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Establishing a culture of transformation to drive success

Establishing a culture of transformation to drive success

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Rick Lindberg, VP and CIO of ASTM International, outlines how organizations can create an executive culture of transformation and then leverage the right technologies to allow the process to grow exponentially over time.

Rick Lindberg, VP and CIO of ASTM International

As a CIO with an all-encompassing understanding of the role, Rick Lindberg has extensive experience making technological transformation work.

Here he reveals how to use Information Technology to create real value for businesses, using it as an enabler to drive results, creating an agile culture and providing visibility across an organization.

He explains aspects of his approach that have helped him become successful including aligning an executive team around a fundamental transformation vision and deciding where key investments need to be made.

Transforming the internal IT organization, structure and working model within an organization.

I’ve spent the better part of my career driving change within IT organizations and across businesses. When coming up against these opportunities, I’ve realized a few things that have helped my approach and probability for success.

The first is that technology is an enabler for business results – whether enabling cost savings or growth. Alongside that, technology by itself is of little value without an operating model, capability development and organizational structure. This is where real value is created by the internal IT organizations within a business, building the organizational intelligence, capabilities and ways of working to enable business strategy. My current role at ASTM has been no different.

ASTM, at its core, has traditionally been a standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services. We have a consortium of 30,000 plus scientists, engineers, researchers and academics that volunteer their time to maintain over 13,000 standards across several industries.

As a leader for the standards industry, ASTM has been a wildly successful organization long before I joined the leadership team. But I knew something was in the works when ASTM’s President Kathie Morgan brought me onboard. I knew the organization wasn’t in jeopardy, but it was laser-focused on capitalizing on a specific vision – to become more member customer-centric to create a true 360-degree service and solution beyond standards alone.

Once the executive team embraced this new vision, my work started – transforming the IT organization to achieve the vision. I started simply by listening. I performed an audit of where we were as an IT organization, documenting the technologies, processes, capabilities and org structure to get a sense of current bandwidth and velocity of the organization. This level setting allowed me to not only uncover the opportunities to move quickly but identify the challenges that might stand in our way to achieve our vision. The outcome of the audit gave me the information I needed to align the executive team around core elements of our transformation approach and where we would need to make investments. These fell into two buckets:

1 We needed to create a more agile culture to increase our output velocity while at the
same time, track results to provide visibility back to the business while we worked to
accomplish our objectives.

2 While our technology and incredibly knowledgeable staff, partners and vendors were
allowing us to maintain our leadership position in the industry, we weren’t making the
strides or placing the right bets to truly maximize on our value. We needed to focus our
resources and double down on how technology could create the pathway to our vision
for the future.

All in all, transforming an internal IT organization, structure, and working model really comes down to two critical elements – the culture and the people. The first is about being more agile with the ability to work faster with greater quality, and the second is about creating a dynamic ‘right-sourced’ resource infrastructure – connecting the right capability matrix internally with the right partner matrix that can augment our business needs. We work with several strategic partners, from the likes of PwC and Icreon, who help establish the right external capability matrix and execute against our vision to bring ASTM 2.0 to life.

How he aligned with the ASTM C-suite on setting expectations and creating business value;

As mentioned, Kathie Morgan had a defined vision of where the organization needed to go – my role was to help chart that course by empowering and evolving the technology and IT organization to bring this vision to life. But to do this effectively, I knew I had to bring the rest of the C-suite along with that transformation. Knowing that the work ahead of me was creating a culture of agility and building the right organizational model, all to bring the right technology to life, I wanted to maintain an environment of transparency and results. Therefore, at every stage of the journey, I communicated the wins, the challenges and opportunities back to the executive team to ensure alignment and setting the right expectations.

At the end of the day, to realize the full vision for the organization, each member on the executive team would be affected by the enabling technology. At the outset of the initiative, we embarked on a Value Stream Mapping exercise that connected our current state to the future vision in a tangible and actionable way.

This gave us the insight and the detail to share with others on the executive team to put the transformation in context for their role and function in the organization – which proved extremely valuable throughout the entire project. By understanding the needs and expectations of each of the executive team members, I made a concerted effort to communicate progress in terms that each member would best understand.

By implementing a data-driven, agile process, we were able to back up our progress with data and results, which further deepened the understanding and adoption of the IT transformation. This level of transparency and communication created an executive culture of transformation – allowing the process and velocity of the program to grow exponentially over time.

Each executive team member was up-to-date on the progress of the initiatives, they started to own the expectations for their department, and they delivered the right ambassadorship across the organization. This level of engagement and trust gave power to the process and enabled the IT organization to accelerate the development and implementation of technologies and operating models so that 18 months from now, when bigger more ambitious requests arise, we can figure out how to get things done in weeks/months as opposed to years.

The importance of modernizing technology and why your business and technology need to work hand in hand

Throughout my career, I’ve seen, first-hand, the transition of industry from being product or service driven to technology driven. In almost every industry, every business today is becoming a technology business tomorrow – if it hasn’t already happened.

You see this transition happening with big consumer brands in automotive, financial services and even healthcare, brands that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be incredibly sophisticated with their technology, but companies that are leading with technology solutions to bring their business vision to life.

Now, with the adoption of AI, IoT and other new technologies, the value that companies can provide through technology is becoming exponential. In reality, today’s modern businesses are synonymous with technology. Not only can they generate better experiences and build new value propositions for growth, but they can systematically reduce operating costs and overheads for the organization.

This transformation doesn’t just happen. It is a careful co-ordination of business and technology – where executive teams set the vision for the company and then leverage the right technologies to bring that vision to life for their customers, partners, employees. Technology isn’t an end all and be all, but, when utilized strategically and applied accordingly, it can become a crucial enabler for a business.

As we’ve seen with ASTM, the importance of modernizing technology isn’t about the initial outcome, but it’s about setting the organization up for future success. By having a modern technology stack, clean data and interoperable infrastructure, the ability to move quickly in the marketplace to capitalize on opportunities is exponentially more realistic than utilizing legacy systems.

To go alongside this, the mindset, processes and operating models that come along with modernizing technology transforms the ways of working within an organization to deliver incremental and innovative value for the customer, the organization and the market – continuously learning, evolving and expanding on the business vision. Our success in modernizing our technology at ASTM has been a strong alignment at the executive level and an ever-evolving relationship between the business and the technology that powers it.

What shifts in business models CIOs must make to keep up with this increasingly tech-focused landscape.

Over the last decade or so, we, in the IT space, have learned many lessons that have allowed our departments to add new value to our businesses. These lessons include embracing agile, ensuring alignment across the organization, measuring project progress and quality, and communicating results in business terms – all of which has expanded the role of the CIO and earned a position on the executive leadership team.

However, the constant and incremental change that is happening in the tech-focused landscape, in customer behavior and in business model development creates a new way of thinking for CIOs. Not only is it crucial to modernize the technology and operating model, but it’s critical to ensure security, provide insight to business strategy and deliver information on customer behavior – all of which is a continuous process with new data, new technologies and new opportunities developing each day. Not to mention, the innovation and disruption that springs up from time to time seems to throw new challenges and opportunities at our businesses.

All of this adds up to a new business model that we, as CIOs must create. Looking back at my time with ASTM, I’m excited at the progress we’re making, not only to capitalize on the opportunities at hand today, but for the ability to respond accordingly to our members, customers, the market and the world tomorrow.

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