Tag Archives: culture

The Consequences of Undefined Services

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Delivering IT services is at the core of any modern IT organization. IT provides services to deliver or enable business outcomes and value. It seems straightforward.  So then, why do so many IT organizations struggle with undefined services?

As it turns out, what an IT service is actually is often misunderstood by IT professionals – and as a result, services do not get correctly defined.  Instead, many IT organizations identify things like laptop computers, password resets, and installing software as “services”.  And while these service actions (which is actually what these things are) are important for the end-user, none of those things indicate a business outcome.  The consequence of not formally defining services in terms that business colleagues can recognize as business outcomes and capabilities could be causing cracks in their organizations.  

Let’s break down what an IT service is – and isn’t – and examine just how impactful well-defined services can be for an organization.

What are IT Services?

As defined by ITIL4, a service is “a means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.

Add the phrase “through the use of IT” to the end of the above sentence, and you have the definition of an IT service. 

Specific IT services will differ from organization to organization depending on their industry and their business needs and requirements.  But any service definition always has its basis in creating value and delivering or enabling business outcomes.

Think about it.  A laptop computer – by itself – provides little value.  But when a laptop computer is used to securely access a corporate network, enabling use of a system that controls the manufacturing of widgets, which in turn, are sold to end-customers….now we have a different perspective.  It’s not about the laptop computer – it’s about having the capability to manufacture widgets. 

In other words, the laptop by itself does not deliver a business outcome.  But combined with all of the other things mentioned about (and more!), a business outcome (widgets to be sold to customers) is enabled.  And achieving that business outcome provides value. 

Why do IT services matter?

If we look back at our earlier definition of value, the important part of it is “delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve.

Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

The value is achieving the quarter-inch hole, not in the drill. 

To put it in IT terms, it isn’t about the network or the cloud or AI or the laptop or having a password reset.  It’s about the result. And if that result is considered valuable.

IT services deliver value to customers and enable customers to achieve business outcomes. It’s a vital capability, especially today when customer expectations are so high. 

But it’s more than that.

Having well-defined IT services demonstrates to the rest of the organization how well IT understands the business of the business. 

Well-defined IT services speak the language of the business.  Colleagues that work outside of IT can quickly recognize and understand the expected business value and business outcomes from the use of that service.

And well-defined IT services illustrate how IT contributes to the organization’s success.  

This all means that  IT must have a strong understanding of what outcomes the business needs to realize or enable, and how the people, processes, and technology delivered by IT contributes to those outcomes. Many IT pros struggle with this. It’s not enough for IT professionals to primarily focus on systems and technology anymore. They have to understand how what they do – and how they interact with others within (and outside of ) IT – contribute to the success of the organization.

It’s not about the drill.  It is about all of the things that work and are delivered together that results in the quarter-inch hole. 

But unfortunately, many IT organizations only talk about the drill. 

Why Do Organizations Resist Defining Services? 

Why do so many organizations struggle with defining their IT services? 

The first reason is that IT sometimes struggles to understand the customer’s perspective. Simply put, many IT professionals don’t understand the business of the business.  Therefore those IT pros are unable to articulate what they do in terms of defined services, and how those services provide a real business value to the customer. 

Another reason why many IT organizations don’t define services is that they have a resistance to governance. They look at governance as being overhead or something that gets in the way of getting work done. When you define an IT service, you’re creating a structure and setting good expectations for how IT enables business success.  And governance – done well and as appropriate – enables organizations to achieve their vision and objectives. 

But some IT organizations take governance too far.  Those organizations tend to stand up processes for process sake.  As a result, no one ends up following processes (much less understands the intent of the process to begin with) or using services as has been defined.

Defining IT services also helps the organization understand if its investments in technology are meeting the needs of the organization and helping the business achieve its vision and objectives. 

This has terrible consequences for the organization!

What happens when IT Services are not defined?

One of the biggest consequences of undefined services is that it causes tension between IT and the rest of the organization. Without defined services, there are no shared expectations – either within or outside of IT. The rest of the organization have no idea what IT is capable of doing for them. Services give IT the ability to set expectations and to create healthier relationships between IT and the rest of the organization. 

Undefined services also impact value and the way IT’s value is perceived. Without defined services, IT will have difficulty articulating the value they provide to the organization. This hurts IT’s ability to justify budgets and get buy-in for investments. If you can’t articulate the value of IT, you can’t show the ROI on any tool, piece of technology, or investments in IT. 

Finally, it’s difficult to prioritize work without defining services. When you don’t define your services, everything will seem like it’s the most important thing that needs to be done…until the next thing comes along.  IT will find itself responding to requests from users and working on projects that organizational leaders may not have any interest in doing.  

How to Start Defining Services

What is the best way to start defining services and showing true integration with the business? 

Begin by understanding business needs.  That means engaging your key stakeholders and decision-makers.

To define your services properly, ask these key stakeholders and decision-makers what outcomes they need to achieve to meet business goals and objectives.  Ask how they envision the use of or how they are using technology in achieving those goals and objectives.  Ask how they perceive value – and how they would measure that value.  

Then start identifying and defining your services based on what you heard from those stakeholders. Identify what it takes to deliver the outcomes and value that stakeholders need.  Identify the costs and risks involved in delivering those outcomes – and how IT will manage those costs and risks. 

Then write it down and publicize it using terms those stakeholders will recognize and understand. Any time you talk about technology, talk about it in terms of services.

And you’ll be on your way to much better business-IT alignment

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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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Are You Inviting Trouble? 7 Signs You’re Attracting Chaos to IT

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CIOs are no strangers to chaos. Working in IT means you’ve dealt with your fair share of chaotic moments. Technology has an annoying habit of not working properly – even when everything seems to be set up correctly. IT pros have had to learn to keep their cool when the tech just isn’t working — and the end user is feeling the frustration.

Being able to handle chaos is a skill every leader must develop. But long-term success working in a continual state of chaos can cause problems. Chaos can cause a surge of adrenaline and some people begin to subconsciously crave that adrenaline rush they feel from chaotic moments. When that happens, they may start to create situations that result in chaos and can cause those adrenaline rushes. The best example of this would be a student who consistently procrastinates on their assignments because they feel they “work better under pressure”.

Is it really possible that accomplished professionals and industry leaders can repeat the same mistakes that a college student would make? Absolutely! Stress naturally spikes cortisol levels, which is the built-in alarm system in your body. That spike in cortisol is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s our “fight or flight” instinct and it plays a number of roles in our body. Specifically, it boosts energy so you can handle stress and then will restore the balance afterward.

Many driven and ambitious people love that energy boost and thrive on the tension that a challenge creates. After all, meeting and overcoming those challenges is how they found success!

But if you find your IT organization in a constant state of chaos, it might be time to check in to see if you’re causing it and making more trouble than IT needs. Here are 7 signs you’re attracting chaos to your IT organization.

You’re working in a vacuum

Siloed thinking and poor communication habits can cause many problems for an IT organization. Many technologists do not focus on their communication or collaboration skills. In many organizations, IT has been seen as unwelcoming and isolated. When you tune out other departments and their needs and don’t include them in solution designs, you end up with workflows that aren’t followed, products that aren’t used to their fullest capabilities, and too many “last minute” requests that cause stress.

You don’t communicate in business terms

Learning to speak the language of the business is one of the most important things a CIO can do. Without describing – in business, not technical terms – how IT solutions fit in to business objectives, you’ll spend a lot of time and effort defending your initiatives, shifting initiatives at the last minute, and potentially working on initiatives that don’t contribute to needed business outcomes. Once you start mastering how IT and technology contribute to business objectives, you can position your initiatives in a better light, and this will decrease resistance from the C-suite.

You have shiny object syndrome

Everyone needs the newest, fastest, shiniest technology, right?! No, they don’t. Non-technologists and leaders in the C-suite might always be pushing you to invest in new technologies, in the belief that those technologies will instantly solve every business challenge. But without proper analysis of the challenge that needs to be solved, this mistaken belief in bright and shiny new technologies will only keep IT and the rest of the organization spinning in circles. You will experience the tension and challenge of continually deploying and training on new technologies – and be blamed when those new technologies don’t address the problem that needed solving. And you’ll spend a lot of money on tools that “don’t work”.

IT success isn’t clearly defined

How is IT success being defined? Often IT success is defined only as delivering projects on-time and within budget. But that definition ignores IT’s contributions to business objectives and the organization’s bottom line. By defining IT success in terms of business results and bottom-line impact, the CIO becomes a strategic leader in the company, and IT becomes a valued partner within the organization, not perceived as a necessary, but expensive, cost center. By failing to establish IT success measures in terms of organizational success, you’ll spend time and energy on hitting metrics that don’t properly elevate the CIO or IT.

Pushing change at the wrong pace

Accelerated timelines can be common in IT organizations – but are they realistic? CIOs are often operating under unrealistic expectations (see above) and therefore trying to force innovation without laying the proper groundwork. This can sometimes feel like running straight on into a brick wall and expecting it to topple over on the first try. You will quickly burnout and exit out if you push change at an unreasonable pace. Instead, CIOs need to set realistic expectations with the C-suite regarding the pace of change and establish realistic and achievable milestones to show that digital transformation is on its way.

You spend all your time putting out fires

Are you constantly involved in every little fire that comes up within IT? If you can’t rely on your team to handle the day-to-day fires that will always exist in IT so you can free up your time to focus on the bigger picture and strategic initiatives, then you are contributing to that chaos. I’m not saying that you should ignore those fires, but as CIO, you have to trust your team to handle the day-to-day work and provide coaching and support to get IT out of fire-fighting and into leading business innovation. Your time is better spent focused on solving the bigger business challenges within the organization.

You ignore the foundations of your IT organization

Foundations can be boring. They do not cause stress or any excitement when (if?) you think about them but having a strong IT foundation is absolutely necessary. The foundations of your IT organization include your workflows, processes, and value streams, and are what keep the wheels of IT turning, even during the chaos. If you ignore the steps it takes to keep your foundations optimized, you will continually get stuck in day-to-day fires and siloed communications which waste your time and your team’s talent.

Having a little bit of chaos can be a good thing. It can inspire innovation and create motivation but it’s a little bit like rainstorms. You want enough of it to keep things growing but you don’t want to live in it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the CIO, you have the responsibility to balance having that healthy level of chaos in your organization while at the same time, be the calm in the storm. That tension and those cortisol spikes will still come — only this time, it will be because you’re working on bigger challenges that will have a larger impact on the success of your organization.

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CEOs, are you making your CIO sick?

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Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar:

The CEO of a mid-sized organization calls in the CIO because times are desperate. The company needs to deploy new technology to increase revenue — quickly. The organization has already invested in a variety of tools and technology… but it’s not getting the job done. Now the CEO wants the CIO to find the right tool, the one that will help the organization, and it needs to be cheap and it needs to show results quickly. The CIO — who up until this point, has had little opportunity, much less been invited, to interact with other departments to identify needs and pain points with the current toolset. In fact, beyond any initial training and implementation of the current tools, the CIO has been relegated to sitting on the sidelines. But the CEO is convinced that new technology is the answer, and expects the CIO to get it done to get the organization back into the black … and the clock is ticking.

Scenarios similar to this one happen all the time in organizations. The pressure is constantly on the CIO, but she is often not enabled to be proactive or even part of the larger conversations with the business.

For CIOs, it often feels like they’re being given a teaspoon of gas and asked to get the company through the end of the cross-country road trip. They’re being asked enormous tasks with little budget or agency over previous decisions. They’re damned if they do — and damned if they don’t.

And this happens over and over! The CIO constantly jumps through hoops… only to land and then have to run back around to jump through it all over again. It’s no wonder that CIO position has one of the highest turnover rates among the C-suite, with an average tenure of just 4 years, according to TechTarget.

The relationship between the CIO and CEO has been fraught in the past and unfortunately in some organizations, that hasn’t improved. Even as the CIO becomes more influential and valued within the organization, many CEOs are still stressing out their CIOs!

For many organizations, there’s a gap in what the CEO expects and what the CIOs need to be able to deliver on those expectations. The CEO is the one with the power to bridge the gap. Let’s address those CEO expectations and how CEOs can give CIOs what they need to meet them.

CEO Expectations and CIO Needs

CEO Expectation: Business perspective.
The CEO expects the CIO to be the bridge between technology and the rest of the company. The CIO needs to look ahead and align technical benefit with the initiatives of the company and tailoring systems to meet business needs. This is absolutely critical for success in any business. Every business needs to use technology to its fullest potential and the CIO is the only person who can ensure that is happening. If the CIO and CEO are unable to fully enable the organization with technology, the organization is at risk of losing business to the competition.

CIO Need: Business enablement
In order for the CIO to have a business perspective, the CEO needs to recognize the role the CIO and IT play in business enablement. The CEO must ensure that their CIO is part of developing business strategies and plans. The CIO’s voice in business matters should be just as important as the voices of other leadership roles. That means the CIO has to be involved from the beginning of strategy conversations, instead of at the end of them.


CEO Expectation: Leadership
CEOs expect CIOs to be self-starters. The CIO needs to be able to motivate their teams and get buy-in from the rest of the organization. Because they often work closely with other members of the organization, the CIO needs to be viewed as an influential member of the organization who can lead the way.

CIO Need: Sponsorship
The CEO can strengthen the CIO’s credibility with peers by providing strategic support. Whether it’s inviting CIOs to strategic meetings or voicing their support of a CIO’s decision, the CEO can help the CIO attain the needed credibility to influence the organization. The CEO can also help the CIO form partnerships with external partners by starting introductions or including the CIO in communications.


CEO Expectation: Vision
The CIOs need to see the big picture of the business. CEOs want CIOs to be visionaries who are constantly moving toward the future vision of the business. The CIO has to buy-in to the CEOs vision and help the CEO turn the vision into a reality.

CIO Need: Vision and Strategic Consistency
However, for the CIO to become this visionary, the CEO needs to formally articulate the vision and mission for the company. The CIO will need to interpret how that vision fits into technology strategy, but that vision has to start from the top. Additionally, the CIO needs consistency and clarity in that vision. If the vision or strategy is constantly changing, the CIO won’t be able to create systems or initiatives to sustain it.


CEO Expectation: Innovation
Turning any vision into reality needs an innovative leader. The CIO should be on the cutting edge of all the trends and continually looking for new and better ways to leverage technology to propel the business. But the CIO also needs to be able to balance innovation and risk. She has to be able to explain the cost trade-offs with every innovative initiative.

CIO Need: Challenge
If the CEO wants an innovative CIO, they need to give the CIO those opportunities to be innovative. Challenge the CIO to use her talents on things that matter to the bottom line of the business. Don’t use her as a task rabbit who can simply pull the business over the finish line. Incorporate their expertise at the start of business challenges.


CEO Expectation: ROI
Finally, the CEO expects — and needs — the CIO to enhance ROI margins and profits. The CIO must contribute to the bottom line these days. Technology is inextricably linked to the success of any business today, so the CIO has to think in terms of ROI.

CIO Needs: Flexibility
The CIO can contribute to ROI, but she needs the CEO to understand the challenges of deploying and managing technology – at least at a high level. The CEO needs to give the CIO the chance to explain the complexities and challenges they face and demystify the technology. Then they need to allow them the flexibility to develop different approaches to solving problems. The CEO needs to understand that some IT investments take time to deliver their full potential value and allow the CIO that space to ensure that value is delivered.

In Conclusion

Now, I don’t think CEOs should give CIOs any kind of “favored status” or special accommodations within the C-suite. The CIO doesn’t need to have her hand held, but CEOs do need to consider the impact of their own actions when they review how the CIO is operating. If there is high turnover in the CIO role, perhaps the first place to look is to determine if there are gaps between the CEO expectations and the CIO needs.

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ESM is the Business Strategy Every CIO Needs

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As organizations continue to work through a pandemic, adapt to an ever-increasing digital world, and adjust to new customer and employee expectations, CIOs must continue to step up to the plate to help navigate these changes from a business perspective.

Perhaps with some organizations, CIOs have not been part of business decisions in the past. The pandemic has shown that organizations can have success when working with IT as a business partner. The reliance on technology and new remote work expectations have paved the path for CIOs into the role of business success partner. Smart CIOs are taking advantage of the opportunity by presenting a strategy that can help the business holistically — not just the technology aspects within the business.

And that strategy is Enterprise Service Management.

What is Enterprise Service Management?

Enterprise service management, also known as ESM, is an organizational capability for holistically delivering business value and outcomes-based upon shared processes, appropriate technology, increased collaboration, and better communication across the organization, not just within IT. ESM, done well, provides a strong foundation for a positive customer experience, positive employee experience, and digital transformation.

Before we dig further into what ESM is, let’s talk about what it is not. ESM is not just about extending ITSM into enterprise. This is not about IT barging in and forcing its workflows on the rest of the organization. It’s not just deploying instances of IT’s service desk tool across the organization. ESM is focused on leveraging the best practices of service management across the organization holistically to co-create business value for the enterprise.

What effective Enterprise Service Management does is get the entire organization on the same page. ESM processes reflect and support the entirety of value streams, not just the IT portions. This enables teams to have clarity around how work and value flows through the organization, and how technology underpins workflow and value. And in the digital age, knowing how work and value flows through an organization provides the ability to quickly shift and react to changes in market spaces and is critical for business success.

Why is ESM a business strategy?

The biggest misconception about service management is that it’s just something that is done only in IT. Service management has always been about delivering real business value and measurable outcomes for organizations. While service management is often associated with IT, many are often surprised to realize that service management is also being practiced in other parts of the organization, such as HR, customer service, and facilities. What effective ESM does is help organizations connect these often-disjointed pockets of service management together, creating a better working environment and improved results. That is especially important in our current world.

The way we do business now has drastically changed. Remote work has become more of the norm. We may have thought 2020 was the year of remote work but actually, it’s just the beginning. The percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021. Many organizations are creating hybrid models for working, allowing for both work from home and remote work opportunities. Forbes reports that by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least 5 days a month.

This divide in working conditions and how work is being completed will impact the efficiency of the enterprise. There are plenty of benefits to operating with remote and hybrid models, but enterprises also have a higher risk of creating silos. This isn’t a technology issue, it’s a business issue – and it’s one that ESM can solve.

When enterprises commit to and implement ESM, the result is enhanced visibility regarding how value flows through the organization. This makes it easier to identify problem areas, simplify workflows, and clarify expectations and roles. Over the long term, this will increase efficiency across the organization, which means decreased costs and possibly increased revenue.

As we said earlier ESM is not just extending ITSM across the enterprise. This should not be seen as a hostile takeover by IT. The goal is to leverage IT’s service management expertise to improve overall performance across the organization. In order for that to happen, the CIO and IT have to lead the way in establishing ESM as a must-have strategy in the organization.

ESM does incorporate principles of good ITSM, and the CIO and IT should know the best practices and mistakes to avoid when implementing service management. This is an opportunity for IT to demonstrate leadership based on their past experiences working with ITSM. By showing the rest of the organization real-world examples of how service management has improved collaboration and made work more effective and efficient in IT, IT can make the case for how ESM can improve the enterprise’s workflows as well.

The CIO and IT can make their case even stronger because IT are one of the few departments that interacts with every other department every day. IT understands the workflows of other departments because it helped design and implement solutions that support those workflows. Using this knowledge, the CIO can present use cases for ESM using actual workflows and initiatives from across the organization as examples.

The trick here is to understand the overall business goals and how the goals of the individual departments contribute to those overall goals. This especially applies to the CIO. If a CIO can demonstrate how ESM helps link departmental goals to enterprise goals, and makes it easier to accomplish both goals, they can convince other organizational leaders to rally around the idea of ESM.

How to Start Implementing ESM

ESM implementation is the opportunity for CIOs to exhibit their business savvy while delivering a solution that helps the organization work in a more holistic fashion. But there will be those who resist ESM and will need to be convinced. You need three things for a compelling argument.

Make sure the IT house is in order

If IT is not running efficiently or doesn’t have its service management house in order, no one will be convinced that ESM is the right move. Before taking service management out into the enterprise, make sure that IT’s workflows are running like a well-oiled machine and that there are no gaps in services, support, delivery, or communication. The successful use of service management within IT makes for a stronger use case for adopting ESM across the enterprise.

Collaborate with Other Leaders

As we discussed earlier, you have to rally the troops around ESM before it can be properly implemented within your organization. Start by having conversations with other organizational leaders about their 2021 goals, their challenges, and their needs. That’s the best place to start the conversation, because you need other leaders to see the “what’s in it for them”. If you can illustrate how ESM not only helps individual departments meet goals, but also link those achievements to organizational goals, they’ll be more likely to support your case for ESM.

Develop the Business Case

Finally, after you’ve ensured that IT service management practices are in order, and gained support from other department leaders, you’re ready to develop the business case for ESM.

When developing the ESM business case, focus on the five factors of value — improved productivity, competitive differentiation, improved customer satisfaction, decreased cost, and increased revenue. Link the anticipated outcomes from ESM to one or more of these factors, and you increase the chance that you’ll receive full support and funding for ESM.

Looking for more support on implementing ESM initiatives in your enterprise? Book a free consultation! I can help you develop a plan for bringing ESM to your organization.

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The CIO’s Guide to Enabling a Hybrid Workforce

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Looking back on 2020, one thing is certain: COVID-19 has permanently changed the way we work. Earlier this year, CIOs and IT departments were responsible for keeping organizations online and running as the world went into lockdown. The CIO role and the IT department finally began to receive the recognition they have long deserved for the critical role they play in organizations.

10 months into the pandemic and with a new year just ahead, leaders are looking at a future unlike anyone could have predicted at the start of 2020. Many organizations are heading back into the office, or will be sometime in 2021. But that return to the office won’t be what it was previously. Global Workplace Analytics is predicting that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

Remote work is becoming more accepted as “normal”, so this will cause what Forrester is referring to as the “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” model.

This presents a challenge that business leaders, especially the CIO, need to solve in 2021.

In addition to reviewing the remote work solutions that were implemented to ensure they will hold up for the long-term, the CIO needs to create an environment conducive to hybrid work – both in terms of technology and workflows.

Let’s address what a hybrid workforce will look like and what IT needs to do to address it.

The Hybrid Workforce

A hybrid “Work From Home” model is one in which some employees work remotely while others work on site. In this model, teams or departments may be split between working in the office and working remotely. For example, the IT team may be working in the office while the HR department works remotely. Additionally, there may be certain roles within each team that could permanently work remotely, either part-time or full-time.

There are many benefits to a hybrid workforce. First, the hybrid model opens the potential for hiring talent outside of the local area. There is the potential to increase employee productivity because team members can work how and where they are most productive, whether that’s at home or in the office.

However, a hybrid workforce has its cons as well. Communication will require extra effort, employee experience initiatives will need to be designed to meet both the in-office and remote employees’ needs, and enhanced transparency is a must regarding what work is being completed and who is responsible for that work is a requirement.

How to Enable a Hybrid Workforce

While there are so many advantages to hybrid work, there are also risks. Left unchecked, organizations may be introducing already existing bad work habits into a company with an increased reliance on technology for day-to-day collaboration. Leaders have to ensure they have strong, outcome-focused foundations in place in order to succeed with a hybrid workforce.

Here are three areas to pay attention to if you are moving toward a hybrid workforce.

Workflows & Automation

Automation is often the first topic that comes to mind when the topic of remote work comes up. However, you can’t successfully automate until you’ve optimized your workflows. No matter what your business is, workflows will have to change to meet this new workforce model. Some organizations may find that entire workflows have changed because their revenue streams changed. Other organizations may be looking for more automation because they experienced layoffs.

It’s essential to review current workflows and map existing value streams with other leaders in the organization. First, just map what currently exists – but then you’ll need to notate where you have team members working remotely, who will be working in-office, and what stages of the value stream require team members to be in person. Be sure to take into account communication (which I will cover in the next step) and mapping what those communication needs will be. This process may sound tedious, but it will help enormously when you start implementing these revised workflows for a hybrid workforce.

Once you’ve mapped your value streams and recorded your workflows, you’ll be able to identify where you have opportunities for automation.

Communication

While this might not seem like an IT initiative, organizational communications includes technology, such as online workspaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Mapping communication techniques is just as important as mapping workflows — especially with a hybrid workforce.

The CIO is one of the few leaders in the company that is capable of eliminating silos so they have to be at the forefront of solving the communication challenge. CIO should be sharing the mapped value streams and detailed workflows with the entire organization — not just within IT. Getting buy-in from other departments is crucial for success and it will allow you to have a conversation around the appropriate communication structures in a value stream.

This is where you can turn to technology to help. For example, you can automate reminders or even automate emails and notifications to be sent to the team throughout those workflows. You should also take into consideration that communication needs will include both virtual and in-person options. How can technology make this stream of communication feel seamless? What automations, reminders, tools, and options can you put into place that will get buy-in from the entire company?

EX

EX, otherwise known as employee experience, is another top priority for the hybrid workforce – and it isn’t just the responsibility of HR. Gartner predicts that CIOs will be as equally responsible as HR leaders for organizational culture change in 2021.

Getting employees to embrace a hybrid workforce model means getting them to embrace digital and technological solutions. The CIO must engage with the workforce to understand what tools they enjoy, where there are frustrations in the way employees work, and identifying opportunities to make it easier for a team member to do their job.

Try shifting the focus from productivity (output focus) to engagement (outcome focus). Engagement is about getting the work done. It’s how a team member feels connected to their work and their teams. Highly engaged teams can be a competitive advantage in terms of developing new products, attracting and retaining customers, and growing the business. And studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive.

CIOs must start working with HR leaders immediately ( if they haven’t already) to start surveying their teams and understanding their technology needs for how they engage with the company, their customers, team members, and accomplish their work. One useful exercise would be to develop Employee Journey Maps, which are similar to customer journey maps. These maps should encompass both remote workers, in-office workers, and those using a hybrid model. Look for where there is friction in the journey map with how employees get their work done. It’s an opportunity to identify and implement process improvements, underpinned by technology and automation, to eliminate that friction.

The future of work is bright. A hybrid workforce model can open so many opportunities for organizations to save money, increase productivity, and grow the business. But you have to approach it from the right perspective. Building strong foundations for a hybrid workforce will allow you to innovate faster and grow quicker in the future.

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Can the CIO Save The Day?

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This year has been a banner year for IT. It’s only because of IT that so many organizations could continue operating in the face of the pandemic. IT has done its job on winning over the rest of the organization and most of the organizations now know they can count on IT. According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 61% of the 4,200 IT leaders surveyed said that the pandemic has permanently increased the influence of the technology leader. So how can the CIO and IT leverage this new-found influence? How can IT become more than the team that keeps the lights on? 

I think that this new influence can help the CIO become the most valuable player on the leadership team because they’re the glue that keeps everything together.

Now, some may argue that the CIO has been thought of only as leading a support team for decades. So they could not in fact be the glue holding an organization together. But that was before the technology boom. Today, technology is a foundational component for every business. From communication to employee experience to the customer journey, technology plays an important role in every piece of every business. As the impact of technology has grown, so must the role of IT. While IT and the CIO used to only solve technology issues, they now must solve business issues because the business needs technology. 

That’s why the CIO has the opportunity that no other executive does. No other executive can impact another department as much as the CIO can.  

This is, of course, a force that can be used for good – or evil. The CIO can be the bottleneck, holding back every initiative due to poor service or inefficient workflows. But they can also be the hero of the organization: playing an integral,difference-making role in every initiative.

John Bruno, Chief Information Officer at Aon, explains that the CIO role can become “an integrator – someone that works across the entire organization.”  

So what can a CIO do begin breaking down the silos and helping other departments?

 

  1. Get out of IT and into other departments.

The biggest problem so many CIOs have is that they can’t see the forest through the trees. Or to put it in more blunt terms, they can’t overcome the IT fire-fights that come up every day to actually get out of IT to see what’s happening in the rest of the organization. It is absolutely imperative that today’s CIOs do this. If you don’t feel that you can see beyond IT issues, then you’re not going to be able to support the organization as you need to because CIOs have to be the integrator. They have to be the ones to connect the dots and it’s impossible to do without collaborating with other executives and understanding what is occurring in their departments. 

What would happen if you as the CIO were able to take 2-3 hours a week to meet with other executives to understand their initiatives – and how IT can help make those initiatives successful? What would it cost you? If your IT organization were to implode because the CIO took 2-3 hours every week to work with other departments rather than help put out IT fires, then your approach to service management needs attention. The right service management workflows and foundation ensure that IT runs smoothly and is able to serve the organization, while the CIO works to innovate other areas of the organization. If you’re struggling to even find the time to work with other departments and trust that your IT team can keep running, it’s time to clean up your service management. Book a consultation with me and we can discuss how to get started.

 

  1. Identify the impact of technology in other department initiatives 

As I said earlier, technology is the thread that ties everything together and as the CIO, you hold the thread. You should be actively looking for ways to enhance other department initiatives with technology. 

In the old days of IT, many CIOs would roll their eyes at the idea of making more work for themselves by collaborating with other departments. But today, the innovative CIO knows that it’s not about making more work for IT. It’s about unlocking opportunities for IT to step up and play a more influential role in the organization. 

That means that CIOs have to get comfortable offering suggestions and solutions to other executives. Imagine what would happen if a CIO offered to support the head of HR in automating and digitizing the employee onboarding process. Imagine HR and IT co-creating that solution together, instead of HR assuming what technology they needed or IT forcing a solution upon HR without even understanding the complexity of the problem. 

Instead of a forced solution where neither side is happy, everyone would walk away with a collaborative outcome that improved the business overall.

And this isn’t just an HR opportunity. The CIO could do this for every other department.  Because you as the CIO are the expert in technology, you can offer your expertise to every area of the organization. 

 

How to Get Started

First, before you start working with any other department, you need to be certain that IT can operate efficiently. That means optimizing workflows and identifying any gaps in your service delivery. You can’t offer value to anyone else without first cleaning up your own department. (And if you need help, that’s my specialty! Book a consultation here.)

Once you’ve done that, begin forming partnerships with other executives. Invite them to ongoing meetings to learn about their initiatives and technology needs. If you approach this partnership as an opportunity for their department to achieve their initiatives faster and with less resistance from IT, then they are going to be onboard with working with you. 

Slowly but surely, you can begin to work with every department in this manner and before you know it, the CIO has not only elevated the status of IT but also the entire organization. 

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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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Why IT Organizations Stay Broken

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They say that “change is hard”. Organizational change is probably the most difficult kind of change. And for some reason, IT struggles with its own organizational change. Sure, IT knows that organizational change may be needed for business colleagues so that they can fully take advantage of a new IT product or service. But when it comes to organizational change within IT- IT often strikes out. Rather than be a model of good organizational change for the rest of the business, IT will often position itself as a support team, or as a service provider, continually at odds with the rest of the organization.

Time is running out on this old, broken model of IT organizations though. The IT organizations who fail to transform themselves beyond a support organization or a service provider will fail to exist. This sounds harsh, but it is the reality. IT organizations must understand why they are broken and they must commit to making the change if they want to continue to exist in this new normal.

Why do IT organizations stay broken?

The short answer is they’re afraid.

Now, I know that answer probably just lost me a few readers right off the bat. But if you’re still with me, a tip of the hat to you. Why is IT afraid to change? I have broken it down into two groups of IT organizations who don’t change. They’re both afraid for different reasons but fear is the leading factor for both.

The first is the IT organization that is afraid of what they don’t know.

Popping open the hood of IT to see what’s actually happening can be enlightening, but also terrifying. Because you might be able to see how hard the motor is working to keep the car running. Or you’ll find that you’re missing parts, parts have been long broken and you’re lucky that the car runs at all.

If the latter happens, the amount of work has just quadrupled to fix what’s missing or broken. Worse than that, the C-suite now has a picture perfect view of how much IT is underperforming.

This kind of discovery is scary to this type of IT organization. At least in their current reality, they understand it and they know how to explain it, defend it, and even work with it. It feels safer to distract themselves with putting out daily fires and accepting that they’re never going to hit their highest performance goals. But hey, at least they’re not making it harder on themselves by spotlighting their gaps and putting more work on their plates.

The second group of IT organizations who won’t change is the group that’s afraid to start. This group often knows they need to make a change, but the fear of starting down the wrong path or starting with the wrong initiative has them paralyzed. .

This group has probably popped open that hood of IT and they see all the broken parts – but every broken part seems to be the most important one to fix. They don’t know how anything under the hood works together so they don’t know where and how to get started.

And the longer they wait to make a change, the harder it is to justify doing that work required for that change. They continue accepting the status quo because they don’t know what else to do.

The fear of finding out what’s wrong, or working on the wrong thing, is very real for many organizations and the truth is, I understand it. Sometimes sitting in the dark is easier because you won’t have to see the monster.

But we can’t live in fear, especially right now in this current climate.

The business world is changing. Actually, the entire world is changing. When everything is uncertain, the most innovative leaders are the ones who know they can capitalize on this opportunity.

But it requires a level of courage, willingness to take on the responsibility, and committing to doing the work and to dig into the data they already have.

The Data is The Road Out

Both of the groups of organizations I described above lack one thing: data.

They don’t have the data to understand where and how they can make improvements. Or they think they don’t have the data.

Whether they’re too afraid to face it or feel too overwhelmed to dig into it, every IT organization has the data they need to make lasting change in their organization. It exists all around them — within their team, their end-users, their partners, their vendors, their processes and services. They just have to tap into it.

This mess of data may seem overwhelming at first but there is a way to take the next step. The hot topic right now is “experimentation.” Difficult times in business require innovation, and innovations require experimentation. But I’m adding an addendum. Instead of just simply experimenting, you should “Experiment from a position of knowledge.” Use your data. What is your data telling you? Where is it leading you?

Instead of allowing this uncertainty to freeze you in fear, try leveraging this uncertainty to propel you into something bigger, better, and different. Everything is already different in 2020 – so why can’t IT be different in a better way?

I predict we will start to hear IT success stories: the ones that innovated instead of standing still (or even worse, receded), the ones that pivoted rather than just turned in circles, the ones that leaned into the uncertainty and transformed into something better. I’m hopeful that the right leaders are in place in many places and they are already beginning to use data to drive change, learning from mistakes, and leveraging the capabilities they already have in place.

Don’t stay “broken”

My challenge to you reading this is: how will you transform your organization? How are you going to push through whatever fears that are holding you back? There might not be an opportunity quite like this one again. Leaders are made for these moments. Are you going to accept being broken? Or are you going to step up and pop open that car hood?

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