I’ve been reading a lot recently about organisations undertaking major IT modernisation projects; ie, replacing legacy systems. Modernising a legacy environment is technologically challenging, but also culturally difficult. The changing nature of IT has and will continue to have a dramatic psychological impact on the enterprise’s greatest historical asset — its people. Most organisations have a wide variety of applications in their portfolios. A substantial number of legacy applications were built or acquired over many years or decades. The mix is likely to include applications licensed from software vendors, along with solutions that were custom-developed by internal staff or third parties. Somewhat reflecting the various types of applications, application professionals often cluster into five dominant personas.
Understanding how your organisation’s application professionals align with these personas can help you anticipate their reactions to modernisation programmes and predict their behaviours.
The technology enthusiast
Technology enthusiasts are eager for emerging technologies, tools and methods. They’re motivated by the opportunity for continuous learning and are particularly valuable when new-technology adoption is a competitive imperative. However, once they have approached or achieved mastery, they’re apt to become bored and jump from one technology to the next.
Modernisation implications: Modernisation presents a conundrum for technology enthusiasts. The movement toward more modern technologies is well-aligned with their aspirations, but actually getting there will require a substantial and sustained effort. Technology enthusiasts will be highly motivated in the early stages of the modernisation effort, but over time that enthusiasm and interest wanes.
The business buddy
Business buddies view themselves as experts in their given business domains, ie, finance, sales, distribution, etc. A business buddy’s primary allegiance is to their business domain and they’re well into domain-specific trends and technologies. For many, the underlying technology solutions and methods are secondary to being directly engaged with business priorities and initiatives.
Modernisation implications: Often modernisation involves consolidating duplicate and redundant applications into a common solution that is globally adopted. With fewer applications to support, organisations will need far fewer applications professionals who have depth in specific business domains. Similarly, business buddies are at risk in organisations that intend to largely outsource the application or business process.
The development devotee
Development devotees are, or see themselves as, the master craftsmen of a given application platform or set of tools and technologies. They appreciate the predictability of repeatedly demonstrating their competencies across various projects. Development devotees tend to cluster around their preferred languages, methodologies or platforms. They derive great satisfaction from their reputation as solid contributors in their technology domains.
Modernisation implications: The careers of many development devotees were built in tandem with the legacy applications that are now targets of modernisation. Having implemented the original solution or cultivated it during its lifetime, development devotes may resent the replacement of their accomplishments.
The package groupie
Package groupies have loyalty and allegiance to a primary vendor of the packages, around which they have built their careers. Expertise in a given vendor’s software applications and performance capabilities, provides package groupies with the foundation of their competencies. Their career aspirations are based on their alignment with the vendor, while they’ll readily move to new organisations to pursue vendor-centric career paths.
Modernisation implications: The vendor’s future role in the application portfolio after modernisation will have an enormous influence on the package groupies’ outlook. When the intended goal of modernisation initiative is too eliminate the packaged
application and vendor on which they have staked their career, the risk of attrition is high. However, if the intent is to follow the incumbent vendor’s road map, they will be enthusiastic and motivated.
The ‘go to’ experts
When the given application or portfolio has been in place a long time, there are often individuals whose tenures are equally as long. These people have a deep knowledge of the business and thoroughly understand the application, so retaining that knowledge is vital. Having developed an impressively high degree of internal credibility — they’ve become the “go to” people.
Modernisation implications: People in these roles are highly threatened by modernisation, because the basis of their “exalted status” is being eliminated. In addition, because their expertise is so deeply entwined with their organisation’s specific solution, they often don’t have the skills that would make them externally marketable.
Mary Ann Maxwell is Gartner group VP, executive programmes.