Implementing change at the application layer: Kill Teams vs. Disruptive Change Agents

  • Jason Ward, Senior Director Enterprise UK&Ireland, EMC

  • 15.09.2015 12:11 pm

At the start of the year, Deloitte’s Banking Outlook report predicted that in 2015, banks may finally be at the point of boosting profitability, and stepping out of the turbulence of the past six years. With new flight plans set and underway, the banking sector has continued to focus on working faster and smarter to deliver much needed efficiencies.

Delivering against this challenge has required the adoption of technology and applications that can adapt faster and flex to meet demands. But with this new approach comes a raft of cultural challenges to encourage teams to detach from the old way of doing things and embrace change. In response, some financial services (FS) organisations are introducing “kill teams” or “disruptive change agents” to develop and action strategic plans, particularly around application use. But, in a race to the battle finish line, which approach would win and why?

Kill Teams
Not hugely dissimilar to the spin-off of the hugely popular sci-fi table top game Warhammer 40,000, a Kill Team is a squad of specialists used in missions which large forces aren't best placed to deal with. In this case they will be unlikely to be employed by the Space Marines of the Deathwatch; but this small force will be brought in by the CIO to assess strategic and non-strategic business applications, kill what isn’t needed, and build new capability and move on.

Winning attributes

·         They are not emotionally tied to the application and business use

·         They are not embedded in the culture and ‘how things have always been done’

·         You will get to the target point quicker

The darker side

·         To be effective, they require complete freedom to turn things off – which can be an uncomfortable experience for the IT team and wider business

·         There is a potential threat of business back-lash in response to applications killed-off with limited warning

·         It is the more “disruptive” approach

Disruptive change agents
More akin to the Guild leaders of World of Warcraft , this is about identifying individuals in the organisation that have the authority and control to disrupt the way of working, but work closely with the business to ensure change is ingrained in to the culture.

Winning attributes

·         Already part of the organisation and therefore more closely attuned to what applications are needed/redundant and why

·         More innovative thinkers, that aren’t necessarily part of the IT team

·         Can crowd-source responses from the organisation on what needs to be prioritised

·         Teams are more likely to respect the view of a disruptive ‘insider’ rather than an external “Kill Team”

·         Their work will drive skills sharing across the business

The darker side

·         If they are too engrained in the business, they will likely hit barriers against change raised by the wider organisation

·         They may have greater emotional attachment to applications, processes and ‘how things have always been done’

Whichever approach is adopted, the business has to be prepared to collaborate and accept the strategy and the outcome. Particularly within more traditional FS organisations, in a bid to meet the new demands a more digitised era, there is a significant IT challenge to address legacy and make applications more strategic.

If financial services organisations were to genuinely rebuild every application from scratch in a careful and considered way, it could take fifty years or so to complete. This simply is not time that businesses have on their hands, so application destruction and development, needs to move faster.

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