Business Transformation

CIOs Must Change Their Mindset to Scale Business and Innovation

In 2020, companies changed their operations almost overnight. Some companies, however, struggled with this sudden about-face. The culprit? Not leveraging software to enable day-to-day functions. For example, in early 2020, nearly half of polled organizations hadn’t improved their software portfolios in at least one year. That’s understandable. Becoming a software-driven multi-cloud company isn’t as simple as using more technology tools. Instead, turning software as a primary business enabler requires a mindset shift.   

The white paper “Changing Mindsets: The Missing Ingredient to Accelerating the Digital Business” helps CIOs pivot their stance to think less about projects individually and more about how those projects work in tandem to respond to customer needs and get new ideas into the world quickly.

Software development across multiple clouds has become a core tool for business, as it unlocks a new chapter for turning ideas into reality with speed and infinite scale.

Project-focused vs. product-focused mindsets

The mindset shift should enable a culture of innovation. Software development across multiple clouds has become a core tool for business, as it unlocks a new chapter for turning ideas into reality with speed and infinite scale. To achieve this goal, leaders must push their organizations to become a product-driven culture rather than a project-driven culture. 

When organizations think about software as a project, they pigeonhole themselves into achieving a checklist of requirements. When all those objectives are ticked, the software and project management teams may have achieved their fixed goal; however, in the time it took to do so, it’s possible that business objectives have changed. A project mindset traps teams into delivering what was needed yesterday and what they think might still be needed today. 

Breaking free from a project-focused mindset to a product-focused one is difficult. It’s easy for teams to document the progress of projects with checklists that predict outcomes and with status meetings that confirm each step along the way. Plus, work can be outsourced for efficiency and leaders can calculate exactly how many developers are needed to complete each software project. 

The “Changing Mindsets” whitepaper urges readers to escape this comfortable relationship with software. The author points out that organizations’ previous approach they’re so attached to was rarely successful. According to an analysis of 13 years’ worth of surveys, only about 30% of software projects end on time and on budget. 

A software-as-a-product mindset is much more flexible, which helps organizations attain their ever-changing goals. The priority is placed less on delivering a planned feature set on budget and on schedule and more on rolling out new features quickly based on evolving customer and business needs. This translates as well to the approach that teams take to the infrastructure and multiple cloud environments that enable the seamless development of the application software. Thinking of software as a product allows teams to continually learn from the product, such as through customer-driven experimentation and “small batch” feedback cycles. When teams base new software features on customer feedback, they constantly learn and thus, quickly change their priorities to keep pace with business and industry demands. 

A software-as-a-product mindset is much more flexible, which helps organizations attain their ever-changing goals.

3 keys to shifting the organizational mindset

Shifting from a project culture to a product culture is not easy. These three recommendations are the keys to unlocking that shift. 

  1. Consider failure a learning experience. Management must empower employees to embrace the learning experiences that often follow failure. It’s safe to fail; though the quicker teams fail, the better. A series of small learnings controls the risk of a disastrous failure in the future, such as a security breach or product crash. Leaders can change the company culture around embracing failure by asking employees what they learn each week instead of inquiring only about tangible deliverables. Poll customers for their honest opinions and use any negative feedback as an indicator on how to change. Use their positive feedback as encouragement on how to move forward. 
  2. Use an end-to-end approach. Software has value streams, meaning that all activities performed start with an idea and end with a customer using a new developed feature. End-to-end is sometimes also known as build pipelines, software supply chains, or paths to production. CIOs should consider adopting this way of production because it emphasizes the big picture. For example, CIOs should start by selecting an important application and then outline each activity required to get a simple, new feature out the door. Then, CIOs should track how long each activity takes, including hand-offs between operation and development groups. This activity charting identifies bottlenecks and redundancies that the team can then solve to improve their efficiency. When someone “owns” the entire process, it eliminates silos and improves communication and hand-offs between teams. 
  3. Start small and stay small. Enterprises may pause at this recommendation. Large companies are used to juggling multiple huge projects because they have the resources and staff to do so. They should shift to focusing on one application at a time and either developing it from scratch or modernizing an existing one whether that is in their own data center or on one of multiple cloud environments. Narrowing attention allows management to determine what works in terms of software and culture. Small batches are key to absorbing lessons. Once leaders determine the processes that work best, then teams can take on more simultaneous projects.  

Changing mindsets will scale the business and innovation

Leaders who follow the above three recommendations will be well on their way to shifting their organization’s mindset and then scaling these changes for long-term success. A solid digital platform enabling consistent and scalable operations and development across environments and teams who are committed is necessary to make this new way of work … work. A CIO who practices the new mindset and leads by example is key to keeping the workforce dedicated to the new way of doing things.

The pace of innovation during the height of the pandemic isn’t sustainable long-term. The secret to accelerating the digital business is breaking free from a reliance on external conditions that force change and instead having a greater control upon internal processes and teams to disrupt the industry on your own terms. 

Download the full version of “Changing Mindsets: The Missing Ingredient to Accelerating the Digital Business” to learn how to give yourself permission to shatter the status quo.