If ITIL 4’s Digital & IT Strategy (DITS) module offers strategic guidance for leading digital transformation in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, it was made for 2020.
In fact, we were still writing the DITS book when Covid-19 hit, forcing us to change two of the chapters in response.
The pandemic has changed dramatically the products/services companies offer, made digital strategy more urgent and accelerated digital transformation.
Where, in a stable environment, organizations could plan for years; now, it’s “how do we get to Q1 2021?” and people are looking for leadership with a digital vision for how to come out the other side surviving and thriving.
Old problems, new solutions, fresh vision
While there are new and emerging technologies to deal with, the essential problem of creating products and services customers want/need from us remains.
This needs a vision and, in the digital age, one that incorporates technology to support the future state of our organization.
But what does it mean to craft a digital vision?
First, we need to understand our organization’s reason for being, define it and communicate it. This has to be an authentic rallying cry for the team.
However, many leaders underestimate the time and effort it takes to craft a vision that will speak to people. We often jump into change and assume people will just understand, when the only way to fulfil a vision is to inspire others to do something new.
How to craft a digital vision
The way DITS is structured, practitioners can methodically go through it to establish “what’s my vision?” and “what’s our organization’s reason for being?”.
Once we have our vision and decide the organization is ready for change, it offers the next steps through the process for taking action, motivating people, and measuring progress.
For example, the digital positioning and sense making section in the guidance – something akin to pieces on a board game – gives a visual representation of what and how we want to change and shows people why we’re choosing our direction.
Alongside that, the parallel operating models concept helps organizations figure out how to keep an existing line of business going while launching another without going bust. For example, the way the New York Times continued a newspaper operation while building infrastructure for a paid digital news product.
Agility – a tool to support our vision
Modern ways of working, including business agility, Lean and DevOps are now visible and part of the conversation in ITIL 4.
While exposing people to these ideas is great, we need to recognize that “going Agile” is not a vision, it’s a tool.
In addition, there are new tools and techniques in DITS to try, including the Wardley Map approach (based on Sun Tzu’s Art of War book) to help us understand our competitors, map out the current landscape, and determine where we need to move to as an organization.
Also, the business model canvas provides a one-page planning tool to review our business model, our customers, and how we’ll serve them.
Vision crafting – assessing your ability
The case studies used to assess ITIL 4 DITS candidates take learners to the next level.
Testing ourselves in a safe environment, we can apply what we’ve learned to create a vision: identifying the problem, the future state, and making a plan for how to get there.
Teaching us how to think from a consultative perspective is both a richer learning experience and develops us as much stronger practitioners and digital leaders.