IT transformation is like surgery: it’s a big step to take, but the benefits are worth it


I know a guy who used to be really active. He played baseball, jogged and rode his bike all over the place. But a couple of years ago, he started having pain in one of his hips. At first he figured it was no big deal and just kept going. Over time, it got worse, and finally, he went to see his doctor about it. The news wasn’t good: his hip joint was in pretty bad shape, and he would need hip replacement surgery to fix the problem.

For a long time, my friend put off the surgery. He had his reasons. Could he afford his share of the surgery and recovery costs and the time away from work? Would he be able to endure the pain of recovering from the surgery? What kind of strain would his recovery put on his wife?

He also worried about choosing a surgeon. They all looked good on paper, but what would happen if he made the wrong choice and wound up worse off? He was still able to work, and he enjoyed being with his family and friends, but his life was a lot more limited than it used to be.

A similar dilemma

Many automotive companies are facing a similar dilemma with the information technology (IT) that supports their product development and other business functions The technology they use today is aging and no longer up to the job of handling a perfect storm of increasingly sophisticated and demanding consumers, the increasing pace of innovation and a highly competitive, global marketplace. Companies that don’t transform their IT to meet these challenges will be left behind by competitors who do. But they worry about the cost and disruption involved. There are a lot of IT vendors out there, and they all claim they know how to do IT transformation better than the other guys. Like my athletic friend, they worry: how do you make the right choice, and what are the consequences of choosing wrong?

What happens if you do nothing?

Not too long ago, I worked with a client who was facing this sort of situation. They had been using the same software configuration management solution for ten years, running on the same servers the whole time. In the last couple of years, the machines were showing their age. They were breaking down and couldn’t handle the increasing workload imposed by the company’s growing business. Their server vendor was also pressuring the client to do a server-for-server swap to the vendor’s latest gear, which sounded good until they realized the price was out of their budget.

This client came to IBM and asked what we could do to deliver a solution that would give them the performance and reliability they needed without breaking the bank. We put our heads together and came up with a solution based on virtualized servers that delivered better performance than their old solution, at about a third of the cost of the approach proposed by the competition. Suffice it to say, we have a happy client who’s rolling out the solution site by site.

Choose wisely

IT transformation isn’t something you just jump into. You need to do your vendor and technology research and define your requirements, goals and budget. Then you have to select an IT partner who will collaborate with you to develop a solution that fits your parameters. The result will be a new IT infrastructure that meets your current needs and is ready to handle whatever tomorrow brings.

And my friend with the hip problem? He did his research and found an experienced hip replacement surgeon who did a great job and got my friend into a good physical therapy program. It’s great to see my friend out walking (even jogging a little), smiling and waving to the neighbors as he strolls by.

Grant McLaughlin is the STG CTO of Automotive and Aerospace & Defense Industries at IBM. His career with IBM spans more than two decades and multiple disciplines. Grant was also a founding member, engagement leader, and project manager for the High Availability Center of Competency, a role he took on after holding project management and software development roles on the PowerHA (formerly HACMP) clustering product.

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