People and informatics (Part 1)

People and informatics (Part 1)

Delivering change – from the bench to the boardroom 

Change is a concept close to IDBS’ heart. Our software and services are all about enabling science through positive change – helping clever people to create great things by freeing up their valuable time to better collaborate and innovate. In a series of three blogs, I explore how people are at the core of everything we do. Trying to understand and address their needs and concerns are fundamental to the success of every one of our informatics projects.

In this first blog, I want to discuss how enterprise-wide IT projects are much less about technology and much more about people’s reactions to them. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as an IT project – it’s more about business change enabled by IT. Business change, in turn, is all about people, from the bench to the boardroom. Their decisions and levels of engagement determine whether change will occur and whether it will deliver business improvement.

Fundamental change usually has champions who understand intimately why transformation is necessary for business survival. Evangelically communicating this belief across the enterprise is crucial because change needs everyone’s buy-in. It’s only fair because travellers on a rocky and challenging journey want to feel the end destination is a place worth arriving at. Helping people understand and believe that this journey is both necessary and positive is crucial to its ultimate success.

Of course, some people find change extremely challenging, even paralyzing, and may reject it. These are normal human reactions which should be anticipated and accepted. At times, change is uncomfortable and often one of the most challenging elements is when people are asked to recognize the need for change and improvement in how they do things and how they contribute to their organization. Although researchers are highly elastic in their thinking, many still find adapting what they do on a daily basis very difficult at first. It helps if individuals understand the need for altruism and are prepared to accept a degree of pain change. It’s a burden everyone across the organization should share for the greater good.

Although most would agree research and development (R&D) has to change with the times, the role of people is a crucial element too often overlooked. Champions within organizations need to keep working and supporting their people; relentlessly communicating the vision throughout the entire project and into the next phase of business improvement. IDBS has guided many organizations through radical change, each of which has released time and space for creative science. One multinational client told us that change meant turning 30 hour data processes into mere seconds; another saved physical laboratory space after throwing away huge lab-based fire safes. The journey is challenging and may seem like a marathon at times, but we know from experience it is one well worth completing.