Developing IT strategy based on data: A conversation with IT consultant Benjamin Melch
In a recent interview, we had the opportunity to speak with Benjamin Melch, Manager Business Technology and Cloud Strategy at Capgemini. Recently, he also holds the additional qualification of an IHK-certified IT consultant. He received an award from the state of Bavaria for the outstanding achievement of his thesis. Benjamin Melch told us in conversation how the itpilot solution played a central role in his consulting project to develop a sound IT strategy for an international fashion label.
Cecile von Künssberg: Welcome, Benjamin. Nice to have you here today. We are very pleased to have you as our guest in Munich and to talk to you about your outstanding performance, for which you were recently honored.
Benjamin Melch: Thank you, I am pleased as well.
CvK: First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your success - you graduated as an IHK certified IT consultant in the top 3% of 6,000 successful graduates in Bavaria - in the category "IT consultant" even as the best. What was the title of your thesis?
BM: The final thesis was entitled "Realignment of IT - Strategy of an International Fashion Label".
CvK: Can you briefly explain the main objectives and research questions you addressed in it?
BM: There was no classic research question in the case. The most important project goal at this point was actually - due to a relatively intensive change in management at the customer - to cleanly record the current state of IT in the first step and, based on this, to develop fields of action for the IT strategy for the next 2 to 4 years.
CvK: And you used the itpilot methodology to do that?
BM: Exactly, I resorted to the itpilot for that. The toolset provided me with significant support, above all in thoroughly recording the current state of the IT environment, also in order to document and catalog all dependencies, interrelationships and assets in order to obtain a comprehensive overall picture of the current state - across the entire IT landscape.
CvK: What made you choose the itpilot method as a basis?
BM: That's relatively easy to say. There are several tools for asset capture that go in a similar direction. In my view, however, the itpilot can do one decisive factor more: it is able to show dependencies among each other. And that's a very valuable function, because you can see very clearly how the individual areas of IT are interrelated. This is essential knowledge, especially in strategic planning. Say: If you make changes to object A, what effect will that have on B, C, and D?
CvK: Were there alternatives that you considered?
BM: There were alternatives, but they were dropped relatively quickly in the tool selection process because we realized that the IT pilot was web-based: The IT Pilot is web-based, we can proceed without lengthy onboarding and tool installations. Within the project, we then had a very short ramp-up and launch phase and were able to fill the first assets together with the customer very quickly. So we were able to start directly and generate added value immediately.
CvK: How did you then proceed in the further course of the project? How exactly did you use the itpilot methodology?
BM: The itpilot categorizes the IT environment very nicely. In accordance with the consulting services I brought, I naturally also brought one or the other framework, which was then my guideline for the complete strategy development. This matched and built on each other very well.
Along this framework, I was able to go through my iteration stages for each IT category covered, was able to build and develop my strategy accordingly, and was thus able to quickly formulate a very clear target picture for the IT environment. Which ultimately resulted in a well-structured roadmap agreed with the customer. This has not only IT components as part of it, but also strategic areas such as restructuring, certification paths for IT employees and all such things.
Because in the course of the itpilot, it became clear that something would change in the future, for example in terms of usage and in terms of the goals that the customer had previously. And as a result, an adapted job description with an adapted skillset was also necessary for the IT staff.
CvK: Can you name any major challenges or obstacles you've encountered during your work? How did you overcome them?
BM: A major challenge - and one can almost speak of a classic in medium-sized IT environments - is that the documentation basis is fundamentally not good. Especially in this particular case, the challenge was a bit greater. We had a complete change of management in the previous fiscal year and calendar year, meaning new management, new Head of IT.
Both entered a very poorly documented IT environment in which they had to find their way around. Fortunately, we were able to solve this issue quickly with the help of itpilot. Within a few months, we were able to present a fully comprehensive picture of the IT landscape.
Yes, so that has definitely been the biggest challenge. Everything that followed was fortunately very straight forward, as they say, also due to the commitment and active support of the customer. This means that we were able to move quickly into the planning phase, develop a goal and, of course, a corresponding roadmap from it.
CvK: What value did the itpilot methodology bring to your project work? What did you like about it?
BM: What I liked is that itpilot is future-oriented. You can directly say, "Where do I want to go with this?" in the acquisition of the respective assets. For example, you can find out immediately in the as-is recording: Should service XYZ remain with me in the data center? Should it be moved to the cloud?
Of course, this is yet another point that is very helpful and valuable, because without many iterations together with the customer, you immediately get a feeling of where the development should go. And that, of course, shortens the whole strategic elaboration by a good bit.
CvK: Were there any unexpected or surprising findings that came out of your thesis?
BM: Yes, of course. That's also part of a project like this. However, this is not at all related to itpilot, but it actually went so far that in the phase in which we developed the first strategic measures and were still in the process of finalizing them at this point, the customer already asked for individual measures to be implemented. So we have already started to implement our strategy, although we were not yet ready with the strategy.
On the one hand, this is good proof that the measures and the topics we have worked out have naturally also taken the pulse of the customer. On the other hand, however, there was also a compelling need for action. This has become clear in the course of our elaboration. It is nice to see that a customer accepts the advice at this point, absorbs it and also really tries to implement it as quickly as possible.
CvK: What recommendations would you give to professionals or organizations looking to implement the itpilot methodology?
BM: From my point of view, Itpilot is a valuable tool that makes my life as a consultant much easier in the complete as-is analysis. It saves me a significant amount of time to be able to grasp even complex environments easily and quickly. But it is also a double-edged sword on the other hand, because it requires interpreting the information collected correctly.
The more often a company does this type of assessment, the more automatic it becomes and the more information it provides on trends. Consequently, the greatest advice that can be given is: Companies should not just conduct their itpilot assessment once, but repeat it regularly if possible. Ideally once or twice a year, in order to also identify trend developments within the company's own IT and to have a control instrument for implementing the IT strategy.
CvK: How will you use the knowledge and experience you gained from your thesis in your professional work in the future?
BM: It was already a great wealth of experience that could be gained within the framework of this project. With this methodology, you always have an arrow in your quiver for similar consulting situations. You can approach these with confidence and communicate clearly: "I have a proven solution that works." Including customer reference as additional security. The method definitely offers great added value at this point and definitely goes into a consultant's classic wealth of experience.
CvK: That means you can imagine continuing to use this methodology in the future?
BM: Yes, definitely.
CvK: I'm glad to hear that. This brings us to the end of my questions. I thank you very much for your time.
BM: Very much so.