7 steps to build a culture of speed in IT

A culture of speed doesn't mean working your teams to the bone. It means finding tools to enable speed to make their lives easier - which will extend to improved customer experience
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digital transformation

Technology, no matter where it is leveraged, heightens our expectations, and then is used to surpass them again and again. It’s a dichotomous concept that both drives constant innovation and exploration of new ideas, but also places ever-increasing pressure on companies to get to market faster than their competitors. 

What innovation and disruption really boils down to, though, is a “need for speed,” both in regard to staying ahead in the race to remain relevant and delivering speedy solutions to your customers. It’s all about using the right data, the best tools, and creating a great user experience and doing all that faster than your competition. Giving your customers what they want as quickly as possible helps them create positive associations with your brand, but perhaps even more importantly, getting there first allows you to define and lead the conversation around your offering and your market.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

How to speed up IT cultures

Speed really is at the heart of the pursuit of intuitive technologies like AI and machine learning.

This is why speed really is at the heart of the pursuit of efficiency tools like automation and intuitive technologies like AI and machine learning. It’s also why IT leaders should not only be seeking out these tools but creating a culture of speed around them.

Before we dive in, let’s dispel the myth that a culture of speed means working your teams to the bone in order to meet unreasonable deadlines. The focus of that culture should always be on finding tools and methodologies that enable speed and efficiency to make your employees’ lives easier, not more stressful, which will then extend to your customers’ experiences.

With that in mind, here are seven key steps for building that culture of speed in your IT organization.

1. Adopt a technology-forward mindset

Another misconception to clear up at the outset is the idea that “technology-forward” deprioritizes customers and employees. Ultimately, customer and employee experiences should be top priorities, and your technology acquisitions should always be rooted in how they can make those experiences better. A technology-forward mindset in this context is more about securing commitment to an evolution of technology throughout the organization. 

Shifting from legacy methods is scary for many, maybe even more so for those executives who came up through the ranks using tools and tactics that are becoming obsolete. But the reality is, being burdened with outdated technologies and business practices is an even scarier prospect. By not only adapting to change but thriving on it, IT leaders and executives can foster that same openness to new tools across teams and departments, and benefit from new and emerging capabilities.

2. Maximize investments in automation

Automation can be implemented at multiple levels of an organization, depending upon its needs and existing infrastructure. At its most basic, automation can accomplish simple manual tasks in a fraction of the time, such as Robotic Process Automation, which gives employees time to spend on more strategic work. More complex automation capabilities include using predictive analytics to enable better decision-making, optimizing IT by identifying issues before they occur, and automating business processes. Automation is inherently about creating efficiencies, and an effective culture of speed leverages those benefits wherever possible.

[ Want a primer? See How to explain Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in plain English. ]

3. Deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences

Take it a step further by leveraging data analytics.

At this point, if IT organizations don’t center the customer experience, they’re going to fall behind their competition. The No. 1 goal should be to deliver a seamless, hyper-personalized experience. That means quick, easy and tailored to their specific needs. Personalization is available in many tools and applications these days, so in order to reinforce your culture and stand apart from competitors, companies have to take it a step further and leverage data analytics to deliver hyper-personalization. It’s that quality of experience that makes the difference in both attracting and retaining customers.

4. Digitally transform the workplace

To take the discussion of end user experience further, IT organizations should also be viewing their own employees as customers – particularly in a tight job market, talent should be able to expect a customer-level experience at work. It might require a shift in philosophies as well as technologies, but ideally, your organization should focus on adapting some of the same tools used to deliver speed and efficiency to your customers to do the same for your employees. When the employee experience is seamless, it naturally translates into the customer experience, and that’s what drives stability and growth. 

5. Leverage predictive analytics

Put simply, predictive analytics let you get ahead of issues and alleviate them in both the immediate and long term. Eliminating speed bumps and obstacles in the road gets you to your destination faster, right? So the more customer insight we can parse and put into action, the better the final product will be and the more quickly it will be delivered.  

6. Innovate to new business models

When we talk of “disruption,” it can be exciting because the possibilities are endless, but it can be a bit nerve-wracking too, when we think of actually changing what we do and how we do it. Instead of viewing disruptive technologies as catalysts for complete upheaval, however, we should start thinking of them as jumping off points for exploration of new revenue streams. You’re not changing why you’re in business; you’re finding ways to do that business better, to serve your customers better. And sometimes that can open up new business models, but that’s a good thing! Don’t be afraid to evolve!

7. Use AI and machine learning to secure assets

Finally, this is the culmination of all that data and disruption – the ability to use AI and machine learning to turn that data into insight and make informed decisions for your customers, employees and overall organization. This strategy can be applied across all departments to make everyday tasks easier and more accurate, and to streamline how assets like data and systems function in the organization so employees can accomplish more in less time and deliver the hyper-personalized experience customers demand with little to no wait time.

Business and IT leaders should think of their organizations as high-performance vehicles. Race cars are meticulously engineered to reduce speed-limiting factors like wind resistance and maximize engine performance so they can outpace their competition. As such, organizations can reduce drag in their own operations by investigating and implementing advanced technologies and practices that streamline everyday activities and produce better outcomes faster.

[ Want advice from top CIOs on solving talent challenges? Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT talent strategy: New tactics for a new era. ]

As Chief Digital Officer, Eric Clark is focused on advancing digital-first and cloud-first agendas for NTT DATA Services and our clients.