Playing Catch Up


Ashley Roper, Partnership Director, explains why if you’re building a technology strategy then you’ve already lost the race. 

I’ve been in IT for longer than I care to remember – but ask me to connect some wires and servers together and I can assure you no lights would come on. Far from that being a problem, it’s actually an opportunity – not least because it allows me to take a different, more business-focused approach to digital transformation that is, I believe, the way forward in today’s ever evolving technology landscape.

Ten years ago, IT strategies were all about what technology could be leveraged and how it could be integrated to deliver a single IT service. Today, the narrative has changed and it’s no longer about how you stitch technology together. The reach of IT is now further than that of most organisations and the dialogue has changed to “how can I exploit the IT available to me in order to affect real transformation, whilst making sure it is meaningful and enabling for all of my staff and customers?”

A different starting point

The imperative of starting with a policy or business outcome is therefore more important than it ever used to be. If the focus is on technology, the conversation is wrong. Technology is just available – it’s as simple as that. The real power comes from what you do with it.

If, instead, organisations focus on unlocking what the users need and want, which will vary across directorates, departments and possibly users, they can extract every penny of investment and ensure that the organisation’s strategy is being underpinned. More than that, you might even be influencing that strategy.

Shifting mindsets

The old school IT professionals are mesmerised by ‘always-on’ IT, while on the other hand, there is a move towards user centric services.

But I believe organisations need to look at things from a business perspective. Interpretation needs to take place around how an organisation wants to work and how that can be translated into a solution. Once you have your solution, the questions revolve around how it’s tailored and how it can remain current and consistent to enable users to adapt as the working environment changes. Finally, it’s about how you lead your service evolution, engaging users and creating the culture to make change happen.


While changing mindsets can seem daunting – and it’s undoubtedly challenging – today’s technology should provide an opportunity.

Ten years ago, you would go to work and use the most modern technology that you had access to. Nowadays, you’re probably using more modern technology at home than you do in the workplace. So, getting people to adopt a product like Office 365 is much easier than you might think. Workplaces are still playing catch up with our home lives, especially when it comes to social media and the tools related to it. When we adopt the same principles in the workplace – and therefore work practice – I’ve seen almost instant adoption which has immediately accelerated any transformation efforts in the process.

This brings me back to my point about IT directors needing to think business strategy first and technology second. There’s much less to be considered in an IT strategy today because it’s not complicated technology that’s being stitched together. The challenge comes in enabling a hundred different types of stakeholders, instead of delivering one single IT service that suits everybody. This is the basis for a different conversation.

The great enabler

Technology is a great enabler of workplace change and can drive productivity, but only if there’s take-up. If it’s not used, whatever it is, it’s wasted investment. If I wanted to clear a beach, I could give the person doing it a dessert spoon because it’s cheap. The user, however, would prefer a digger to carry out the job more efficiently. The spoon might be cheaper, but it’s a wasted investment as nobody would use it and the objective would not be met. This is not work style profiling – it’s about peoples’ preferred ways of working.

It’s about getting people engaged with the technology as quickly as possible to unlock the business benefit. And that’s why we need to look beyond the technology strategy if we’re to really discover what’s possible with transformation.

With a background in service design and innovation, Ashley is a real champion of the importance of people in delivering successful business change. You can contact Ashley via LinkedIn.

Ashley Roper