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When executives champion a modern, elastic technology infrastructure, they give their business a foundational system that is secure, resilient, agile and scalable. Moreover, it equips the business with a means to deliver digital experiences that impact all areas-- from creating new products and services to delivering positive customer outcomes to increasing internal productivity and satisfaction.  

Consider Elanco Animal Health, which worked collaboratively with WWT to build from scratch a modernized, end-to-end IT infrastructure that could scale and meet the evolving needs of its business stakeholders. The modernized, cloud-based infrastructure provided Elanco with a robust IT ecosystem that could foster innovation and increase productivity of a hybrid workforce, while simultaneously establishing a foundation to grow into a digital-native business ready to seize future opportunities. But few business leaders have the luxury of building a modernized IT infrastructure from the ground up. 

Think of modernizing your IT infrastructure like buying a house. Building it new -- like Elanco did -- allows you to tailor your home to meet your current and expected future needs. Buying an existing home does not preclude you from making modifications, but you're by and large constrained by your infrastructure (i.e. floorplan, plumbing, acreage, etc.) 

Most business leaders must work with what they have and reconcile their legacy systems with novel approaches to modernizing their IT systems. 

To make the balancing act work, these executives need to simultaneously think about the present and future. How can I make today's systems and processes work for me and not against me? And how can I start thinking strategically about how IT can enable my business moving forward? 

You can't start effectively charting a course toward progress if you don't know where you are. You need a complete understanding of your current IT environment. 

Only then can you begin to execute the vision to reach your business goals.  

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IT Modernization Maturity Curve 

With decades of experience working with business and IT leaders, WWT has organized the steps of IT modernization into six distinct stages that represent a curve of maturity. Each stage articulates where an organization sits in terms of its ability to drive a modernized IT infrastructure that enables the business. 

The stages of the maturity curve are:

Zero State: Siloed and stranded. Your company is working with legacy systems and there is little to no appetite to modernize. Various departments or units work with disparate solutions to get work accomplished. The company overall suffers from shadow IT. The thought of aligning business and technology interests is completely foreign. 

Stage one: Technology-focused, but disconnected. Your organization is starting to think the right way but it's still too theoretical. Legacy IT infrastructure and processes in place, but little to no collaboration is happening among teams. Point solutions still commonplace. Minimal, if any, executive buy-in, and IT is still disconnected from the business interests. 

Stage two: Technology-driven, technology-focused. Your technology organization now has executive ownership, which helps drive strategy, but tension still exists between IT and business groups. Modernization is discussed but is not strategically aligned to business objectives. You feel like you are on the cusp of a breakthrough, but you are still encountering obstacles. 

Stage three: Business-driven, technology-focused. Your technology organization has executive ownership and is starting to use business-focused insights to drive decision making. Nascent collaboration with business and technology stakeholders is fostering progress, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Momentum is building among executives and teams, and tangible outcomes are starting to become apparent.  

Stage four: Tech and business are aligned and united. Both business and tech leaders are invested and engaged. Both sides are working from a foundation of trust and share common vision and goals. IT modernization is now closely linked to, and executing, business outcomes. IT meets the needs of various business units as they unfold. Common systems and processes throughout the company are creating a consistent experience for everyone. 

Stage five: Tech and business are a flywheel. IT modernization and digital transformation efforts are working simultaneously and constantly enabling one another, creating a flywheel effect that spurs innovation and progress. IT is fully integrated with business strategy discussions, leading to tight linkage between business and technology strategies. Proactive messaging and communication are mitigating any surprises or setbacks. Business outcomes are now the key drivers. IT is a connective tissue that puts all stakeholders, business units and employees on a level playing field.  

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How can you progress along the curve?  

IT modernization is a transformation in and of itself -- from a state of maintaining the business to fueling and enabling it.  

With 30 years' experience helping the world's largest enterprise, service provider and public sector organizations transform their operating models, we have learned digital transformation and IT modernization thrive in the convergence of six distinct worlds:   

Business and technology, strategy and execution, physical and digital

 

When business and technology leaders align on goals, it's easier for IT leaders to prioritize work and allocate the right people and resources to execute the strategy. It also leads to: 

  • Technology that keeps up with the pace of business aspirations.
  • Building a workplace that attracts and retains talent.
  • Streamlines IT operations to more seamlessly allow users to access applications and data.
  • Unified and resilient systems that are more self-service, cloud capable and automated.
  • A sense of clarity and understanding of investments with finance and IT.
  • Breaking down silos that hold teams back.
  • An innovative culture that fosters creativity, productivity and growth.

While there are many downstream requirements that support IT modernization and digital transformation, aligning these six worlds is imperative for an efficient and effective modernization journey. 

Need help bringing these worlds together? Chad Bockert, WWT's vice president of marketing, recently published an in-depth article that highlights key strategies and common pitfalls to making it happen. 

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Conclusion 

Digital leaders who treat IT modernization and digital transformation as efforts that occur simultaneously -- not one after the other -- are more likely to optimize ROI of digital transformation initiatives

Digital is the vision -- where you want to go and why. A modernized IT infrastructure is the vehicle -- the how and what that gets you there.