Understanding 3-speed IT

An IT project may be vital to an enterprise’s future, but that doesn’t mean it's transformational

As kids many of us had a bike with only a single gear; that was before we got a chance to ride three-speed, geared bikes. It was fine when you were riding along a flat surface. But the real world is full of hills.

The world of IT can feel like it is packed with uphill slopes, forcing us to work against gravity. Enter three-speed IT.

What is 3-speed IT?

My definition is this: ‘Run IT’, ‘Change IT’ and ‘Transform IT’. In all cases, what is expected is faster IT

No longer does Run IT refer to a setup where the infrastructure and services are within the data centre behind a single firewall. As a leader you have to start to address people, process and technology aspects of IT. But more specifically this has to include:

Automation – so that today’s infrastructure is less manual and much smarter.

Simplicity – take out the kinks of complexity.

Business Analytics – IT also has to utilise analytics to run an agile shop.

Dynamic Security – a policy-driven approach that is in place and covers all facets of operations.

Run IT vs Change IT

Run IT is often called Core IT. It includes an enterprise's critical and important operations, which are expected to (usually) work and that produce screams when they do not perform.

In many enterprises it is also referred to as BAU (business as usual) IT. Fundamental to Run IT is being able to manage the portfolio with enterprise change control in place to ensure continuity.

Core IT has to be ‘slower by design’ so that issues are not introduced that affect stability.The tricky thing is that there is also a need for Core IT to not be ‘slow by design’, as in some cases this can also jeopardise stability.

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A great example is patching of servers and equipment which is critical and can’t be slow without assuming more enterprise risk.This is the domain of the Change Control Board.

Change IT is typically not in the BAU budget and comes with business funding for improving the current systems.

It can include data warehouse projects, mobile apps and new applications. By definition these are projects and are governed by the program steering committee. It can also include agile projects that are operated at speed and often with an expectation of a quick business payback.

Transform IT

It is often the case that Change IT is confused with Transform IT. In this case, the definition that I use is that Transform IT must result in the creation of a new product or service that is sold externally.

In my opinion, there are many large programs of work that are mislabelled as ‘transformation’. While they may be strategic and important they are not truly transformational.

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In essence, Transform IT is a very hard bar to pass.That doesn’t belittle the importance of Change IT, but it offers a filter that can be used by the board and the CEO as we all strive to fundamentally change the customer experience.

Cheapest, cheaper, cheap?

It does not necessarily follow that 3-speed IT equates to ‘cheapest, cheaper, cheap’.

We would expect that Run IT = cheapest, and this is a universal standard.

Change IT may mean cheaper as you simplify applications, but it has to stand the test of time (and measurement or benefits realisation is not as common a practice as we would like to think).

Transform IT is usually associated with large, high-cost programs of work.Thus is often synonymous with expensive and complex projects. The real question is: Is this an inability to efficiently manage such projects or, is this just a result of the state of our strategic portfolio?

3-speed IT is for all

There is challenge for each of us in IT to tackle this change, and our credibility is built or lost from each of these interdependent pieces. It is no good being the best at Transform IT if you struggle with Run IT and Change IT. There is a hierarchy of value that you can unlock if you are able to master all three.

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