Business leaders see Google and iPhones in use in their personal lives. They see really bright consultants, offshore firms, and software engineers developing powerful new tools. But when they go to their offices, they’re living with 30-year-old technology. They can’t understand why they can’t have what they see outside. These same business leaders would certainly understand the investment of time and money required to modernize their fleet or manufacturing equipment, as well as the benefits of doing so. But there is a lack of understanding about what is required to modernize IT systems. Instead, the CIO often gets berated. That is a common blind spot.
Being closely connected with business strategy is critically important. At Frito-Lay, we developed our own framework for IT-related change projects. It was based on the notion that we had to justify anything we did with IT in terms of the company’s overall strategy. We had to specify how we would use it, what it meant for the business, and how we would manage it. This was before people used words like alignment.
Driving Change through IT
S+B: What did your framework consist of?
FELD: It was built around four basic questions for leaders who are using IT to drive change: Why? (Why do anything?) What? (What will we do?) How? (How will we do it?) and Who? (Who will lead and manage the change?). It took a couple of years to develop the framework at Frito-Lay and several years to execute the transformation. (See Exhibit 1.)
The first stage, strategy, typically lasts about 90 days. You articulate a future-state plan and assess the skills, structures, and leadership abilities within the IT and technology group. You proceed from there in a very structured way, in 90-day increments, to planning the details and repositioning the organization — a stage we called the turn — to getting up and running with the new way of working, to hitting your stride and accelerating the change, and then to industrializing the new approach. The goal is to have the organization’s “muscle memory” rewired in order to accelerate results with consistency over time.
The framework worked great at Frito-Lay. The culture at Frito-Lay was very professional. Everybody in the company, including the executive team, grew up with this kind of discipline, structure, and culture. As new people came in, they learned and embraced it. We accomplished some really good things. But I didn’t know if what we had done and how we had done it at Frito-Lay were generally applicable to other businesses.
When I left in 1992 and started my own firm, the Feld Group, I convinced myself that just about any smart business executive at any company would understand the framework. And for the most part, IT people understood the principles. We started sharing this with companies and building teams of four or five highly skilled and experienced people from the Feld Group to help. That proved that the framework was generally applicable if executed and championed by a few strong IT leaders. It was successful, but not very scalable.
My mission now is to convey my experiences, ideas, and framework in a way that’s much more scalable. I’d like to do that by enabling current business and IT leaders to think and lead in ways that I’ve found to be effective and by helping to develop the next generation of business and IT leadership. My focus will be an open source approach — collaborative, open, and focused on enabling others. In other words, the model has IT leaders building and improving the framework, helping each other by expanding the body of learning from our first 40 years.