Seven (More) Tips To Become a Change Agent

In my last blog article, I talked about the challenges associated with changing an organization to establish a sustainable integration strategy, and I outlined the first two change management principles.  Here are seven more of the original nine.

Grow incrementally, organically

A word of advice on growing the size of the ICC; don’t set out with an objective to grow a large team or have any specific target in mind for the number of staff. If the discussion focuses on the size of the ICC, it may appear to be a power grab and will cause people to become defensive. Rather, select a set of integration services that will be highly valued by the organization, staff it with good people, and be willing to accept new responsibilities as they come along. If you do this, and don’t put up artificial barriers (like budgets), you will find that the ICC grows naturally and organically to the “right” size.

Sidestep resource issues

In this global economy of outsourcing, off-shoring and contracting, there should never be a reason to not find the resources to get a particular job done. If you want to create a reputation as a “can do” customer service oriented ICC, there should never be a time when you need to say No to a service request due to lack of resources (there may be other reasons to say No like insufficient notice, very specific skill needs or lack of conformance to standards but that’s another story). As a Shared Service or Central Service ICC you should always maintain a strong set of relationships with multiple external suppliers; middleware vendors, global consulting firms, small local specialty firms, etc. As long as you can maintain a core group of loyal permanent staff, you should be able to scale up your work force to four or five times the size as needed to handle peak workloads.

Choose your battles

Whenever you have the choice between a carrot and stick approach, always use the carrot. You can, and should, carry a big stick in terms of having the support of the CIO and other executives for the ICC charter and for any mandated processes or standards, but you should use the power as infrequently as possible. Sometimes this might mean even given in and making on a concession on enforcing a standard that is clearly in the right from the ICCs perspective – but that’s not the point.

One way to help you choose your battles is try this exercise. Write down your integration principles on a piece of paper. Then stroke out one at a time the ones that you would be willing to compromise on if pushed into a corner until you only have one left. That is the principle that you should use your stick for.

Take out the garbage

We’ve already talked about growing incrementally and building credibility through delivery. Another dimension of those two ideas is to accept responsibility for work that no-one else wants. If your security infrastructure is in a mess and your CIO is looking for someone to lead the single sign-on initiative that no-one wants, put up your hand. If the internal auditors want someone to run around and inventory all holes in the firewall and any external FTP jobs, volunteer for that as well.

The interesting insight we have learned is that many of the jobs that no-one really wants are those that don’t serve a specific function and end up being ideal integration initiatives. Sometimes these also end up being really difficult challenges which means they have a high probability of failure. But most of the time these initiatives will be recognized by management as difficult challenges and if you at least tried your best to solve it, you won’t end up with a black eye.

Leverage knowledge

There is a well-known truism that states that “knowledge is power.” In an ICC you are ideally positioned to talk with just about anyone in the IT organization – after all you are in the middle. By asking questions and being a good listener, you can gain a lot of knowledge about the organization that many project teams or other groups don’t have. This knowledge can come in very handy in terms of which projects are getting approved and where you shouldn’t spend your time, where next years’ budget will land, which groups are hiring and which aren’t, etc.

The metadata repository is another source of knowledge (and power.) If you have responsibility for all the documentation in the enterprise concerning data flows and dependencies between systems, you are ideally positioned to support a) internal audit for some of their initiatives, b) support finance for their asset inventory, c) support the disaster recovery team to build the continuity plan, or d) support business leaders when they want to outsource some business processes. Each of these is an opportunity to provide value to an internal group that is likely to have some funding for an initiative at some point.

Refocus innovation

While there are major benefits to an ICC, there is a downside; standardization can stifle innovation. While one could argue that you don’t necessary want innovation and variation for a shared infrastructure, nonetheless there is always a tug-of-war between the forces of driving consistency and efficiency in the integration arena and staying ahead of the competition by innovating with new technologies. But rather than stopping innovation and discouraging individuals that are particularly good at implementing new ideas, we suggest steering those individuals to function-specific areas.

Take it outside

Another aspect of leadership is active participation in the broader community; specifically, participation in standards bodies or professional organizations. The external activities can be useful for both getting new ideas and insights and for polishing your own ideas though discussion and debate with others. In the end, these activities can make you stronger at an individual level which can only help you play a leadership role inside your enterprise.

For further reading, check out the new eBook version of Integration Competency Centers which is now available on Amazon and iTunes.

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