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Leverage positive synergies to minimize the impact of the negative trends

Paolo Malinverno Profile picture for user Paolo Malinverno October 20, 2022
Trying to tackle individual challenges from technical debt to the skills gap can be like playing whack-a-mole. Paolo Malinverno of Mulesoft offers a way to save some sanity for IT leaders that can solve more problems at the same time.

Doubtful businessman in front of multiple doors of diverse colors as symbol for different opportunities. Business challenge, choosing a correct doorway. Difficult decision concept, failure or success © StunningArt - Shutterstock
( © StunningArt - Shutterstock)

Nearly everybody in the world of business and IT understands the value of innovation, but very few are able to find the time for it.

However, now, the dream of automation, especially when delivered by employees outside the IT department, is bringing the vision of a faster pace of innovation closer to reality.

When harnessed effectively, automation empowers organizations to deliver enterprise-wide efficiencies and drive operational excellence, while accelerating their journey to a more digital future.

The rising tide of negative trends

As they seek to equip their organization with the means to thrive amidst the gloomy prospects of a looming recession, CIOs and IT leaders face a number of challenges, both old and new. First, they’re still under pressure to invest in technology in a way that will minimize technical debt and deliver process improvements across the business.

IT leaders are also under pressure to improve employee wellbeing through modern workplace strategies, starting with hybrid working. However, their efforts to do so continue to be hindered by worsening skills gaps, as the impact of the great resignation continues to take its toll and leave IT teams struggling to keep up with the demand for their expertise.

The majority of CIOs and IT leaders try to tackle all of those challenges one by one, as if they existed in isolation. Great efforts are invested in trying to reduce technical debt, for example, while a separate initiative is established to deliver process improvements. However, if they look at the tasks before them with a wider perspective, IT leaders will quickly see that a lot of the challenges they are dealing with are connected and often stem from one another.

Cause and effect

When they look at their challenges in this way, IT leaders will soon realize that they have fewer root causes to tackle, and can solve more problems at the same time – or at least part of them – with no extra effort. These ‘synergies’ can have a profound impact across the organization if IT leaders can identify enough of the positive ones.

Some of the synergies created by the challenges that CIOs face are obvious. For example, the great resignation will make skill gaps worse – creating a clearly negative synergy. Process improvements reduce technical debt – creating a positive synergy. However, some synergies are less consequential or obvious.

For instance, offering meaningful hybrid working options widens a job offer to candidates who are not in a position to move from where they currently live. While that has a positive impact on organizations’ ability to attract fresh talent to their business, it also amplifies the effects of the great resignation. Hybrid working makes it easier for an organization’s existing employees to seek new opportunities elsewhere. As a result, there is an equal negative synergy, as skills gaps widen for their original employer.

Putting people first

In light of this potentially negative synergy exacerbating their challenges, employee wellbeing has become central to organizations’ ability to attract and retain skilled workers. Employees leave for many reasons, most of which hinge around the search for a better work-life balance, more meaningful and motivating work, flexible hours, or higher pay. In all of that, motivation plays a fundamental role.

Employees who feel they are making a difference are more likely to stay. Research has found that restructuring the workforce into fusion teams can lead to significant improvements in motivation. Fusion teams are formed from a blend of employees with technical, analytics, and domain-centric expertise, to provide a range of perspectives on how best to drive value for customers and end-users. They are frequently tasked to deliver specific process improvements, which reduce technical debt.

This is a perfect example of where CIOs and IT leaders can drive a positive synergy to solve multiple challenges with a single solution. If they focus on improving employee wellbeing, and split their workforce into collaborative fusion teams tasked to specific process improvements and with dynamic governance arrangements in place, CIOs and IT leaders can drive automation and innovation simultaneously. In so doing, they can kill multiple birds with one stone and create a powerful solution to many of their biggest challenges.

Building a foundation for success

Of course, this won’t cancel out technical debt completely, help to improve every process that needs improving, fill in all of their skills gaps, or guarantee that organizations won’t lose any of their key employees. However, it will become easier for CIOs and IT leaders to at least begin to address the key challenges they face when they look at them all in context.

It will also deliver measurable progress,  motivate people more, get them to think twice before leaving, while simultaneously attracting new talent. IT leaders can then build on that approach, refine it, and make it more effective in time, as they continue to apply it.

Of course, the shift towards fusion teams will require time and effort to implement at scale across the organization. The adaptive governance practices that are essential to ensuring fusion teams are a success will require CIOs and IT leaders to cross organizational boundaries, empower those teams with more of their own decision-making powers – frequently with funding – and measure them dynamically according to the outcomes they deliver.

That sounds almost heretic in established, traditional organizations. But let’s face it, the status quo clearly isn’t sustainable, and drastic change is needed. One-sided, traditional approaches have not quashed technical debt, for example, and many process improvement initiatives get caught up in organizational red tape, failing to deliver tangible benefits.

The focus on employee wellbeing and the transition towards dynamically governed fusion teams represent a long overdue paradigm shift. When implemented effectively, this strategy can help to accelerate the use of automation and drive faster innovation, while improving satisfaction amongst the workforce. This will put organizations on the front foot to tackle many of their key challenges and ensure they don’t waste the opportunity to get ahead during an increasingly turbulent future.

“You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one" – John Lennon, Imagine, 1971

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