more likely, a combination of all three.

The debate about the IT hosting strategy is critical to the overall business strategy as it affects the agility, flexibility and ‘learning’ ability of the entire company.

For many organisations, that means making the shift from an environment that is largely anchored on-premise; to a hybrid environment of on- and off-premises infrastructure, interconnectivity services, clouds and other hosted services. IT systems and workload migration projects will be core to many transformation strategies, however they come with their own set of challenges.

Not least of these challenges is understanding how to resource them, so they are delivered successfully without becoming a distraction from the organisation’s ‘business as usual’ (BAU) functions and mission-critical service delivery to teams and customers. It’s the old ‘flying the plane’ while ‘building the plane’ analogy.

Spreading the change load

Most organisations have a handful of experienced change champions who end up being the knowledge bank and innovation drivers on cloud migration projects. They lead transformation programs in addition to key operational roles they already fill. While this may have been a sustainable approach in the past, it will increasingly prove risky as the scale and pace of transformation builds momentum for most industries.

And while there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to successful transformation, a recent McKinsey study suggests that sharing the responsibility around can have a positive impact on company performance. Organisations with at least 7% of employees owning part of the transformation are twice as likely to outperform financial targets as those with fewer than 7% of employees involved.

At the same time, research conducted by Microsoft identified roughly one-third of workers are experiencing increased feelings of burnout at work since the start of the pandemic. Australia was called out in the study as recording the highest increase in workday span according to Microsoft Teams data.

Put simply, there’s a very real risk of overloading your best and brightest, which could lead to a drop in employee satisfaction and engagement, increased absenteeism or even talent drain as they seek better work-life balance.

The risk of keeping transformation contained

We recently spoke to the Regional Network Manager from one of the world’s leading developers of fin-tech solutions about the company’s multi-year project to rethink and rebuild their IT infrastructure from the ground up.

Not only was the manager leading this transformation project, for many of these years they were also still responsible for day-to-day network management. Both the BAU and transformation teams grew as the company’s local footprint expanded, however there are lessons to be learned from the early days with fewer internal resources and less delineation between the transformation and BAU teams.

“I had to wear a lot of hats, particularly in the early stages,” said the project lead.

That’s fine if you can multitask for extended periods of time, however that’s not how most of us work, so it’s really based on the capabilities you have in-house at the time.

"If you’re in a small organisation or need to keep things contained to a select few, you’ve got to give people the digital tools to ensure information is not stored in the heads of a few individuals – particularly when small businesses scale into big businesses.”

Read more about this story here.

Managing the risk of BAU and transformation conflict

One of the most significant risks facing most organisations during transformation programs is conflict between BAU and the program, according to Rick Duckworth, consultant at CS Technology, one of NEXTDC’s data centre migration and cloud services partners.

“We often find that in-house IT teams want to deliver the transformation themselves, which can be challenging if there’s no specialist capability in the team,” Duckworth said. “We encourage organisations to understand the importance of keeping the lights on – that is, keeping BAU ticking over. That should remain the core job of most employees.

“We advocate for setting up a core team or command centre for the transformation program, which acts as a central point of communication for all program reporting elements, as well as risk and issues management.

“This approach ensures collaboration is seamless, and BAU functions don’t have to be disrupted by the work of the transformation program.”

Further to this point, the Command Centre / Centre of Excellence can also act as an educational or buy-in process – experts and company staff can move in and out as required. If the centre has a physical or online presence, it can be used as a change agent – to communicate, market, inform and guide as to the new way forward of the organisation and why this project is being undertaken (even if the purpose seems obvious).

This links the transformation project to the overall business strategy going forward, aligns teams and provides clarity to everyone involved in the change process.

Reach out to us if you’re rethinking your IT hosting strategy. By establishing an early strategic partnership, we can help you deliver against your digital transformation priorities while keeping the lights on.