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In its analysis of a new survey commissioned by Red Hat, Freeform Dynamics concludes that the success an IT team can have for its organisation may depend on the prevailing business culture. The survey asked 170 IT professionals across a range of industry sectors, geographies and organisation sizes to assess the way their organisation responds to external change (like macroeconomics and market disruption) and about their organisation’s general mindset towards IT. The results offer an opportunity for rich conversations about the link between external and internal factors driving business success.
Looking at the data, Freeform Dynamics noted that ‘organisational personality’ - which it assessed by examining leadership style, behavioral responses to external developments and attitudes toward investment - can impact an organisation’s ability to adopt new business IT strategies.
The analyst firm broke out the respondents into two groups based on their self-assessed personality - more progressive and less progressive. (See below for more detail on the methodology.) Cutting the data this way revealed that respondents from more progressive organisations are seven times more likely to agree that ‘senior managers provide IT with all of the support and air cover it needs’. They are also more likely to say they are exploring new technologies and delivery methods such as DevOps, hybrid cloud infrastructure and open source. When it comes to forces beyond an organisation’s control, the survey respondents view technology trends as more positive for business than macroeconomics and political pressures.
Perceived challenges and opportunities
The majority of respondents can be said to be positive about the forward-march of digital trends: 74 percent rated the rise in new technologies as an opportunity or part-opportunity for their business and 66 percent felt the same about users and customers becoming more tech-savvy. On the other hand, changing macroeconomic conditions and evolving government and industry regulation are seen by respondents as a challenge or part-challenge (69 percent and 68 percent, respectively).
Attitudes to change exposed
Respondents were divided in how they state their organisation squares up to external events and developments. Encouragingly, more than half of respondents (56 percent) look for the opportunity rather than the problem, but a quarter of respondents (25 percent) self-identify as being part of a less decisive culture.
Moonshots versus conservatism
Seventy-seven (77) percent of respondents say their organisation aims high when setting goals and objectives and yet a far smaller proportion are willing to ‘spend money’ or ‘take risks’ with regards to investment (44 percent and 43 percent, respectively). This could indicate a potential disconnect between what business leaders want to achieve and how much they may be willing to invest in reaching those goals.
Positive impact of external change
Fifty-five (55) percent of respondents report that external trends are leading to their IT teams placing greater emphasis on responding faster to new and changing business requirements. And, 48 percent of respondents report that external trends are driving their IT teams toward a more collaborative relationship with business stakeholders. Working at a company that has a focus on open principles, I firmly believe in the effectiveness of teams that collaborate closely within a more transparent environment and have seen first hand how this can encourage better alignment between business management and IT.
Do progressive organisations value IT more?
Respondents from the group that Freeform Dynamics labels as more progressive agree 53 percent of the time that senior business management provides IT with all the support it needs - that’s seven times as much as respondents from less progressive organisations, of which only seven percent state that their organisations have this alignment. This can be interpreted as indicating a correlation between the value a business may place on creativity, innovation, embracing change, risk-taking and decisiveness, and its appreciation of how IT can help it meet external challenges more successfully.
Rise of emerging tech
When asked to think about how external change and business attitudes map onto infrastructure and tools, forty-nine (49) percent of all respondents say they use or plan to expand their use of open source, thirty-eight (38) percent say the same about hybrid cloud platforms and thirty-seven (37) percent are embracing DevOps and/or continuous delivery. Freeform Dynamics’ analysis also finds that respondents from more progressive organisations are more likely to be exploring these new technologies and delivery methods.
Dale Vile, analyst at Freeform Dynamics, had this to say on the results: "If you’re going to work proactively within your business, to help deliver quicker, more continuous results, and manage costs and risks more effectively along the way, you may not want to use older infrastructures. Likewise, you may not want to use older methods and managerial styles. It is therefore not surprising that the feedback from the IT professionals surveyed indicates a correlation between their organisations’ personality and the freedom and flexibility to adopt more modern technologies, services and methods."
I believe that positive attitudes towards creativity, change management and innovation can incite more open stakeholder engagement and I often see examples of this kind of culture fueling better understanding of how the IT team can contribute to the business agenda. In turn, this can foster the agile focus of ‘try, fail, try’ to help empower teams to deliver better results and value into the business. Organisations may also want to understand exactly how new technologies and approaches will work for them before jumping in. The good news is that part of the opportunity with the new wave of software-defined technologies is to help organisations lower the risk of innovation - for example by providing the ability to more quickly test a new service and decommission it if results aren’t reaped.
Richard Crook, Head of Innovation Engineering at Royal Bank of Scotland shares his experience on the relationship between business and IT: "It is essential to have senior management support when exploring emerging technologies and embracing change. At Royal Bank of Scotland, we are given the freedom to challenge and think freely so that we can develop innovative new products and services that will make a real difference to the way our customers bank."
Whatever your organisation’s personality, as we close the year, it’s a good time for all of us to reflect on how our attitudes and culture are impacting success and take this forward into 2017 to face as yet unknown challenges and opportunities.
The research upon which this post is based was designed and executed by Freeform Dynamics in collaboration with a mainstream IT news site. Data was collected from 170 IT professionals across a range of industry sectors, geographies and organisation sizes via an online survey completed in November 2016. Organisational personality was assessed by looking at the below attitudes and behaviours and creating an index based on the answers respondents gave to each of the options listed. If they answered ‘strongly agree’ they got a score of 5, ‘agree’ a score of 4, ‘maybe’ a score of 3, ‘disagree’ a score of 2, and ‘strongly disagree’ a score of 1. The total score across the 11 options in the list was calculated and the sample divided into two roughly similar sized groups, those with the highest scores being in the progressive group. The list of options is as follows:
We generally appraise things calmly and rationally
We act decisively, and don’t put our head in the sand
We look for the opportunity rather than the problem
We always consider how technology can help
We aim high when setting goals and objectives
We value creativity and innovation
We are generally willing to embrace change
We proactively drive change for business advantage
We are willing to take risks
We are willing to spend money
We proactively invest in the future
Read the survey results here
About the authors
Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to deliver reliable and high-performing Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies.