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Guiding Your IT Department on the Road to Change

Guiding Your IT Department on the Road to Change

After two mergers, the CIO of logistics provider YRC Worldwide had to carefully apply change leadership techniques to blend three IT departments into one.

Although I was hired by YRC Worldwide nearly two years ago to create a strategy to drive innovation, I quickly realized that there was more work to do within IT than just creating a strategy. In the wake of the merger of Yellow Freight, Roadway and USF, the IT groups from our three companies operating in multiple locations had been merged into one unit but had yet to jell into a cohesive team. Adding to the stress from its change of identity, the group had to develop an application road map for the merged organization that would modernize and simplify the application portfolio. Only then would we be able to free up the resources needed to focus on innovation and driving growth. The IT transformation is the biggest change effort ever seen within IT, ultimately involving hundreds of people.

The size and scope of such a task requires change leadership from the CIO. I have to be actively involved, and it's a tough balancing act. I've been spending between 20 to 30 percent of my time as the hands-on manager of our change initiatives during the past 18 months while at the same time fulfilling my strategic role.

Fortunately, change leadership is one of the C-level competencies that seems to be native to the IT profession, even in the middle-management ranks. There aren't many disciplines that have experienced as much change during the past 20 years as IT. People who have worked in IT over time have benefited from rolling with a series of technology changes. That experience makes us less resistant to change.

When we become corporate executives, we quickly realize that we are not working in a dictatorship

When we become corporate executives, we quickly realize that we are not working in a dictatorship. We learn that we have to take time to understand the needs of our constituents and stakeholders and help them along with technology changes. Without these basic change leadership skills, no IT leader is going to get far.

Creating a Corporate Identity

After the mergers, we had multiple technologies used for similar functions, and this creates a level of complexity that is difficult to manage. It's taken a year and a half to evaluate our portfolio and to decide which of the applications and technologies we want going forward as well as how to manage the migration to our target state. Our target state represents a 40 percent reduction in applications and a 30 percent reduction in total technologies by the end of 2010.

Regardless of the technology challenges, however, change leadership is still about people. My IT department is a blend of cultures. We have mixed together employees who were accustomed to supporting one operating company in one geographic location but now must support multiple operating companies across three different geographic locations: Chicago, Kansas City and Akron.

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