A few years back, I wrote an article called "Why Evergreen IT Must Be Part Of Your Long-Term IT Strategy" which has been one of our most popular blog articles. It defined Evergreen IT as the "perpetual migration of end-user software, hardware and associated services such as mailboxes, telephony, file storage and the infrastructure supporting the technology".
The article also outlined that in order to be successful you have to do three things: 1) implement organizational change, 2) optimize your processes, and 3) invest in technology to manage it all. Those are the three cornerstones on which successful Evergreen IT Management is built.
But how do you know which processes need to be optimized, how to manage internal change, and what to look for when implementing technology? Over the next weeks, we will go through each of those three cornerstones (starting with organizational change in this post) by outlining crucial strategic and tactical considerations and sharing insights into real-world implementation and best practices.
#1: Get Executive Sponsorship And Understand Your Evergreen Business Case
Top-down sponsorship is probably THE most crucial success factor from an organizational point of view. Without it, the required organizational change simply cannot happen. Executive leadership first needs to understand:
- What Evergreen IT Management is,
- Why it is crucial now,
- How it fits in with higher visibility initiatives, e.g., Digital Transformation,
- What exactly your strategy is,
- How much change they are going to be pushing,
- How many resources are required, and
- If they have the right top-down buy-in for each of the business units, application owners, and IT functions in order to communicate the change into the organization.
As with anything that challenges conventional wisdom or tried-and-true practices, don't expect this process to happen overnight and in one fell swoop. Be sure to take it one step at a time, cut out the tech-lingo, and always align it with the overall business goals, e.g., Evergreen IT Management is the enabler for an agile IT which is the foundation for empowering Digital Transformation.
#2: Understand The Scope Of Your Evergreen IT Initiative
After you have the general buy-in from management, you will want to determine what the exact scope of your Evergreen IT program is within the next 12 months. You don't have to boil the ocean right now. If your IT estate is currently relatively unmanaged, start by focusing on your Windows 10 updates or hardware refresh in an Evergreen fashion and aim for multiple subsequent life cycle projects in 24 months.
As with any business case, understanding the scope is essential. For example, what are you going to include in your life cycle management with regards to the five pillars of Evergreen: Windows-as-a-Service, Device-as-a-Service, application life cycle, hardware life cycle, and platform life cycle? Once the scope is clear, you can align your organization to a new set of processes and tooling and automate as much as possible.
#3: Determine Your Budget Requirements
The biggest elephant in the room is probably money. Executive management is usually most concerned about the associated budget requirements and how this will impact their business bottom line.
Budget requirements are going to be different from funding traditional IT Transformation projects because Evergreen IT is effectively run as an ongoing release management function that requires the delivery of thousands of change events versus the traditional big bang approach.
Consequently, Evergreen IT Management is typically seen as a Business-as-Usual function rather than a project. However, many organizations make the mistake of allocating little or no budget (or resources) to manage this additional workload. You can find more information on The Evergreen IT Budget Dilemma — And How To Solve It here.
#4: Define Your Evergreen IT Implementation Strategy
Next, it is time to define your Evergreen IT strategy. It is helpful to understand how process redevelopment and tooling implementation can help before we define what needs to happen from an organizational standpoint to deliver our Evergreen strategy.
The goal is to define a strategy that outlines how to deliver change as quickly and effectively as possible in any given time frame. To help you formulate the process, think about Release Management, the process of managing, planning, scheduling, and controlling a software build from beginning to end including testing and deploying releases. Evergreen IT Management is similar, but you are managing, planning, scheduling, and controlling hardware refreshes, Windows 10 upgrades, application updates, platform updates and infrastructure change.
#5: Your Collaboration With The Business Units Will Change
Another concern is how your collaboration and integration with your business units will change as you embrace Evergreen IT Management. Mostly, it means that now there will not be as many people budgeted or available to do the work because, where you might have employed dedicated project resource before, now Evergreen IT Management effectively becomes an additional part of someone's job function.
Finding people that can be responsible for the business liaison end of managing Evergreen IT will be critical in estalishing the right end to end processes and achieving efficiency of operation. This means that you will work just as closely with your business units, but you have to make the processes more repeatable, slick, and automated because the resources will not have as much time to spend on the end user life cycle as they did previously.
#6: Your Org Chart Will Probably Change
Although change has traditionally been managed through large, hierarchically-managed project teams that were often staffed with many outside contractors, Evergreen IT Management requires a flatter and more agile organizational structure. Think matrices rather than a dedicated set of resources focusing only on specific functions.
In other words, rather than having resources dedicate one hundred percent of their time to a specific role, each resource will now have lots of different responsibilities coming down the pipe, e.g., they will have to schedule users, test applications, plan business impacts, and run various reports as part of their BAU function.
All this needs to happen in addition to their own day-to-day activities. They will still be siloed in terms of what function they're providing, so it is crucial to make sure that the organizational structure is set-up to deliver these change programs.
#7: You Will Need New Skill Sets
If you change the process, your team will require additional or new skill sets. As outlined above, the required roles and activities will significantly change. Consequently, this might require new hires or retraining of existing resources. For example, you may not have a release management function or resource right now for end user IT.
An almost obsessive customer orientation is required just as much as skills in efficient communication, collaboration, active listening, and business focus. Because their roles will include so many more attributes than are currently required, BAU managers also need to be highly analytical and data-driven, understand user experience concepts, and become product managers and schedulers.
For more information on these new skills, check out our article 5 Non-Technical Skills Your Business-as-Usual IT Team Must Have To Avoid Becoming Obsolete In This New As-A-Service World.
#8: Who Owns Your Evergreen IT Management?
When we talk about organizational change, we need to also talk about who owns Evergreen IT Management as a function. Who is ultimately responsible?
Normally, release management would sit within the central IT service delivery function. They are generally reactive people who are looking after the environment on a day-to-day basis. But it may not be, in some instances, a dedicated sub-function. In contrast, for Evergreen IT, we do recommend that it is set up as a dedicated and business extended sub-function because, if you don't have a team of people dedicated to looking after life cycle management, your IT estate is going to get out of support very, very quickly.
Most organizations do not have a single Evergreen oversight position but rather manage it as part of their release management function. Therefore, the release management function itself has lots of tentacles in different areas like business units. Think of Evergreen IT Management as a role that cuts across many functions like your help desk, remote desktop support, desk side support, outsource vendors, and others.
Ultimately, the organizational change is all about getting executive buy-in and creating a dedicated sub-function that cuts across many IT organizational towers and business units. It requires dedicated budget even though its function is performed by internal resources that fulfill this role in addition to their other day-to-day tasks.
Be sure to carefully define the process as the process defines the organization. If you have great processes, you might need a smaller organization; if you have terrible processes, you might need a larger one!