Tag Archives: CIO

What Ever Happened to Critical Thinking?

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As businesses grow, so do the size and complexity of their problems and challenges. To solve those complex challenges and problems, leaders need to employ more critical thinking from themselves and their teams.

However, the world seems to be lacking critical thinking at a time when businesses need it most. And the lack of critical thinking isn’t just anecdotal tales told by frustrated leaders. There’s research to back it up. So, whatever happened to critical thinking and can we get it back?

Critical Thinking, Defined

First, let’s address the big question: what exactly is critical thinking? In the broadest terms, critical thinking is the ability to think reasonably, removing your own emotional attachment and personal bias.

Critical thinking requires individuals to rely on data and take the steps to analyze and evaluate data to make a decision. According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking, “critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.”

It’s important to note that critical thinking helps you to avoid doing things simply because they’ve always been done a certain way or because a certain way seems easier or faster.

What has happened to critical thinking?

Has there really been a decline in critical thinking? There is research that shows this is a reality for many higher education institutions and businesses.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of standardized test scores given to freshmen and seniors found that the average graduate from prestigious institutions show little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.

That trend extends into the business world. In May 2016, a survey by PayScale and Future Workplace found that 60% of employers believe new college graduates lack critical thinking skills, based on a survey of over 76,000 managers and executives. Additionally, about half of employers rate their employees’ critical thinking skills as average or worse.

There is no one main reason for this decline in critical thinking. Most experts attribute it to a combination of things.

To start off with, there is not a clear definition of critical thinking and therefore, many professors, instructors and employers lack a way to objectively assess critical thinking skills. And many teachers struggle to teach critical thinking so many simply don’t do it. The Education Post found that only 1 out of 10 educators teach critical thinking and that teacher usually teaches at a selective school or to a select group of students.

And some experts say technology is one of the reasons for this decline. According to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, as technology plays a bigger role, our skills in critical thinking have declined and our visual skills have improved.

Anecdotally, I think it’s important to point out that a decline in critical thinking in business might not be the actual decline in critical thinking. Rather, the decline in critical thinking is due to a lack of opportunities (or ignoring opportunities) to encourage critical thinking.

Many businesses are only looking for the fastest (and sometimes cheapest) way to a solution. Such an approach is an anti-pattern for critical thinking. When you’re always looking for shortcuts, you’re cutting out the time to critically think. When you’re too quick to say something isn’t working and that you need to change directions completely, you’re sabotaging critical thinking.

All of this probably sounds like bad news for those looking to increase critical thinking in their organizations. The good news is that critical thinking can be taught and if it’s encouraged enough in an organization, it will be taught!

How to Improve Critical Thinking

Contrary to many opinions, critical thinking is not a soft skill. It can be learned and it must be practiced to be developed. Here are a few steps that will help you tap into critical thinking.

  1.  Gather more and better data
    Critical thinking is the ability to remove your own bias from problem-solving and the best way to do that is to look at the data. Many organizations are trying to make decisions with poor data. As an organization, you need to prioritize having as much high-quality data as possible. And as the IT organization, you must collect this data and ensure that the organization is using it to its fullest ability.

2. Question assumptions
This is the most important piece to critical thinking — and it’s often the most difficult part. Don’t just look at the “what” of the problem. Ask about why it’s happening. Be wary of the assumptions you may bring to the table and when you come to a conclusion, ask yourself if you’re basing the conclusion on the matter at hand or on previous experiences. Additionally, it’s important to separate data and facts from assumptions and inferences. Often, leaders will make an assumption and then treat it as fact. Dig into the why and use data to protect yourself from inferences.

3. Look for opportunities and potential
Critical thinking isn’t about shutting down opportunities or ideas. It’s about seeing possibility and potential based on data and without assumption. For example, failed initiatives and major service interruptions are opportunities to revamp processes or rethink strategies to create something better.

4. Look for new perspectives
To be a critical thinker, you have to get out of the echo chamber. Engage in active listening when discussing problems and solutions. Engage with and actively listen to colleagues with opposing views in your own organization. While most people dread having to speak to someone who simply does not understand their role, it can be an excellent exercise to obtain new perspectives that can give more context to problems, examine your own biases and spark more ideas. Additionally, as a leader, you may benefit from learning from other industries or experts from other organizations. Be open to new perspectives or ideas from unlikely avenues.

5. Manage ambiguity
Finally to improve your critical thinking skills, get comfortable with ambiguity. We are all operating in rapidly changing environments. The data we have will change. Your own perspectives will shift, as well the perspective of others. You have to be comfortable identifying that you are making the right decision today, but the way those decisions get made can change in the future. Getting comfortable with this type of ambiguity and being able to practice critical thinking despite this rapid pace of change will help you to make better decisions for your organization in the long run.

Critical thinking doesn’t have to be a lost art. It can and should be encouraged at all levels of the organization – but it must start from the top. If you’re wondering whatever happened to critical thinking in your organization, perhaps it’s time to take a step back to examine your own critical thinking approach.

Is your organization suffering from a lack of critical thinking? Has your organization found ways to nurture and encourage critical thinking? Please share your thoughts!

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The CIO Role, Reasserted

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After an unprecedented year of change, many organizations are adjusting to a new status quo with technology – and technology experts – leading the way. 

And changing right along with the rest of the organization is the CIO role. With more reliance on technology, remote and hybrid working environments, and more technology-focused roles in an organization, the CIO has also had to adjust to the new status quo.

What can a CIO do to cement their status and reassert themselves into the conversation?

It’s time for the CIO role to reassert itself.

The CIO Role, Reasserted

As technology has become more critical for the daily needs of a business, the role of the CIO has become more fractionalized. New technology leadership roles, such as the CTO, CDO, and CISO, have emerged within many organizations. While these emerging roles may have been responsibilities that the CIO formerly performed – at least at times – the CIO is no longer the only technology leader within the organization. 

But that doesn’t mean the CIO doesn’t play a vital role among these technology-focused roles. In fact, I’d argue that with all the different technology initiatives, it’s even more important for the CIO to reassert their role in the organization. With so many specialized roles, organizations are in danger of more technology silos. So instead of being a gatekeeper or the arbiter of technology, the CIO has to become the connector, especially in this age of technology democratization. 

Progressive CIOs have a deep business acumen and understand how technology contributes to the success of the business. A good CIO brings a broad, holistic view of the business and how technology can impact the bottom line – and the top line.  The CIO can use these specific skills and knowledge not only to support the CTO, CDO, and CISO – but any business leader as well. 

Using this holistic understanding of the business, the CIO has to become the common thread and ensure balance between the different technology roles and business leaders. Instead of Chief Information Officer, the CIO could be more like the “Central Information Officer” and be the driver of all business initiatives involving technology. 

But make no mistake – this isn’t about a power grab. It’s about the idea that the CIOs knowledge of business strategies and technology will strengthen and enhance everyone’s initiatives. For example, business leaders could use the CIO’s knowledge and understanding of how to drive a positive customer experience that IT has gained through the service desk in order to improve their offerings. 

This shift into the Central Information Officer requires all of the hallmarks of breaking down silos: open communication, shared workflows, and driving and emphasizing the achievement of organizational goals over isolated departmental goals.

And to do this, there is one concrete step a CIO can take to begin facilitating connections and reasserting the importance of their role.

The Start of the Reimagined CIO

CIOs can’t afford to wait to start reinventing their role. The longer a CIO waits to start connecting other technology roles, the more siloed and fractionalized the organization could become. 

So where does the CIO start?  

If all companies are now technology companies, and we want to connect how the different parts of the organization leverage technology, then true service management is the way forward. 

But I’m not referring to ITSM of the past, where an organization would invest in a tool and blindly implement out-of-the-box workflows and constructs that weren’t designed with your company in mind. I’m referring to Enterprise Service Management (ESM), an organizational capability for delivering business value and outcomes by leveraging the resources of the organization (including technology) to produce and deliver products and services in a holistic way.

As I mentioned earlier, the progressive CIO has a holistic view of how technology and business functions work together to co-create more value for the company. In order to have that view, you have to understand the people and processes at work. People and processes are what drive businesses forward and combining people, processes, and technology in a clear, consistent and organized manner is the most impactful thing a CIO can do.  That’s why effective ESM is so vital today. 

Implementing a strong ESM approach is a multi-step process. First, if your IT foundation is not solid, you’ll need to clean that up before you will be able to engage other business leaders in ESM. But once you’ve audited and tightened your own workflows and your IT team is working like a well-oiled machine, then you can start to implement ESM in other parts of your business.

And the best place to start ESM is with those frequently executed value streams. This is where a CIO can test their connector powers and leverage other business leaders’ expertise to adopt ESM within their departments. Doing so results in improved transparency and underpins the importance of having effective, cross-functional processes across all parts of the organization.

ESM opens the door to better customer experience, better employee experience, better business outcomes, and better value – for both the organization and its customers. Good ESM also eliminates silos, which can be among the biggest problems organizations face as they try to scale, and truly elevates the organization as a whole.

For many organizations, the CIO saved the day last year when the pandemic hit. But as businesses move forward, the CIO can’t bank on past successes to maintain their leverage in an organization. Reasserting the CIO role requires open collaboration, effective communication, and bringing other parts of the organization together. Strong ESM is the path forward for CIOs to reassert their role within the organization.

 How can ESM help your organization? How can you leverage ESM as an organizational strategy to connect your organization in such a way that drives and enables success?  Contact me today for a free, no-obligation 30-minute chat to discuss! 

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A New CIO’s Guide to Mapping Experiences

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Delivering and enabling business value is a large part of IT’s job.  As such, the CIO must track how value flows, not only within IT, but across the organization. 

It may sound easier than it actually is. Because value is tricky. For one thing, it’s not always well-defined. And it often gets lost in day-to-day operations as the business evolves.  This often leaves end users wondering what happened to the value that they were expecting. 

One of the first tasks of new CIOs is to determine what’s driving value, what’s not, and how improved value can be delivered to all stakeholders. But how can you do that? Where do you start? 

In order to answer that question, we need to stop talking only about value. Instead, we need to include talking about the experiences of the customer, the user, and the employee. 

Customer experience

As defined by Hubspot, customer experience is “the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey.” The customer experience factors into a customer’s view of your brand and it can impact the bottom line. A strong customer experience can increase customer retention, which will reduce marketing and advertising costs. And loyal customers often spend more than new ones as one study found that if a business increases customer retention by 5%, profits can increase by up to 95%. Additionally, according to a survey by Info Quest CRM, a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times more revenue than a somewhat satisfied customer.

User experience

The user experience is very similar to customer experience but it is directly related to the product, application or service. User experience refers to the journey a user takes when they interface with a system whether that is an application, a digital service, a website or a product. In today’s digital world, user experience matters. 88% of consumers are unlikely to return to a site after a bad experience and a recent study found that a well-designed user interface could increase conversion rates by 200%. 

 Employee experience

According to Gallup, the employee experience is the journey an employee takes with your organization and is made up of all the interactions that employees have during their tenure at the organization. The employee experience matters because research shows that companies with actively engaged employees outperform competitors by 147% in earnings per share and happy employees are up to 20% more productive at work. Improving the employee experience can earn your company money. 

The experience matters

Each of these experiences contributes to the overall value that stakeholders derive from an organization and all of these experiences directly impact the bottom line. If an experience is bad, there is no realized value from that experience. Therefore each of these experiences is very important to CIOs because better experiences means better value. 

Luckily, there is a tried and true approach for enabling more value through creating better experiences.  It starts with mapping the current experiences.

Whether you are mapping customer journeys or employee journeys, every mapping exercise will include the same steps. My recommendation is to choose one experience to map and improve before addressing the others. You’ll be able to use the lessons learned from mapping that one experience as guidance when mapping each of the other two.  Also, you can iterate faster when only focused on one experience at a time.

1. Include all stakeholders

This is the first and most important step you can take when mapping experiences — get all stakeholders involved. These stakeholders will want to work with you if they understand how improving experiences will benefit them, so communicate those potential wins. For example, if you chose to map the employee experience, you can explain to HR that mapping and improving this experience can improve the onboarding experience, decrease employee turnover, and increase employee engagement — thus helping HR to hit their departmental objectives.

2. Map the value streams

How is value flowing through these experiences? For example, how does a user realize value from first touch with your website through purchase? What are the steps and who is responsible for each? Mapping the value streams that enable experiences will identify where responsibilities lie, what parts of the organization are involved,  and where there may be gaps or bottlenecks.  

3. Audit workflows 

Once you have the team on the same page, review and audit the processes that underpin the value streams that underpin an experience. What’s going on under the hood of that experience? Approach these audits with an open minded curiosity, and don’t be afraid to ask why a workflow is designed the way it is.  Let your team know that this is a discovery and learning exercise, not a blame exercise, and that you are simply building a clear picture of how work is being completed. Workflows, no matter how well they were designed, have a tendency to ‘drift’ over time. 

4. Embed continual improvement  

Where is the experience falling short or encountering friction?  

This is the most critical question a CIO must be able to answer when it comes to experience.  And it’s a question that the answer is continually changing, due to continual changes in marketplaces, stakeholders, technology, and more. This is why embedding continual improvement within the experience is so important. 

New CIOs have a big opportunity to establish a mindset of continual improvement right from the start. Regularly survey end-users regarding improvement suggestions and feedback.  Develop and maintain a continual improvement log for capturing, prioritizing, and publicizing improvement suggestions. Establish a regular cadence for designing and implementing improvements. Market the successes and lessons learned from continual improvement. Why?  Because continually improving the experience continually improves value realization.

Applying the above four steps will provide great insight into each of the three experiences that are driving value within your organization. Even though the focus of each experience is different, the process of mapping these experiences is the same because they all revolve around people, processes, and technology, and how well each of these factors are working with the others. 

What has been your experience with mapping experiences?  I’d enjoy hearing about your discoveries and successes with experience mapping. 

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Is the CIO the Continual Improvement Officer?

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The CIO is often wearing many hats. They have to be tech whizzes and also strategic visionaries. And in my opinion, they now have to be the Continual Improvement Officer for their teams, their organizations, and in their careers.

Continual improvement is about improving the quality of products and services by learning from past successes and failures and making incremental changes over time. It helps IT align and realign its products, services, and activities to meet ever-changing business needs.  Continual improvement can be the key to large-scale growth. 

When done correctly, continual improvement can improve product and service quality, boost productivity and creativity, increase teamwork and create a competitive advantage. 

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? We should learn from the mistakes – and the successes –  we have. But, in a business environment, it’s never that simple. Why? Because many leaders don’t want to admit to mistakes. They don’t want to explore why things aren’t working as well as they should.  They settle for “good enough”.  They don’t want to examine what could be done better because they want to plunge ahead into that next project and hope that people forget about whatever mistakes were made or problems that were encountered. 

For continual improvement to have success, it has to be embedded into the culture of an organization. It has to be accepted – and driven – from the top-down so that everyone is empowered to look at failed initiatives and missed KPIs as learning and improvement opportunities. 

How can the CIO become the Continual Improvement Officer and build a culture that supports this?

Continual Improvement in IT

If a CIO wants to become the Continual Improvement Officer, she has to start with her own teams. One of the most important things a CIO can do then is allocate the time for continual improvement. IT is often (usually?) inundated with day-to-day work. They often are putting out fires or working to meet aggressive delivery deadlines and objectives. There is rarely-if ever- time for that “be back” work that inevitably comes up. 

It’s up to the CIO to ensure continual improvement becomes a standard mode of operation and allocate adequate time to address continual improvement. How? It could be frequent projects or sprints with an objective to reduce technical debt. Perhaps it is establishing a cadence of regular meetings or time to discuss and implement continual improvement initiatives.  Or it could be requiring that teams take the time to reflect on completed projects and initiatives and identify gaps, issues, and what could have been done differently. 

Make these efforts inclusive by encouraging team members to bring their ideas to the table — and then identify opportunities to implement those ideas. Companies with a strong culture of continual improvement implement about 80% of their employees’ improvement ideas, according to KaiNexus.  By implementing the improvement ideas from those that do the work establishes a mindset of continual improvement and encourages the team to identify and suggest further improvements.  It’s a win-win for both the team and the organization. 

Continual Improvement in the Rest of the Organization

IT is only one piece of the improvement puzzle though. To really build a culture of continual improvement, the CIO has to be the continual improvement champion within the rest of the organization and that requires communicating with and motivating other leaders

CIOs can share their own continual improvement learnings and lessons. CIOs must be open about the setbacks and the growth from continual improvement activities, and when able, connect how continual improvement enhanced another department’s initiatives. Invite other executives to your continual improvement meetings to demonstrate how building a culture of continual improvement within IT is working.  Offer to provide coaching and the expertise to help those leaders establish continual improvement efforts within their teams. 

Continual Improvement as a CIO

I think the CIO needs to be the Continual Improvement Officer because it will not only improve their organization, but it is a critical skillset and approach that will benefit the CIO’s career. 

Unfortunately, the CIO role has one of the highest turnover rates among the C-suite. According to TechTarget, the average CIO tenure hovers around 4 years. That means CIOs are frequently moving into new environments and navigating new work cultures. The best thing any CIO can do when they first step into a role is to bring an attitude of continual improvement.  Not just for the new organization, but for their own individual actions.

It’s a powerful move to reflect on what could have been done differently in a  past role as you move into a new role. This will help you embody the culture of continual improvement that you want your team to adapt as well. Be willing to address and share your own opportunities for improvement with your team as you begin implementing new initiatives.

What continual improvement successes have you had within your organization? What advice would you give to other leaders working toward a culture of continual improvement? Share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn

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How to Master the Art of IT Partnerships

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As businesses continue to become more reliant on technology, more and more organizations have formed partnership ecosystems. Bringing in and working with multiple partners is a smart way to deliver better experiences with optimized costs and capabilities. 

While there are many pros to working with partners — there are some drawbacks as well. Operations become increasingly complex as a partnership ecosystem grows. Regardless, end users will still expect a seamless experience, and the more partners you work with, the harder it could become to maintain that smooth experience. 

This article will address how CIOs can effectively manage those IT partnerships and set up their organizations for success in a partnership ecosystem.   

Partners vs. Suppliers and Vendors

You’ll notice that I refer to “partners” and not “suppliers” or “vendors”. That’s intentional verbiage. In order to succeed in this new paradigm, CIOs need to evolve from working with vendors and suppliers in a strictly transactional sense. Strategic partners are vendors that have go above and beyond effective delivery of systems and services – they commit to helping the CIO achieve the organizational goals of the company. 

The difference between “partner” and “supplier” has become increasingly noticeable due to COVID-19. Many CIOs saw partners be more proactive in their relationships by reaching out to see how they could better assist organizations during the pandemic. 

The best partners recognize that a business relationship is about more than making a sale. It’s about building a relationship where they understand the customer’s business models and the inner workings of the company. They don’t just execute on the customer’s demands, they work with the customer to find mutually beneficial solutions. 

When Badly Managed Partnerships Happen to Good Organizations

Why should you care about managing your partnerships? When does a vendor need to be a partner? 

Silo mentality has been a frequent roadblock within many organizations –  and IT is no stranger to them. Internal silos can wreak havoc on workflows and efficiencies. When IT isn’t looped into the full scope of projects and how the rest of the organization is driving value, they are often left to catch up — and end-users always suffer. And that’s just with internal silos! 

Compound that with the fact that more organizations are reducing staffing yet increasing demand for technology. This means more outsourcing and external support.  But without a shared and agreed approach to delivering that support, IT organizations could easily find themselves in a chaotic situation.  

Finding the Right Partners

Of course, there are many vendors simply parading as partners –  so how do you know what to look for in a partner? The most important thing is not to rush into a relationship or make a decision based solely on price. Yes, it can be time-consuming to get referrals and do your due diligence when evaluating potential partners. Start off with your trusted circle of IT leaders. Other leaders are often the best source of knowledge of who is a great partner and who simply delivers a product. 

Once you have your shortlist of partners from your own research and recommendations from peers, it’s time to start establishing connections. Remember that the right partner doesn’t start the conversation about themselves or their product – they will want to first talk about your goals and objectives.

Perhaps more importantly though, you have to view a potential partnership for what it is — a partnership, not a vendor-client relationship. It’s important to not view the potential partner as just a fulfiller of work. During those initial discussions, you have the responsibility of clearly defining expectations, challenges, organizational dynamics, and the goals of your organization. Don’t limit your conversations to specifically IT or the initiatives for a particular tool or product. IT is crucial to the success of any business so any IT partner needs to have a clear picture of that business. 

This will give the partner the opportunity to create a better strategy for delivering the right products and services for helping you achieve your goals. 

How to Better Manage Your Partners 

The best partnerships happen because they’re built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. So there is a level of “people-work” that has to go into any of these relationships. But there are some ways you can better structure your organization so your partnerships will be more successful. 

  • Keep the lines of communication open. 

 

Far too often, supplier check-ins are just quick reviews of operational metrics or updates on the tasks completed during a timeframe. These types of communications aren’t sufficient in a partner relationship – in fact, this is a disadvantage to you and your partners! You want your team to be actively communicating with your partners about what’s happening in your organization so they can continue to get a clear vision of the overall picture of your organization.

 

  • Establish transparent workflows for all your partners.

 

This might be difficult because your partners likely have their own workflows. But working with them to establish a shared process that all partners follow makes for a smoother experience for your entire organization. Again, this might be a difficult ask and could take some time to develop, but the right partners will be willing to engage in defining workflows that work for your organization.

 

  • Get your internal teams and stakeholders to see partners as part of the team

 

Silo mentality doesn’t work — even when those silos are made up of full-time employees and contractors. Your internal departments and teams should feel empowered to be a part of the partner-IT relationship. You want everyone in your organization to know and trust your partners. This might mean bringing other departments to meetings with external partners or looping your external partners into existing initiatives with other departments.  

Introducing Service Integration and Management 

If you are looking for a better way to integrate your partnerships, Service Integration and Management (SIAM) might be the best option for you. SIAM is a management methodology that is growing in popularity. SIAM will provide an organization with governance, coordination, assurance, and integration for working with outside partners by introducing a “service integrator” role. If you’re working with multiple vendors, suppliers, and partners, SIAM can enhance the experience for everyone within your organization and for suppliers and partners working with your organization.  

If you’re curious about introducing SIAM or improving your partner relationships, I’d love to discuss how to prepare your organization to thrive in a multi-partner ecosystem.

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Are You Winning the IT Participation Trophy?

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IT has gotten a bad rap in the past and I think it’s partially deserved. There are still far too many IT leaders just willing to phone it in. That’s an old way of leading IT and it’s about winning the participation trophy.

You do know what the “participation trophy” is, right?

The participation trophy is often awarded to each player on a youth sports team. It recognizes that the team member showed up to most of the practices and most of the games.

And while that may be an accomplishment, it doesn’t mean (at the risk of being harsh) that anything was won or accomplished. It doesn’t represent an outstanding contribution.

It only means that a player showed up.

Many organizations recognize that IT leaders need to be business leaders who are actively working with the rest of the organization to drive value. Many IT leaders have accepted the challenge and are the business leaders that their organizations need. However, there are still traces of the old way of leading IT around some IT organizations.

Here are the signs that the old way of leading IT is present in your organization.

6 Signs You’re Only Winning the IT Participation Trophy

You measure and publish outputs instead of outcomes

Crossing things off a to-do list and checking off the tasks that IT accomplishes isn’t enough. Everyone produces outputs. Anyone can check off tasks. But the IT leader of today is the one who understands how those outputs lead to the outcomes that drive the business forward.

IT works in a silo

Today’s IT organization can no longer be just a support department. If you’re only working within IT in near-isolation from other departments, then you’re continuing the mistakes of the CIO of the past. IT includes more than technology these days. You can’t simply show up for the technology aspects of business initiatives. Today’s IT is about co-creating value, enabling flow across the entire organization, and leading innovation. IT leaders must work with the rest of the organization on initiatives from start to finish.

Everyone is an adversary

If you see fellow employees as customers and not colleagues, then you’re winning the IT participation trophy. Not everyone is against IT like so many CIOs have believed in the past. Modern CIOs view other departments and leaders within the company as allies. Even when these people have feedback about IT that is hard to hear, you need to treat them as allies who can help you elevate IT. If they didn’t care about your success, they wouldn’t be sharing that difficult feedback.

You’re always playing defense

CIOs holding the participation trophy are always playing defense. They are too worried about protecting themselves from criticism and keeping prying eyes away from IT to be truly effective.

Today’s great CIO now plays offense. They are continually innovating and looking for ways to improve IT, even if that means on occasion having to accept some tough feedback or criticism. They know that experimenting from a position of knowledge, learning from mistakes, and being responsive is more important than protecting IT from criticism.

You selectively use – or avoid – data

Whether it’s good or bad — you need to rely on the data of your IT organization. Picking up the IT participation trophy means you’re focused on what looks good for IT and how you can shine the best light on IT. This means you avoid the data that can show you where you need to fill in the gaps or where you’re leaking value.

You’re on the sidelines in business decisions

IT has traditionally been seen as a support department. Some CIOs are content for it to stay that way, passively accepting whatever the business asks of them, and never really taking an active role in the larger organization-wide initiatives.

Give Up the IT Participation Trophy

If any of this sounds familiar to you, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is there’s plenty of opportunities to give up these bad habits and say goodbye to perpetually winning the participation trophy. The bad news is that you’re going to have to make these changes quickly because technology is evolving by the day and organizations need involved and innovative IT leaders.

So if you want to be more than a participant and instead, be a leader, it starts with changing your own mindset around the power of IT and your own role in IT. Technology plays a vital role in organizations these days and as an IT leader, you have to play just as big of a role. This might mean ditching some previously held beliefs about your role or the way IT has been managed. If you find yourself thinking “but we’ve always done it this way,” that’s a sign that you’re holding onto that participation trophy a little too tightly.

But with a shift of your mindset, you can take the actions that will shift the mindset of those around you. Slowly but surely, you’ll stop winning the participation trophy and instead start your campaign to win the MVP.

Learn more about becoming an innovative CIO by downloading the CIO’s Guide to Navigating Shifting Priorities, which is a bundle of 3 of my most popular webinars for the CIOs who want to advance their organizations in the next 12 months.

Download the CIO’s Guide to Navigating Shifting Priorities.  

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How IT Can Enable Organizations to Make Data-Driven Decisions

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Technology is one of the biggest and most important investments that any organization can make. In the past, many decisions about technology investments were made within the C-suite or demanded by other departments and IT simply complied with those requests.

But as the world has become more dependent on technology, IT has started to play a larger role in influencing technology investments and decisions. I would actually argue that IT should play a major role in helping the organization make good decisions, not just about IT and technology, but also the overall organization. Why?  

Organizations need data to make decisions.  Having the right data at the right time enables the organization to make good decisions.   And who manages the systems and services that produce most of that data?  The IT organization.  Therefore, it only stands to reason that IT should be involved in most organizational decisions.  But for some organizations, this means a mind shift change about the role of IT in decision-making.

The good news is that this shift doesn’t require a bigger budget, more staff, or even the encouragement of upper management. Every IT organization can start making these changes and begin to play a larger role in helping the business make data-driven decisions.

  1. Shift the perception about the value of IT 

This first step is easier said than done, but this needs to be a consistent effort for IT leaders. IT does much more than troubleshooting computer problems and keep everyone connected to WiFi.

But to shift this perception, you must be measuring outcomes not just outputs. Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve. Outputs contribute to outcomes. They are the activities that IT has accomplished, such as the number of calls to the service desk or number of influencer records. 

The context of driving business value and influencing business decisions, it’s outcomes that matter more than anything. IT has to start thinking and talking in terms of business not in terms of IT. For example, if you were to say “98% availability” this doesn’t mean anything to your business colleagues. But instead, if you shifted your message to say “Provided system available to produce 10,000 products,” they can understand how IT’s work contributes to the bottom line. Look in terms of outcomes then document every outcome that IT helps achieve. Report on those outcomes and share these wins regularly with IT and the rest of the organization.

2. Follow the Value Streams

Following the value streams means understanding how value flows through an organization and identifying where there may be improvements.  IT has to map the value streams.  A value stream map, as defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute, is a simple diagram of every step involved in the material and information flows needed to bring a product from order to delivery.

A value stream map is a holistic view of a process so it requires everyone’s input – from IT and other departments. What is should do is identify show where there are steps in the process that don’t add value to the end goal. The objective of a value stream map is a smoother, more efficient process that the entire organization agrees on.

Mapping value streams, not just within IT, but also including other departments will help IT (and the rest of the organization) gain a clear picture of where value is created and how it reaches the end customer — and perhaps just as importantly, where it’s not reaching the customer.

3. Identify services 

With value stream maps in place and a clear understanding of the business outcomes you’re working to achieve, you can then identify IT services and how those services influence and drive those business outcomes.

A service is a means of delivering value for a customer by facilitating outcomes or results that the business wants to achieve. For example, providing someone a tablet without software or network connectivity doesn’t contribute to an outcome. It’s just giving a piece of technology. But, if the tablet is part of the value chain and can help someone perform their job remotely so value continues flowing the organization, you now have completed service.

IT services should align with organizational value stream maps so that the IT contribution to co-creating value is clear. Look at the map and identify where technology enables the value stream. You need to define services that support and enable the technology or process that drives business value.

4. Experiment from ‘knowing’, not ‘guessing’

Once you start doing these first three things, you’ll begin to gather meaningful, business-relevant data. But be prepared! The data might be good. You might see where all that value is being created and clearly how value reaches the end customer. You might see that technology is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. 

Or the data might be bad. You could see that value is leaking within the organization or that IT services aren’t effectively driving desired outcomes. More likely, you’ll see a combination of the two.

It’s important to be open to whatever data you find. The data will point you in the right direction. If the data is telling you that IT services aren’t driving the desired outcomes, it’s not a bad thing. It just presents a bigger opportunity.

This is the place of knowledge from which you can start experimenting with services, technology, and workflows. In these uncertain times as businesses continue to pivot, experimentation is going to become more mainstream, but experimentation will work best if you start from a place of knowledge. 

Be willing to make changes to the defined services, the workflows in a value stream, or even the technology you use to enable these services and workflows. Continue to measure the data as you go so that you can see what actually creates a more efficient, cost-effective value stream.

You and the rest of the organization need that place of knowledge from which to start innovating. With this data, plus the understanding of how IT works with the organization, everyone can make better decisions around the use of technology, where to make investments, and how to grow the business. 

When you are ready to tap into your data, I recommend downloading the CIO’s Guide to Navigating Shifting Priorities. It includes 3 of my most recent webinars (both the video and audio versions) designed to help CIOs lean into innovation, leverage what is working, and pivot along with the rest of the business. Download the guide here. 

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Focusing on Technology May Kill Your Business

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I know the technology wishlists of many CEOs. They want newer technology, faster technology and the shiniest, most fully-featured tools. While technology is not a bad thing to have on any wishlist, it shouldn’t be at the top of it and it absolutely shouldn’t be the only thing on that wishlist.

It’s 2020 and there’s no need to explain why organizations need technology. But I think organizations should be cautioned about the hyperfocus of technology that exists today.

I hear a familiar story time and time again when I work with clients. They poured all of their money and effort into a tool hoping it would solve their problems, only to find, months later, that they still have all of their problems…only now they have less money and, now, an expensive tool.

Technology can’t solve all of our problems. If you’re focusing too much on your technology, you just might be killing your business.

My Thoughts on Technology

Before you head to the comment section to tell me I’m wrong, I want to make clear that technology can be a huge asset to an organization. Technology can make an organization more efficient and streamlined. It can decrease overhead costs and enable increased revenue. It can shorten production times, improve customer and employee communication and, in general, help a business run better.

However, that’s only if the technology is managed properly. Technology is a tool. You absolutely need it to grow and scale a business. But if you’re not managing it properly, then it’s going to cause more headaches than ease.

I like to use the simplistic analogy of building a house. If you start hammering the nails into your house using the head (or top) of the hammer, instead of correctly hammering using the face (or front) of the hammer, then you’ll still be using the tool and you still will be building a house. But it’s going to take you longer and it will require more effort to actually complete the process. And it won’t help if you buy a new, fancier, shinier hammer because you’re not managing the hammer the way it should be managed.

The same can be said for the technology in a business. If you have a shiny new tool but you or your team is not using it to its full capacity, you’re still going to struggle with the same problems you had before that shiny new tool.

Instead, CIOs and CEOs need to look at a few other factors before the technology.

Business Strategy

Before you invest any money into technology, you need to ask yourself: what is this technology supposed to do for the business? What is the strategy behind the deployment of this technology? Can you link the impact of this technology to the bottom line of the business?

IT must be a strategic partner with the other members of the C-suite and be invested in how every initiative depending on technology delivers on the bottom line. With this clear view of what’s happening within the organization and how different efforts are contributing to the growth of the business, IT will be in a better position to create a business strategy for the uses of technology.

The People

Technology may help manage a business but it’s people who manage the technology and people often need management themselves. Working in IT can feel like a thankless job and it comes with a large amount of pressure and stress. IT practitioners can become burnt out, jaded and indifferent to their work without proper management.

One of the best things a CIO can do for their IT team is to ensure they are in the right mindset to manage technology. Practitioners should have a solid understanding of why the technology is needed, the contribution of technology to the business, and how it’s benefiting the business as a whole.

In the past, many IT practitioners have simply acted as gatekeepers, saying “no” to requests, and staying firmly in their lane of working only with technology and avoiding any “business.” IT can no longer operate under these old ways.

IT practitioners now must understand the business of the business. It will help them to better manage the technology and make good decisions about technology that will have a better impact on the business.

The Service & Delivery

Finally, the last question you should ask yourself before turning to the technology is how that technology is managed and delivered. Are the processes in place for managing the technology? Is there documentation for the process? Has your team properly identified and defined the services that are delivered based on the use of technology?

When these important questions go unaddressed, your technology will fail to deliver the (unspoken but) expected outcomes. Technology needs to be properly managed with guidelines, defined processes and measurable and repeatable deliverables. With these things in place, your IT organization will be able to communicate and demonstrate to key stakeholders how the technology is delivering on its promise. Without it, everyone will be left wondering what exactly happened to that IT investment.

Your organization will always require technology. It’s a smart business move to evaluate the best and most fully functioning technology on the market to ensure your business is using the best technology that meets the business need. However, it’s important to remember that technology can’t manage itself. Even the most fully featured AI-enabled technology can’t manage itself. If you focus on how to manage the technology more than the technology itself, then you’ll avoid wasted investments and you can keep your business growing.

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What CIOs Can Learn From CMOs

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The CIO-CMO relationship has had a rocky history. The two are often at odds with what they need to accomplish and historically, they’ve never spoken the same language.

But there has been a shift in recent years. As marketing became more digitized, more marketing departments became focused on technology and data while IT departments face increasing pressure to deliver tangible business outcomes.

As digital transformation becomes more widespread across organizations, CIOs and CMOs must play on the same team. CIOs and CMOs are perfectly positioned to become a couple of all-star players within organizations – if they learn to work together.

How can CIOs and CMOs successfully work together to lead their organizations into the digital future? It starts with mutual respect, appreciation, and understanding of what each can learn from the other.

What can CIOs learn from CMOs? Here are four important lessons.

 

Customer Experience

Marketers must know their customers. They are deep in customer data, on top of consumer feedback and they keep a pulse on what the consumer expects from the industry. In short, CMOs are experts in the customers and IT can learn from that.

Customers are looking for more personalized support and solutions and self-service options. Technology can give customers all of those things but only if that technology has the right data. Marketing has the data that IT needs to create technology that will improve the overall experience.

Analytics and Testing

There are no silver bullets in marketing – just like there are no silver bullets in IT. So CMOs and their teams must hypothesize, measure, test, iterate and measure some more. CMOs know they have to have fluidity in their testing and launch phases. They also must adjust their analytics depending on a specific marketing campaign and its goals.

IT teams often get stuck in strict processes that leave no room for experimentation or testing. This usually leads to reduced productivity and IT teams end up feeling stuck performing processes that are inefficient. CIOs can take note as to how CMOs choose their KPIs, identify analytics, and use data to quickly adjust marketing campaigns – and apply these learnings c to IT initiatives.

Agility

IT has had a reputation for being slow to respond or quickly deliver new solutions. Marketing can’t afford to be slow or unresponsive to changes in the marketspace, especially in the digital age where things can (and do) change at lightning speeds. IT needs to take note because, in this age, both IT and marketing are expected to be able to react quickly to meet changing business expectations. Success is always a moving target and both teams must be agile and forward-thinking to keep pace with changing demands.

CIOs can learn how their CMO counterparts adapt to quickly changing markets and expectations. Understanding how CMOs prioritize projects, allocate budgets and resources, and lead their teams to hit their goals, even when the strategy or tactics change, can provide CIOs with great learnings in what it means to be agile.

The Language of the Business

This might be one of the most important lessons a CMO can teach a CIO. CMOs have always been measured by ROI. So CMOs have always had to learn to show how all of their initiatives can increase ROI.

IT, on the other hand, rarely had to demonstrate ROI in the past. They were back-office support teams. But that’s changed now and IT must shift from cost center to revenue generator. To do this, they must learn to speak the language of the business and prove ROI.

CIOs should pay attention to how their CMO colleagues pitch their initiatives, explain their results, and the metrics they use to measure success.

The Future of CIOs and CMOs

The CIO-CMO relationship can be mutually beneficial. When CIOs and CMOs work together, they can champion each other’s initiatives, encourage their teams to collaborate with one another, and create inter-departmental workflows and processes so they work more efficiently and with better results.

If you want to develop the CIO-CMO relationship, these tactics can help.

Find a common language
It’s essential that CMOs and CIOs understand how to communicate with one another. That means having open and on-going conversations about objectives and business needs. Both the CIO and CMO need to discuss jargon or what certain phrases mean within each department. If you are able to communicate openly and understand where each other is coming from, you’ll be prepared to take the next steps.

Align CIO and CMO outcomes
After you learn to speak the same language, ensure you stay in-sync on achieving shared goals. Hold joint meetings on a regular basis to ensure strategies are aligned, and share data and findings regarding the critical interfaces between technology and customer experiences.

Facilitate team collaboration
CIOs and CMOs may make the big decisions but it’s their respective team members that do the work. Therefore, the IT and marketing teams must learn to work together as well. As leaders, CIOs and CMOs must create opportunities for collaboration between the two departments such as holding regular co-department meetings, creating joint projects or inter-department workflows, or hosting joint brainstorming sessions.

The digital revolution is changing the way the business does business and it’s impacting every department – not just IT. But in many companies, it’s the marketing departments that are pioneering the use of emerging technologies to lead a company’s digital efforts. For CIOs and CMOs to be the all-star players the company needs, they need to work together and learn from one another.

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The Ultimate Guide to Measuring IT Success in the Digital Age

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You’ve probably heard the old adage that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” While the saying is technically true, it can be misconstrued, especially in IT.

IT has no shortage of measurable tasks. Most IT organizations have been using the same metrics for decades. KPIs like cost per ticket, ticket close time, user self-service completion rate and technician resolution are popular metrics that many CIOs use to determine the success of their IT organization.

But do those rates tell the real story of what’s happening in IT? I’m going to argue that they do not. In order to succeed in the digital age, CIOs must identify new ways to measure success.

The Problem with the “Old Way”

IT is no longer just a support team. Now IT plays a critical role in delivering services to end-users (read “customers of the business”) and can be a driver of business growth within the organization.
Old metrics simply will not measure success in the digital world. Look at the examples of common IT metrics that I listed above: cost per ticket, ticket close time, user self-service completion rate and technician resolution. These are not bad metrics and there is value in measuring them but they certainly don’t give a holistic view of how IT is contributing to the business.

An IT organization could hit every one of those example metrics but still be seen as a cost center instead of a contributor.
While CIOs understand the importance of these metrics, business leaders like the CEO and the CFO may not understand the importance of them. It’s the CIO’s job to use these metrics to point to the bigger picture and demonstrate how those metrics increase business value.

IT metrics need to also tell the whole story, from historical data and into the future. Business leaders should be able to look at IT metrics and understand where the organization has been and what direction it must take to move forward.

Metrics in the Age of Digital Transformation

Metrics in the age of digital transformation can be summed up in one sentence:

Metrics should connect to end-users and the business.

This appears to be a struggle for many organizations. A Gartner study found that only 31% of organizations have IT metrics in place to improve business operations.

If you cannot connect a metric to the end-user, you will struggle to demonstrate business value. This often requires the CIO to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the business so that they have an understanding of the entire business model.

Metrics should also lead to definable actions – and those actions may touch several different areas of the business. This is important to note because it is going to move IT organizations away from having a silo mentality. IT touches almost every part of the business. CIOs need to collaborate with other areas of the business to determine where IT plays a role and how IT can provide the necessary resources to produce results.

Once you begin working with other parts of the business to identify where IT drives business value, you can then begin to build actionable process and systems and identifying key metrics for success within each one.

The Future of Measuring IT Success

IT metrics shouldn’t just measure technology performance. They should:

  • Track and trend performance over time
  • Diagnose and understand the underlying drivers of performance gaps
  • Prescribe actions to improve performance
  • Establish performance goals for both technicians and IT support overall

Every organization will have unique metrics but there are some starting points you can use to determine your initial metrics to ensure you’re properly measuring IT success in the digital age.

1. Cost and revenue indicators

Digital transformation is changing operational costs and customer acquisition costs. As technology evolves, pay attention to where those costs are, what can potentially be reduced, and where new business models or revenue streams are generated through leveraging technology.

2. Utilization

IT is often seen as a cost center because of the constant need for tools and technology. It’s important to measure utilization of these different tools and the impact of IT tools on business goals.

3. User experience

Are the other employees in the organization engaged with the tools and processes you have made available to them? What is the general level of productivity and business efficiency in the organization? If the users are enjoying a seamless experience and are able to identify productivity in their jobs because of the tools, technology and processes you have defined then you are able to IT’s role in business growth.

4. Customer experience

Finally, in the digital age, IT has a critically important role in providing the overall customer experience. IT can support the business in projects that improve the customer experience. CIOs need to inquire on how each project they play a role is impacting or enabling the right customer experience.

Pay attention to these four areas as you address new projects. If you begin to align your projects to support these areas, you will be able to identify relevant metrics that align with business success.

The Future is Here

The future of IT is already here. The bots have arrived, customer’s expectations have shifted, and the way we work has changed. So it’s time for your measures of success to do the same. If you are leading an IT organization, work with your peers to take a holistic view of business so you can begin to shift your IT metrics to reflect the success of the organization.

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