Change in IT: What is it good for?

If there is one thing that is constant in the IT world it is change.

I learned early in my career that helping people navigate change in their environment was a critical key to success.

My first experience with major change in the work environment occurred when I was a junior officer in the U.S. Navy and a project manager for new IT systems at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. We were helping the Navy transition from paper and “punch card” duty assignment systems to automated systems.

This was a big deal in the 1980s and a major change for the Navy. The most important lesson I learned from that experience was leadership. The Admiral and Chief of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) made a commitment to lead this change, and he led by example. He used the new systems. He walked around and questioned those who were or were not using the new systems so he could understand their issues. He emphasized to his entire staff how important it was to use the new system. He didn’t give his team a choice. He led from the front.

I learned from that Admiral that leadership is not about dictating policies and procedures from the top down. It’s about diving into the details, understanding the challenges and relating to those who have to implement the policies.

In those early days, we were implementing major changes, such as putting personal computers on the desks of every employee. This was despite the words of a certain CEO who said there would never be a personal computer on every desk or in every home. (That CEO’s major computer company was eventually acquired by Compaq Computer Co. It was Digital Equipment Corporation. A faint memory for many of us now.)

One of my most memorable moments in IT and dealing with change was the infamous Y2K challenge. As a leader in software development, I was challenged with leading a massive change to the IT systems that had been in place for 20+ years.

No one really knew what would happen when the clock ticked midnight on December 31, 1999. We did know that we had a massive problem with all of our computer programs, written on mainframe computers, with 2-digit year data fields. So, “98” could be “1998” or it could be “1898” or it could be “2098.” What would happen with the financial systems, the benefits systems, the insurance systems and other computer systems when the clock ticked “January 1, 2000?”

There was fear, uncertainty and concern about being locked in an elevator, losing access to bank accounts and more. So everyone in the applications and software development world scrambled to put together plans to address this daunting upcoming event. CICS programmers were being hired out of retirement at outrageous salaries to help rewrite old programs. Millions of dollars were spent. IT organizations were panicked about the massive change in front of them.

Never was there so much planning, preparation and angst to be ready for that moment. And then it happened. Jan 1, 2000 came and went. There were no major outages. There were no elevators stuck in buildings with groups of people stranded. No banking systems crashed. It was a non-event. But in the end, I was proud that the IT profession had adequately prepared for the worst disaster of our lifetime, but we experienced none.

Despite the fact that this happened almost 20 years ago, the lessons are the same. In today’s world, as we transition from cloud computing to the Internet of Things, we are going through one of the most dramatic changes in our lifetimes. Hold on to your seats! You can’t even imagine the changes we will go through in the next 20 years!

I also want to note, in my first job at BUPERS, I had the privilege of managing several defense contractors who were developing software for the US Navy. Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) was one of those companies. I also happened to be at Compaq years later, when we were acquired by HP, and I ended up leading an HP Enterprise Services Sales team. I have fond memories of working with both organizations.

And now, with those two companies coming together to form a new, transformational company, DXC Technology, I could be nostalgic and reminisce about the “old days,” but it’s much more fun to look ahead and imagine what the new world will offer to us. As we all know in this industry, change is required to evolve!

Lynn McLean is VP Sales, Emerging Technologies, at Hitachi where she leads global sales with the HDS top Global System Integrators. She is a mentor in the Women of Hitachi Program and lives in California.

This guest post is provided by Hitachi Data Systems, a member of the DXC Partner Network. Hitachi Data Systems is your partner for digital transformation today and tomorrow to modernize faster, monetize more and innovate for tomorrow with the only integrated data management portfolio that unlocks the value of your unstructured data – from legacy to emerging technology.




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