Tag Archives: culture

Your Continuity Plan Still Isn’t Good Enough

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Continuity plans have been in the spotlight for businesses across the globe over the last few months. If your continuity plan wasn’t done or hadn’t been reviewed in months, then you probably felt that pain over the last few weeks. Even those with up-to-date continuity plans are refreshing theirs with their lessons learned from COVID-19.

“Continuity planning” has been topping lists of must-do’s for CIOs and IT leaders. But someone has to ask the question: even with a 2020 update, is your continuity plan good enough?

From what I’ve been reading and seeing, probably not. The good news is that you can still shore up your continuity plan so that it actually helps your business in the event of another disaster.

The Problem With Continuity Plans

For CIOs, continuity plans mean including the obvious things:

  • How many laptops does our team need to work remotely?
  • What needs to be moved into the cloud or onto a collaboration platform?
  • What cybersecurity systems need to be set into place?

These are important items to address. They will help your business continue in the event of an emergency. But they’re not the solutions to the real concerns. They are band-aids. These things only address the symptom but not what causes the symptoms.

A continuity plan needs to address what your business needs to do to stay running most effectively and how vital business functions can continue operating during a disaster.

On their own, none of the above components reflect how they connect to vital business functions or business needs. They’re just a list of outputs. They don’t tie it back to the business need or driver or requirement. They’re not outcomes. Our continuity plans should focus on the outcomes we must deliver to support vital business functions. Then we’ll know what outputs we need to produce in order to provide the outcomes that are needed.

I’ll use one of my favorite metaphors to explain the difference between outputs and outcomes. This one might feel familiar to you if you’ve been ordering takeout food recently. You probably have a favorite pizza delivery place that you choose over any other. What is it that makes that pizza delivery your favorite? Because the output from every delivery service is the same. The output is the pizza that you receive. But the outcome of pizza delivery is that the pizza was delivered warm, the driver was friendly, it was delicious and you enjoyed every second of eating it. The output is simply what you expect because it’s what you paid for. The outcome is the entire experience and value that was delivered.

To have a good continuity plan, you need to identify the outcomes that are necessary, not just the outputs that simply keep the lights on.

We need to start with the business impact analysis which quantifies the impact of the loss of service. A business impact analysis collects relevant data and analyzes the operational and financial impact of a disruption of business functions and processes. These can be as detailed as we need it to be. The more detail, the better because we’ll be able to make better business decisions.

The business impact analysis starts us down the path of identifying those outcomes because it assumes that every part of the business is dependent on the continued operations of the other parts of the business (which it is).

Is this starting to sound familiar? When we think of business impact, in particular the holistic approach to end-to-end value, we’re really identifying the value streams.

If you read my previous article this month, you know that I’m a proponent of Value Stream Management, which is the holistic approach that applies lean thinking – optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams across technologies, assets, and departments – across an organization’s value streams. Instead of just looking at functions and features, value stream management looks at and manages value streams from end-to-end.

In terms of continuity plans, if we reflect on the value streams, our plan has to become more than the technology that supports the value stream. It will encompass the entire end-to-end lifecycle of business value and the outcomes of each value stream.

This where you’ll begin to focus on things like the roles of the people involved and how they interact with one another and the end customers to deliver value. Your continuity plan becomes comprehensive and more impactful.

How To Make Your Continuity Plan Valuable

Now that you understand what really needs to be in a continuity plan, there’s a second piece that needs to be addressed.

You can’t just drop this plan into a drawer and cross your fingers that you won’t need it again anytime soon. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that unthinkable scenarios can occur. We may not see another pandemic in our lifetimes but we will see another disaster of some type.

Your continuity plan cannot be a one and done scenario. It needs to be reviewed, updated, and addressed on a regular basis. Each time you map your value streams or add new value streams, go back to your continuity plan, and evaluate that it’s still up to date.

We can’t know what the next disaster is awaiting businesses but we can be better prepared for any disaster. The best time to prepare for the next disaster is right now.

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Outcomes vs Outputs: The Real Proof of IT’s Value

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The typical workday looks much different today than it did just a few months ago. Instead of driving to work and walking into the building, employees are going online and signing in to their messaging or collaboration tools.

Instead of physically taking a document to a client for a signature, they’re being sent digitally for electronic signatures.

Instead of popping into an office, managers are checking in with employees via texts, instant messages, and video calls.

As many businesses continue to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that technology is keeping the business together. Because of this, IT has to move into a more strategic role. For years, experts have been advising IT leaders to take their seat at the strategy table and be involved in the larger business decisions. Many IT leaders have jumped at this opportunity while others have struggled to figure out how to demonstrate IT’s ability to be more than a support function.

This shift of IT from a support function into a strategic partner can start with a simple shift. The shift from focusing on outputs to outcomes can make a world of difference for IT organizations.

Outcomes vs. Outputs

Let’s begin by addressing the difference between outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. They are quantitative and easily measured.

Outputs could include:

  • Moving files and documents into the cloud
  • Closing tickets in record times
  • Installing new technology

Many IT organizations measure outputs as a way to illustrate their productivity and value. The thinking is that the more outputs they complete, the more the rest of the business will see IT as being valuable.

While outputs are important, outputs only tell part of the story. The real measure of value is the outcomes that are enabled by those outputs. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve.

Outcomes are business objectives such as:

  • Increased market share
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased profits

For example, the outcome of moving computing capability to the cloud is a more mobile and flexible work environment. The output enables the outcome. For every output IT is completing, the CIO must know and communicate what the business is now able to do as a result, or outcome, of that output.

That means before listing an output on a project list, IT managers must ask: “What outcome is this going to enable?

By doing this, you can cut down on the amount of busywork or projects that are not contributing to the bottom line. It will also show what outputs are ineffective. In some cases, IT delivers an output that doesn’t enable or deliver any real business outcomes. If this is the case, you’ll need to review the output and determine if it is truly needed.

This shift may also show that some of your metrics and KPIs are ineffective ways of measuring IT’s performance. For example, if your team has a high first-contact resolution rate but employees are still reporting poor service, then the first-contact resolution rate isn’t a good indicator of your performance.

How to Make This Shift

What do IT leaders need to do this to make this shift in their organizations?

Build Business Relationships
IT leaders need to understand the outcomes the business wants to achieve. They should seek out key stakeholders and have regular conversations about their technology needs and their goals and objectives. This will allow IT leaders to begin to see the end-to-end value of their outputs and initiatives.

Define and Map Services
Once you know the desired outcomes, you can map IT services to them. Map how the outcomes of your services connect to business objectives.

Measure Outcomes
It’s not enough to simply list off the number of outputs your team completes each month. Engage your stakeholders to identify outcomes and how an output contributes to an outcome.

The Future of IT

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that IT has no choice but to evolve now. The way we work will be changed forever. Even when businesses return to the office, there will be different expectations around flexibility and how technology enables flexible mobile workforces. The business will want to be prepared for the future, should anything like this happen again and they’ll be looking at IT to help plan and prepare for those possibilities.

CIOs and IT leaders must approach their goals and initiatives differently if they want to rightfully play a leadership role in their organizations. Connecting IT outputs to business outcomes enables IT leaders to help shape the future of their organizations.

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What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

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Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

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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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Is “Busy” Becoming The New Death of IT?

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The word “busy” has become ubiquitous in the business world. It is equal parts an explanation, an apology, and a defense. For IT, it has long been a go-to phrase.

I am worried about the overuse of the word “busy”. “Busy” seems to have become the standard response for any inquiry about IT. I don’t doubt that IT organizations aren’t busy, but if IT is always busy, I worry about what it means for the future of IT.  Unless something changes, IT will be so busy that it will find itself with nothing to do.  The organization will not wait for IT to become less busy – the organization will move ahead without IT.

Anyone who has worked with an IT department will recognize the look of a frazzled, stressed out CIO. She is constantly running in and out of meetings, putting out fires and desperately trying to “catch up.” Some busy CIOs often find that they spend most of their time in “reaction mode”.

The problem with being in a constant state of reaction is that the CIO never seems to have the time to strategize or innovate or think big. Being in a constant state of reaction means that CIOs are always solving yesterday’s problems. You can’t be a leader if you can’t get ahead and you can’t get ahead if your focus is on yesterday.

You may be thinking that IT professionals will be able to leverage technology to avoid busyness and, to a certain degree, I agree. But with newer technology, higher customer expectations, and an ever-increasing reliance on data, IT is trying to balance more work than ever. And technology by itself is not the answer for having balance.

But there is a difference between having a heavy workload and being so busy that you can’t get ahead. “Busy” becomes a death knell for IT when it becomes an excuse. And this excuse is not always intentional. The workload for IT can become all-encompassing and it’s easy to be unable to see through it. 

This is where a great IT leader can emerge. Great leaders can see the future, despite the demands of day to day work. Great leaders choose to focus on solving future problems and does the things today that lead to solving those future problems. The difference between an IT leader who struggles and an IT leader who thrives is the ability to see past the day to day fires and into the greater needs of the organization.

So how can IT leaders create the space they need to be proactive, innovative, and future-focused?

First, a leader must be willing to create this space. It is very easy to fall into the trap of “busy” and assume that you’ll have the opportunity to plan, strategize, and innovate next month or next quarter or next year. Things will not change without making the conscious decision that something must change.

It’s not as simple as just adding additional resources, bringing in partners, or outsourcing parts of the IT organization. These actions will only serve to put a band-aid on the issue. Taking these actions will only create the illusion that IT suddenly has the additional capacity or that the issues that caused IT to be “too busy” have been addressed. 

So, what is the answer?  Rather than manage the IT “supply”, manage the IT demand.  The organization must understand the demand it is placing on IT. It may even mean reducing the demand on IT to enable IT to improve on time-to-value targets that it simply cannot meet due to excessive demand.

Running IT must change from a supply and demand approach to a demand and supply approach.  Rather than continue to try to match the supply of IT to demand, the approach must change to match demand for IT to supply.  In other words, rather than trying to force demand for IT into a limited supply, the demand for IT drives supply.  This may look like a subtle difference, but it represents a significant shift in the way many organizations interact with their IT departments. Demand for IT must drive capacity – not expose the capacity limitations of IT. And if the organization does not want to increase capacity, then it must limit demand.

Yes, DevOps and Scrum are demand-driven approaches. But unless the entire organization adopts an agile approach, it is only a local optimization – IT is optimizing only what IT does – and local optimizations are not sustainable.  I would even argue that such an approach will likely increase the demand on already-constrained resources.  DevOps and Scrum only help IT react to demand – it does little to influence or control that demand.

What will it take to shift to a demand-driven approach to IT?

First, IT must be elevated from being viewed as a technical support function to a strategic business partner.  This will require a mind shift – both from the executive perspective as well as the IT perspectives –. With technology now such an integral part of every part of every business, IT has to be involved and directly present in the strategic planning of the organization.

If IT isn’t already doing so, IT must develop and maintain its service portfolio.  Just like the enterprise is maintaining a product and services portfolio to facilitate good decision-making, the IT portfolio depicts how investments in IT relate to business outcomes and value co-creation.  Additionally, the IT portfolio also illustrates on-going operational costs, or the cost of the “care and feeding” of existing solutions that are often overlooked when organizations take on new initiatives The IT portfolio is a crucial tool in helping the organization understand current demand as well as the impact of new or potential demand.

Lastly, organizations must commit to the effective governance of IT to ensure that the organization achieves its desired outcomes. In 2013, Cognizant stated that more than 50% of IT investments are wasted or failed to deliver expected returns to the organization. Effective IT governance results in improved organizational risk management and alignment of IT investments with organizational objectives. When it comes to demand, effective IT governance balances resources, ensuring adequate IT support is available for current and future IT demand.

This shift will require commitment from the C-suite, especially from the CEO and the CFO. Executives may not understand why managing IT demand will help them move faster into the future. In order to explain this, CIOs need to understand the business priorities, outcomes and how technology impacts them. This means meeting demand with the appropriate capacity and capability, IT wants to help the organization succeed, but in order to do that and not miss out on market opportunities, the demand for IT must be met with the appropriate capacity and capability. Simply scaling up demand cannot be the way forward.

This idea of managing demand may sound unrealistic, but it actually is the best path toward the future. The other option, of course, is for IT organizations to continue being “too busy”. Taking this route means that IT will end up staying busy until the C-suite gets fed up that IT can’t take on more work. While “busy is good”, if IT is too busy, IT will end up busying itself out of relevance in the organization.

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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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Damn, I Made a Mistake

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Buckle up, friends, because this is the one where I share some truths.

I’ve learned many things in my years as a business owner and consultant but a few months ago, I had one of the biggest lightbulb moments of my career.

I made a huge mistake and it was costing me business.

I’ll avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of this mistake but it simply came down to this: I wasn’t listening to my audience and I was basing many of my offers and marketing choices on assumptions about my clients, rather than hard facts gathered by listening to them.

I think for many leaders and consultants, you get to a point in your career where you feel that you’ve seen it all. You learn to trust your instincts and in many ways, this is a good thing. But there comes a point where you start listening to your gut instincts over the voices of those around you. This is where you can start to cost yourself. If you work for yourself, you could be costing yourself business or if you’re part of an organization, you could lose the loyalty of your team and your rightful seat at the table with the C-Suite.

I believe as leaders it’s important to self-reflect on a consistent basis, even when you are moving quickly and chasing big goals. As I reflect on my missteps, I wanted to share three key points that helped me correct my mistakes and will hopefully help you avoid them!

Listen to others

Whether you’re like me and are a consultant, or you’re trying to manage a team and please a C-Suite, listening is a core component of leadership. However, listening is not always easy. You will hear things you don’t want to hear and think, “Well they’re wrong and I’m right so I’m not going to listen to their views.”

Differing views and conflicting opinions are part of business. Modern leaders want the best for their organizations and it’s normal to believe your views are the best. But the next time you hear a conflicting viewpoint and your urge is to “Shutdown and ignore,” I urge you to stop and ask a simple question in return: “Interesting viewpoint. I’d love to dig in on why you feel this way.”

The goal is not to shut down, it’s not to agree and it’s not to give up. It’s simply to dig in for more information. With an open mind and the right questions, you are creating space to find the solution.

Question your assumptions

While you’re working to understand why your team and colleagues feel a certain way, it pays to do the same for your ideas and viewpoints as well.

Questioning your assumptions is a powerplay for every leader.

The IT world changes at lightning-fast speeds. The trends of 6 months ago are now commonplace and the hot new technology of last year has already started being replaced.

In an industry where everything is evolving, your assumptions and beliefs should too. When was the last time you tested an age-old assumption or asked a clarifying question about a process, service or piece of technology to determine if it’s still working?

When you question your assumption, you are creating opportunities for continuous improvement, a hallmark of the modern IT organization.

Commit to learning

Leaders are always learning. This is probably not news to you but I challenge you to view this last point as more than keeping up on the latest trends or reading the latest news every morning. Instead, I encourage you to continue learning about your organization, the end users and your team.

Much like I had to learn more about my clients and their current needs, IT leaders should learn about the other departments, their end users, and, of course, the needs and desires of their own internal IT team just as much as they need to understand the latest piece of software.

This is also a fantastic area for you to encourage your deputies and other members of your team to practice, as well. Every member of your team can learn more about their end users and it will elevate the overall IT organization.

Part of the objectives of a modern IT department is to make an easier, faster and more streamlined experience for users. When was the last time you learned about the needs of a user from the actual user (and not from data or assumptions)?

Leaders make more mistakes than many of us realize. Course correcting along the way is part of leadership and success. We have a little less than half of 2019 left in front of us and this is a fantastic opportunity to look back on this year and ask yourself where you’re not listening, what assumptions your making, and how much you’ve learned so far this year.

I can tell you from experience that while it’s a humbling practice, the outcome of it can lead to more opportunities than you could have experienced otherwise.

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5 Signs You’re Leading a Modern IT Organization

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There was once a time when IT was the “department of innovation”. IT held the keys to the technology and fearlessly led the way towards a tech-savvy future.

But that all changed. Technology quickly became mainstream and consumerized. You suddenly no longer needed to have a technical background to have success in using technology. Shadow IT became rampant in organizations and IT capabilities were soon taken for granted.

IT had either two choices: become a roadblock to the digital future or become a modern organization that continues to lead the way into a digital future.

Both the IT organization and the CIO role are evolving. Modern IT is here and it looks different than it did a few years ago. How can you be sure you’re leading a modern IT organization? Look for these signs!

1. You and your team make business cases for technology investments

The days of expecting CEOs and CFOs to simply invest in technology for technology’s sake are long gone. IT can no longer be a cost center. It has to drive value and in order for you to drive value, you have to understand business value.

Smart IT leaders are speaking the language of the business, framing their projects and objectives so that they fit that language and drive towards business goals. Additionally, modern CIOs are teaching their team members to do the same. It’s not enough for a CIO to be able to talk business value when it’s business as usual for the rest of IT.

Begin sharing with your team the business results of your different initiatives, use business terms, and highlight areas where your team is contributing to business results. Not only will this help strengthen your organization, but it will also help strengthen each individual team member. As the IT department and the CIO role shifts, so will the role of an IT professional. It will quickly become a requirement for every level of IT to understand and explain how they drive business value – so begin empowering your team with that now.

2. You collaborate with other departments

IT is no longer the sole keeper of technology. Technology is now part of every single department and your organization must keep up with it.

Many IT leaders focus on the “technology” part of their part but it’s important to remember that “I” at the front of IT stands for “information”. Modern IT organizations know that the “Information” is just as important as the “Technology” these days. Sharing information, collaborating with other departments, and improving interdepartmental communication is a priority for every modern CIO.

Cross-department collaboration may be more difficult for some CIOs, depending on the corporate culture and historical relationships between departments. However, as the Modern IT Leader, part of your mission is to facilitate this information-sharing for the good of the entire business.

If you find that IT is regularly left out of conversations or scrambling to catch up, you can start opening up those lines of dialogue by sharing your information. Be transparent about what IT is doing, and how it’s positively impacting the business. Sharing information should go both ways and if you open up that channel, you’ll advance into Modern IT Organization territory.

3. You focus on the end-user

The customer has always been king, but technology has resulted in a new set of customer expectations. In the past, organizations could deliver services in their own methods and at their own pace. Today, customers expect services to be delivered quickly, efficiently, and with continual communication.

For example, in the past, a customer would place an order for 100 sheets of paper with a salesperson. The salesperson would then bill the customer through the accounting department and then work with the fulfillment and shipping department to deliver the order. Each step would take several hours or even days. The customer would be in contact with the salesperson or would wait patiently for their order.

Today, you would never place an order and expect to wait 24 hours to receive an invoice, pay the invoice, and then wait several more days for confirmation of payment and several more days for confirmation of shipment.

Now, users expect to click a few buttons and immediately be able to make a purchase or receive support or information.

And what changed all of that? Technology. In the previous paradigm, IT had minimal touchpoints within the customer journey. Now, technology has enabled faster and more efficient delivery of services. This means modern IT departments must understand all the customer touchpoints and work with each department that handles those touchpoints to automate them and make them as streamlined and frictionless as possible.

4. Your frameworks and processes adjust to meet the needs of every initiative

Creating and implementing processes is a beloved IT tradition. Of course, it’s a tradition that IT will always need. But the difference between a traditional IT organization and a modern one is that IT processes can’t be set in stone any longer. You can no longer fit every initiative into rigid processes and unyielding frameworks.

The growth of technology, the ever-changing needs of users and the unpredictability of the digital world requires IT to be flexible with their service delivery. This doesn’t mean there’s no need for a process or structure. Every modern IT organization should have a set of frameworks or best practices that they can then adjust to fit the current initiative. Modern IT organizations keep their frameworks adaptable, agile and responsive.

5. You seek to enable instead of control

Perhaps the biggest hallmark of a modern IT organization is that it isn’t overly focused on having control. Modern CIOs recognize that the power of IT is that it can enable business value, solutions, efficiencies, and communication. Many traditional IT organizations and CIOs worry that they have lost control of technology, of their place at the table. When in reality, this shift into a digital future has made it easier for IT to enable innovation, change, and growth.

And guess what? This last point is a natural outcome of the first four signs. If your team is driving business value, collaborating, communicating, focusing on the end-user and adjusting frameworks to fit the solution, then you’re already enabling innovation. You’re already a modern IT organization.

The traditional ways of managing IT are out. It’s the modern era of IT and it just may be one of the most exciting ones yet.

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Flipping the ESM Switch: Pressure Off, Ease On

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There’s a buzz around Enterprise Service Management (ESM) these days and with good reason! I see Enterprise Service Management as the future of Service Management. With the ever-increasing business reliance on the use of technology, more organizations will need to adopt Enterprise Service Management.

But what exactly does ESM do for your business and, more importantly, how can you start to implement it without complicating it?

At its core, ESM is applying IT Service Management concepts to the entire enterprise. It makes it easier to provide solutions to colleagues within your organization and to deliver value to customers outside of your organization.

While ESM is not about reinventing the wheel, it’s certainly not about force-fitting every department into established ITSM processes and workflows.

Implementing ESM is about leveraging what you have to make your tools, processes, and teams work better so that you can drive the same business value across the organization. It should flip the switch from pressure to ease.

Let’s look at some areas where ESM will ease the pressure within your organization.

Pressure:
“Other teams will insist on having it their way and using their tools and processes.”

Every department has its own defined set of processes, tools, and workflows. This can create a power struggle where each department is certain that their way is the best option. This can create difficulties during ESM implementation as each department could try to force others into adopting their processes or tools.

Ease:
“We are all working toward a common goal so there is no longer ‘my way’ and ‘your way’ – it’s now ‘our way’. “

The fundamental shift that must occur for ESM to be successful is to let go of the notion of independent goals and objectives. Every department, every team, every individual must be aligned with the overall goals of the organization. No matter your role in the organization: HR, accounting, marketing or IT, everyone is working to serve the customer. Department leaders and the C-suite must coach their teams to stay focused on these goals. If the organization is aligned on shared, common goals, it will be easier to adjust processes and workflows that work best to meet customer demands.

Pressure:
“My department is unappreciated and burnt out.”

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only members of the IT organization who often feel burnt out and unappreciated. In many organizations, every team member can feel as if their work goes unnoticed and unappreciated. When teams are focused on internal goals and not on organizational goals, teams fall into working in their own silo. One of the results of this silo mentality is that no one is clear on who is accomplishing what within the organization, which makes it difficult to understand how everyone contributes to organizational goals.

Ease:
“ESM results in clearly defined end-to-end processes, which means every part of the team will understand who contributes and how.”

Good ESM makes it easier to assign and see responsibility and accountability across each service or product. Not only does this hold everyone accountable for completing their piece of the process, but every team will be able to clearly be recognized for how they contribute. This can be the motivation that many team members need to keep contributing and to respect the other departments also involved in the delivery of services and products.

Pressure:
“Our department does its job and meets our part of the process – it’s other departments that drop the ball.”

Ease:
“Enterprise Service Management provides increased visibility and performance and helps management understand what has been achieved.”

Good ESM processes help provide insight into the value that each business function provides and communicates that value to customers and other business stakeholders. With Enterprise Service Management, no one can drop the ball because everyone knows who is in charge of what aspect of the process. There are clear communication channels and a high degree of visibility and transparency. Leaders must encourage their teams to embrace this as it will identify gaps, provide clear insight into contributions, and eliminates “blame” culture.

If you feel any of these pressures, then it may be time to introduce the ease of Enterprise Service Management. How can you start implementing it in your organization with ease instead of friction?

1. Justify Enterprise Service Management in business terms

ESM doesn’t always sell itself. Just like any change in an organization, the benefits need to be articulated in business terms. Explain the actual business benefits including revenue, competitive advantage or enhanced customer experience. Look at how many hours ESM can save from eliminating inefficiencies and miscommunications and how it can bring even more value to the organization.

2. Don’t treat ESM as ITSM

ESM cannot be an IT project. ESM is not about simply extending ITSM into the enterprise. It’s an organizational change that impacts every member of the team. Remember, ESM is about leveraging what you already have in place — and that includes every process and perhaps tools other departments use, as well. It must feel collaborative and inclusive to everyone in the organization

3. Respect the holdouts

It’s natural for some departments in your organization to fully embrace ESM and for others to be more resistant to this change. Instead of marginalizing the departments who are holding out on ESM, work with them to show how ESM can benefit their team. If ESM is going to be successful, every team needs to be willing to accept and try it. Forcing Enterprise Service Management on a department will only cause problems down the road. By continuing to emphasize the collaborative nature of ESM and the ability for every team member to be heard, you will be able to win over those holdouts.

4. IT- Focus on yourself first

IT can drive ESM, but there is no point extending sub-optimal service management practices outside of IT. If your ITSM processes are not meeting your needs, or if your own team is struggling with certain aspects of ITSM, focus on cleaning up in-house before trying to extend service management into the enterprise. If you are having successes from ITSM efforts, then your argument for ESM will be more impactful and you’ll have an easier time extending it throughout the enterprise.

ESM is not a passing fad. As more customers expect more personalization and self-service, the need for ESM is only going to increase. The best way to maintain a competitive advantage and keep your customers happy is to start implementing ESM in your organization today.

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The AI Playbook – 3 Key ITSM Plays to Make When Implementing AI

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AI is one of the fastest growing tech trends across all industries. 20% percent of business executives said their companies plan to implement AI across their enterprise in 2019, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

AI is the approach of using technologies like machine learning or bots to automate simple and repetitive tasks. The power of AI is clear. It allows for services to be delivered faster to the end user. It eases the burden of resource-strapped teams by automating simple tasks, allowing those teams to focus on larger or more strategic initiatives. It also keeps organizations competitive as new technology has created new consumer expectations that demand speed and agility.

While AI is making a splash for good reason, it is not a sole solution. Investing in AI won’t fix every issue in an organization. In fact, if implemented in the wrong environment, AI can slow down an organization and cause even more problems.

Before you jump and invest a chunk of your budget into an AI tool, you need to first review your ITSM environment. If you want to win at AI implementation, you need these plays in your playbook.

1. Clean up or create your processes

It’s simple: automation only works if you have a process to automate. If there’s no process, your AI tool has nothing to automate. AI will only master what it’s fed. You need to evaluate your current processes and workflows. Look for gaps where the process is slow due to human intervention, bandwidth issues or approval processes. Identify what is too convoluted, unclear or undocumented, too fluid or constantly shifting. This exercise will give you a clear view of what’s needed in your process and what is prime for automation.

When cleaning up your processes, you’ll want to get your entire team involved. You want buy-in from every member and you need to see the big picture of how each member contributes to a process. Meet with your team to map out your processes. Work with them to understand what each step requires and where automation can play a role.

2. Enable cross-department collaboration

AI will not work well in a siloed organization. Many AI tools facilitate integration with multiple backend systems and work across departments to deliver solutions. If your marketing team has a completely different tool, process and system than the sales team and those two departments are unable to come together to create shared processes and systems that deliver an end result, then AI won’t be able to make it better.

Every department must work together to effectively implement AI. They have to create shared processes, enable communication and clearly understand what is needed from each department to deliver a service, product, or result. Handoffs have to be smooth for automation to be able to step in and handle it.

Where in your organization is there confusion over how departments interact with one another? Are there communication issues that need to be addressed? What are the expectations and outputs of each department? It’s absolutely required that every team be on the same page when it comes to processes, approvals, goals, communications, and expectations.

IT leaders should find buy-in from other leaders to help teams integrate successfully. The goal for every leader should be a successful AI implementation that actually speeds up results. When each leader understands that this is only successful with inter-department collaboration, they will be more willing to encourage their teams to work with IT.

3. Identify and map value streams

Mapping value streams evaluates the tools, people and processes in the lifecycle of a service. Mapping value streams gives you two important things: visualization and metrics. Value stream mapping helps organizations visualize of how value and information flow through an organization. By doing so, organizations can see if any steps can be eliminated, refined, consolidated or most, importantly — automated. These metrics and data will help you be able to pinpoint exactly where AI can work, how it should work and what metrics you should use to measure it.

Mapping value streams will make it clear how AI could drive business value. This makes it easier to prioritize future implementations and integrate more AI solutions within your organization.

There’s one last important note for every IT leader to address.

It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak. Staff often feels threatened by AI so every IT leader must be able to express to their teams how AI can fuel their success. There should be no worry that staff will automate their way out of a job.

Instead, focus on the opportunities this can create. What projects are you unable to accomplish because your team is stuck doing manual, tedious, and mundane tasks? What successes are you held back from due to the limitations of manual work? Successful use of automation does require a shift in organizational culture. To create an atmosphere of acceptance, you need to focus on the potential for new projects, more exciting initiatives and a larger role in contributing to business goals.

Lastly, recognize that AI implementation is not one big project. Start small automating something of use and value. Pay attention to your metrics and adjust as the organization needs. Keeping an open mind and flexible approach to these implementations will be key to keeping them successful.

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