A new Forrester study finds firms that achieved higher performance levels transform their IT operating models and address challenges incrementally.

IT team carrying out an operations model.
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IT operating models are in transition with organizations experiencing high levels of uncertainty and the need to adapt to rapid change, according to Forrester. For organizations to be successful going forward, they must transform at the pace of the business and set a dynamic vision for the operating model, the newly-released report, “The State of IT Operating Models 2022” finds.

Forrester makes a correlation between tech maturity with maturity in customer obsession.

“Maturity in customer obsession defines what IT must do to enable business success at each maturity level,’’ the report said.

There are four traits of customer-obsessed firms, according to Forrester: They are customer-led, insights-driven, fast and connected. The tech organization must keep pace with the business transformation as companies mature these strategies that enable customer obsession.

Three levels of maturity for tech organizations

 Traditional IT acts as a utility and order-taker

The traditional IT organization is driven by costs and struggles with reducing technical debt through modernization, simplification and consolidation of legacy technologies. Waterfall methodologies dominate project delivery.

Modern IT becomes a partner player

Modern tech executives are driven by a focus on customer and business value as well as producing outcomes. They mainly use continuous delivery (agile, DevOps, CI/CD automation) with outcome-based metrics.

Future-fit IT shares accountability for business performance

Future-fit IT builds on modern IT, adding an ability to quickly reconfigure business structures to meet future customer and employee needs with adaptability, creativity and resilience. There is shared accountability for customer and business outcomes that drive future-fit tech builds on flexible platforms, provided increasingly through co-innovation partnerships.

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Better delivery with a continuously changing operating model design

Forrester conducted 25 interviews with tech executives and gleaned that IT operating model design is a continuous process because of organizations’ need to adapt to a dynamic business environment.

The interviews also revealed that regardless of their maturity level, few tech executives had reached their preferred high-performing operating model state. The ones who came close had intentionally redesigned their IT operating model.

Those furthest from their desired state relied on an emerging design or chose a model and introduced continuous learning to fine-tune the implemented model.

Improve the operating model by transforming incrementally

Firms that achieved higher performance levels while transforming their IT operating model addressed challenges incrementally “as part of an ongoing evolution and maturation of their IT operating model, starting with the customer,’’ the Forrester report said.

These continual improvements had feedback loops woven into the operating model design process.

Significantly, the study found a critical success factor was to make changes in alignment with the business’ own capability, maturity, speed and journey toward customer obsession—regardless of whether they moved from low-performing to high-performing or between traditional, modern, or future-fit maturity levels.

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How to drive performance improvements

Across strategy, operations, and leadership, the Forrester study found performance improvements were made and barriers overcome when tech executives took the following actions.

Invested proactively in improved IT customer experience to drive satisfaction

Creating great CX requires establishing and maintaining an ongoing relationship with customers.

Recognized that talent mobility is critical to IT business capability performance

Organizations seeking to increase their IT operating model performance made improving employee experience within IT a priority.

 Adopted shared business goals and integrated teams to improve value delivery

Tech executives who wanted to maintain the level of technical fitness required by accelerating market change integrated IT governance with overall business governance.

Applied practices selectively across the value stream to reduce time to market

There is no single practice, platform, or partnership that increases delivery velocity. High performers apply practices such as agile or DevOps in areas that are ready to realize the benefits. Additionally, they recognize that adopting new ways of working within IT might require changes to business practices if they are to be successful.

To drive a high-performing IT operating model, tech executives are looking at the organizational culture, the current state of IT capabilities, desires of IT employees and competencies of partners, Forrester said.