Tag Archives: Digital Age

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

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

CEOs, are you making your CIO sick?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Are You Wasting Last Year’s Success?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

2020 was a historic year for CIOs. Before last year, there had never been a point when nearly every CIO had to completely restructure how their organization did business in just a matter of days — or even a few hours. But that’s what happened thanks to COVID-19.

Seemingly overnight, CIOs turned their organizations into remote companies. Some CIOs were able to accelerate their organization’s digital transformation efforts by years.

It was a tremendous effort, but many CIOs were up to the task – and it resulted in positive changes. According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 61% of 4,200 IT leaders reported that the pandemic has permanently increased the influence of technology within the organization.

However, the job of a CIO isn’t over after this win. No one should be sitting back and relaxing because of this success. Now, I’m not saying that any CIOs are simply sitting pretty, just basking in the success of last spring. But it is easy to slip back into a world of managing the daily fires within IT and lose sight of the larger business.

The organization is going to expect more now from the CIO than ever before. Now that the rest of the organization knows the difference a good CIO can make, they are going to want one that is innovative, proactive, and continuing to work for the bigger picture of business success.

Don’t get lost in the day-to-day management of IT and let the successes of 2020 go to waste.

Are you wasting last year’s success?

Here are some things to check to determine if you’re wasting last year’s success:

You haven’t reviewed what you implemented in 2020 to check for gaps.

This is not to take away the accomplishments of IT. The swift change to remote work was an incredible undertaking and if you knocked it out of the park, then you should feel proud of that success. However, that transition was likely rushed and lots of organizations implemented band-aid solutions. No one had any idea that we would still be dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 almost a year after the initial shutdown. It’s entirely possible the solution you implemented was never meant to be a long-term solution. Now’s the time to review those solutions and determine if they’re meeting the needs of your company today. You should also ensure that these solutions match the current business strategy. Did your organization pivot how they deliver value to the customer? Is remote work becoming a permanent part of your organization? How has your company shifted since the original shutdown last March?

You may find that parts of your remote work solutions simply aren’t meeting the needs of your organization anymore. You may need to revisit technology investments or redesign workflows to better fit the current goals and reality of your organization.

You’re ignoring foundational issues in workflows and service delivery.

Remote work is not easy, especially since many team members are working from home with their families and children. Have you addressed the workflows inside and outside of IT since the beginning of the pandemic? And what about service delivery? Have you surveyed colleagues to ensure their technology needs are being met? Workflows naturally shift over time, and with so much upheaval, there is no doubt that work has shifted and that value might not be reaching the end-user. Get an up-to-date view of your workflows to make sure they’re still delivering.

You’re not involved with the customer experience.

If IT has not been brought into the customer experience yet, your organization is already falling behind. 2020 completely changed how products and services are delivered and used by customers and technology played a huge role in that change. One of the many lessons that 2020 taught us was that CIOs and IT have to play a role in creating and managing the customer experience. So if customer experience hasn’t made its way to your “to do” list, it’s time to prioritize that.

You’re not involved in the employee experience.

Much like the customer experience, the employee experience quickly evolved in 2020. IT has always played a chief role in employee experience, but it’s more vital now. Many organizations are working remotely or operating in a hybrid remote/traditional office model. As I mentioned earlier, employees are under a lot of pressure as many are juggling working from home with their personal responsibilities, like managing virtual schooling or sharing home office spaces with their partners and roommates. CIOs and HR must work together to monitor how employees are operating and if they are receiving everything they need to do their jobs now.

You’re not actively engaging with the rest of the organization.

A true leader is not someone who hides out in their office or only deals with their team. For CIOs to maintain the status they achieved during the early days of the pandemic, they must actively engage with every department in the organization. IT is unique in that it is a cross-departmental organization. IT works with every other department within the organization to help them achieve their goals. CIOs must become more of a presence everywhere — and yes, even remotely. If you haven’t met with other department leaders and gotten up to date on their goals and challenges for 2021, it’s time to book some meetings on the calendar.

How to Capitalize on Last Year’s Success

If any of the above scenarios sound familiar to you, it’s ok! The CIO role is evolving and that takes some level of adjustment. But you want to act now if you want to capitalize on last year’s success. Here are some small steps you can take to get started.

Leverage what worked and previous successes.

Continual improvement is even more important right now. Most organizations are in the midst of change and to keep that change positive, you want to leverage the things that worked for you in 2020. Review your wins from 2020 and see how you can either enhance those wins with better service delivery, tightened workflows, or additional technology. Small wins like this can add up.

Look at where there are gaps in service.

As I already mentioned, some solutions implemented last spring were not meant to be long-term – and that’s okay. But now is the time to address it. Instead of thinking of these changes as huge overhauls or that you’re starting from scratch, they can simply be enhancements in your workflow or service delivery. The good news is that you did so much of the heavy lifting last spring when you originally made the switch to remote work.

Communicate and engage with other business leaders.

You earned their respect in 2020. Now it’s time to earn their trust. Other leaders in the business will be more open and inviting to you if you demonstrate that your goal is to help them achieve their goals. No other leader wants to feel like they have to be forced into IT’s workflows or that IT is trying to control their access to tools and technology. You have to prove that IT has moved past being the “Department of No” by being a collaborative partner who works towards the same goals. Start building these relationships one by one and you will create support for any future IT initiative.

I don’t want to diminish the success that IT leaders achieved in 2020. Like I said at the start of this article, 2020 was a banner year. Every CIO had to step up to the plate. But it’s important to check that you’re still taking steps to optimize services and leverage all your success from last year. My hope is that 2020 was just the beginning and that every CIO can keep innovating and playing a vital role in business decisions.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

ESM is the Business Strategy Every CIO Needs

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

The Opportunity of Failed IT Plans

Share twitterlinkedinmail

What went wrong in 2020?

I know, it’s a big question and most people would probably say “Everything.” Or at least, many CIOs would confess that the original strategic plans they had for 2020 were not executed.

There were many initiatives that just failed to get off the ground in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Now that 2020 is winding down — what happens to those initiatives? Should you try to execute on them in 2021? Are they even still valuable to your organization? Will you still have the capital for them? How can you afford them?

Smart CIOs know they can’t carry on as normal. Just because something was on the plan for 2020 doesn’t mean it should continue to be on it for 2021. Yes, strategic projects are still strategic, but it’s time to address whether the strategy has changed. If it has, the CIO has to know how to protect IT’s budget while shifting initiatives.

This is where the opportunity of a failed plan presents itself and where innovative CIOs can reset their priorities, align themselves with the rest of the organization, and ensure budget protection for 2021.

Revisit Your Organization’s Existing Strategic Plan

First, it’s important to understand what impact COVID-19 has had on your organization. This means more than just a workforce that is now working remotely. How did it impact the way your business operates and delivers value to customers? Did business models change? Did you add any new capabilities that are still contributing to ROI?

Now look at your existing IT strategic plan. Does it incorporate the changes made because of the impact of COVID-19?

It’s possible you could have some major changes to make to the IT strategic plan. For example, if your organization has added new revenue streams, then you may need to completely change the strategic plan to incorporate those new streams.

Look for Opportunities in your Value Streams

As you review what has changed in your organizations, you should also be identifying the opportunities for IT inside of this new strategy.

This exercise is best if you know the value streams in your organization (whether they are brand new as a result of COVID or they were already in place). If you don’t know the value streams of your organization, then now is the time to map them along with other members of the executive teams.

Remember, this is a chance for meaningful, impactful change. It’s no longer “business as usual.” We can’t say “Well this is the way it’s always been done” because organizations have proven they are capable of agility and making big changes quickly. When mapping value streams and looking for opportunities, don’t be afraid to open up to possibilities that might have seemed impossible a year ago. After all, most people would have said taking an organization completely remote in 48 hours would have been impossible this time last year but by now, most IT organizations have accomplished exactly that!

Fix any Value Leaks

Now, after you’ve reviewed value streams and are fired up about the new strategic projects you could bring to the organization in 2021, there’s a big question to answer: Where do you find the budget for it?

Some IT organizations were fortunate enough to have larger budgets this year while they enabled remote working — but those checkbooks won’t be as open in 2021.

Here’s what you can do right now to protect your budget in 2021

Look for the value leaks in your organization. Value leakage is a common problem in every organization but few leaders know to look for it. Businesses don’t operate on a consistent basis every single day. Value leaks can occur when changes in business workflows aren’t reflected in technology workflows, or people weren’t trained on new products or features, or when services or products aren’t retired appropriately. Value leaks occur due to poor communications, or when the organization fails to fully understand the costs and risks of any change, no matter how slight it may seem. If no one is monitoring value streams and measuring how value is delivered, then value will start getting dropped along the way.

In the context of protecting the budget for 2021, you can start finding and addressing the value leaks that are happening right now in 2020. When you start to fix the leaks, you can prove to the organization that you’re creating more value. The more value you bring to the table, the more you can justify your future budget and protect the budget for those bigger strategic projects you identify when mapping your value streams.

The Key is the Big Picture

The most important thing any CIO can do to seize the opportunity of failed plans is to not lose sight of the bigger picture. 2020 didn’t go to plan for anyone and every organization experienced shifts that will impact future strategies.

Your strategic projects from 2020 might still make sense in 2021. Or they might not. What’s important now is to look at how the organization delivers value to its customers and the opportunities for IT to enable and co-create that value. Then look at how IT can create even more value by fixing existing value leaks.

I think everyone will say that 2020 changed everything. But only the most innovative CIOs will be able to say that 2020 changed everything in the best way possible.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Can the CIO Save The Day?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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. 

Share twitterlinkedinmail

How IT Can Enable Organizations to Make Data-Driven Decisions

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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. 

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Higher education is facing many obstacles. The entire industry has shifted over the last few years and many higher education institutions are having to adjust how they operate to meet those changes. This article will explore how employee experience and good service management can help higher education institutions overcome those obstacles.

The Changes in Higher Education

One of the biggest changes in higher education is the shifting student demographic. Just a few years ago, student populations were made up of 18-22-year-olds, who lived on campus, went to school full-time, and were working toward a 4-year degree. Today, many students are adult learners, part-time students or taking classes completely online. Many individuals are questioning whether a traditional higher education degree is worth the financial burden and are opting out of traditional higher education altogether.

Additionally, students on campus are dealing with different struggles than past students. Many students are forced to balance multiple jobs while in school to make ends meet. This has resulted in students struggling with increased financial pressure and higher education has become plagued with mental health problems.

And on top of all of those changes, higher education is struggling with decreased funding, increased competition, and budget cuts. Higher education institutions must find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage current, prospective, and past students. The best, easiest and smartest way to do that is by engaging their employees.

The Need for Engaged Employees

Perhaps most worrisome among higher education institutions is that they are struggling with employee engagement. Simply stated – many higher education faculty and staff members are not engaged. Gallup performed a detailed study on employee engagement across several industries. After performing 258 million interviews including 75,000 with faculty and staff members, Gallup found that just 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work. This engagement score is lower than most of the industries that Gallup measures.

Unengaged employees could be costing institutions at the bottom line. The faculty are often the institution’s frontline for their students. An engaged faculty can provide students with tools they need to overcome the obstacles they’re facing, which will not only help students stay at the institution, but can help create a dedicated and successful alumni network.

Also, engaged employees are more likely to stay at the institution. Studies have shown that focusing on employee engagement can result in better retention rates and cost savings over time. In fact, according to the American Council on Education, Iowa State University estimates an average savings of more than $83,000 per faculty member retained when engagement practices are applied. Employee turnover can be costly – so imagine how much that adds up over time when good faculty members are retained!

The Institution’s Role in Employee Experience

The question is what can the institution do to support employee experience? Mike Bollinger, global AVP of thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand notes, “Faculty and staff members help create the student experience, and it’s up to the institution to provide their employees with the learning curriculum, professional development opportunities and recognition they deserve to help both higher education employees and their students succeed.”

Higher education institutions can leverage technology and services to create a better employee experience that includes professional development, learning opportunities, and better operational management.

Digital is an obvious choice for most of these experiences. Higher institutions are already successfully implementing digital-first experiences like digital workflows, online onboarding, training programs, and online learning management systems.

But future-proofing higher education with employee experience requires more than creating digital-first experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee an exceptional employee experience. Good service management is necessary. The service management I’m referring to is not just IT service management. I’m referring to the holistic approach of delivering value through the use of services, based on the use of technology. Some refer to this as Enterprise Service Management. Whether you call it Enterprise Service Management, service management, or IT service management, one thing needs to remain the same: you must focus on how organizations can co-create value and then deliver that value using technology.

What can higher education leaders do to create exceptional employee experiences?

Institutions must acknowledge the silos that exist among their faculty and staff before they can begin to consider the technological needs. Silos are culturally embedded in higher education institutions. There are silos between faculty and staff. There are silos among adjuncts, full-time professors and tenured professors, as well as, silos among departments. Working to create open lines of communication and to empower the entire institution to collaborate to run higher education as a business. It’s important that both faculty and staff adapt their thinking and actions in terms of value and outcomes instead of activities and things.

This is where IT can take the lead within an institution. Higher education CIOs can work with the rest of the institution to understand the overall goals and determine how technology can help the institution meet those goals.

There are two steps a CIO can take to begin this process.

Identify, map, and manage value streams
When a CIO maps value streams across the institution and identifies where technology is used to support those value streams, they can begin to identify and eliminate redundant spending and waste. They can also begin to find process improvements that can support better employee experience.

Establish an experience center
An experience center is a little like an expanded IT service desk. It is a single point of contact for reporting and managing service issues. Successful experience centers have well-defined processes supporting defined value streams. The experience center can benefit both the student and the faculty and staff as it supports the entire engagement lifecycle of both the students and the faculty. It reduces any frustrations or problems using technology so they can be quickly solved.

Higher education is evolving and the evolution isn’t going to slow down any time soon. While there are many questions about the future of higher education, one thing that remains certain is that the time is now to engage employees and strengthen the brand, operations and bottom line of an institution. This approach of addressing and improving the employee experience of faculty and staff on the front line can create a ripple effect that will leave the end-users, the students, feeling satisfied, cared for and supported by their institutions.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Are You Prepared to Meet Customer Expectations in 2020?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

In November 2018, I examined a few ways customer expectations have changed due to technology and what organizations, especially IT, need to know to stay competitive. Today, we reflect on how those expectations have changed in a short amount of time.

Customers, technology, new expectations. Let’s start off talking about a company that failed to pay attention to any of those things.

Long before we could access almost any TV show and movie from the simple click of a remote, Blockbuster reigned supreme. Anyone born before the mid-1990s probably has memories of heading down to the video store in hopes of finding a new release or a beloved classic. Of course, you never knew what would be checked out so you had to hope for the best. After you picked out and paid for your movies, you’d head home and watch it almost immediately. Because you had to return the thing a few days later to avoid those late fees!

But then in 1997, Netflix came along. And remember, before you could instantly stream thousands of movies to your TV, you could request certain DVDs online and Netflix would send them to you. And then you could send them back whenever you wanted. No late fees! This was revolutionary and it upended the video rental industry.

But Blockbuster failed to catch on. They failed to innovate. They failed to use the technology that was becoming available to them and they failed to meet the expectations their customers now had for their products.

Today, Netflix is booming and Blockbuster is long gone.

It’s easy to look back in retrospect and point out where Blockbuster failed. It’s easy to wonder how they failed to pay attention to the writing on the wall. But, of course, we enjoy the benefit of knowing how the future unfolded. Blockbuster didn’t recognize the impact of technology and, when I think about it, I can actually understand how they failed. At its peak in the mid-90s, Blockbuster had 65 million registered customers and was valued as a $3 billion company. They probably thought that they had happy customers, millions of them, in fact. They might have assumed that if they could just keep most of those millions of customers happy the same way they had been for over a decade, then they could endure some flashy competition.

The problem was not the competition, though. It was their customer’s expectations and their failure was marked because they refused to pay attention to the changing expectations of the marketplace.

While every industry is different, there are several overarching customer expectations that every organization should know.

Instant Response & Seamless Communication

Consumers don’t contact brands like they used to. They won’t call a hotline or sit on hold for hours. Now, they interact with brands just as they would interact with friends or family, through texting, social media, email or messenger. And no matter how they communicate, customers want an instant response. 40% of consumers expect a customer service response within an hour. (And yes, this means on the weekend too!)

Organizations must have the technology for instant response and seamless communication with their customers. Whether it’s incorporating chatbots, creating auto-response tools or using AI, you can’t afford to keep your customers waiting.

Easy Access to All Their Data

A decade ago, consumers understood if they had to be put on hold while you transferred them to another department or waited while you found their file in the filing cabinet.

But things have changed. Fitness trackers provide consumers with a wealth of data about their bodies just by glancing at their watch. Customers can open up Google, type in a word or two and have answers in seconds. Consumers have almost instant access to data these days. They expect your organization to do the same. They simply don’t have the patience for you to transfer them to the right department, dig for their info or wait for access from a superior to their data. Furthermore, you can’t afford to be relying on manual methods of data entry or note-taking inside a customer’s file. Every interaction needs to be automatically tracked. Your organization must have the ability to easily, securely and quickly access every customer data.

Delivery Times

Amazon changed expectations regarding delivery times. In 2015, 63% of consumers surveyed felt that 3-4 day shipping was fast. In 2018, that number dropped to 25%. And while many small businesses would love to gripe that it’s hard to compete with the biggest retailer in the world, griping will do very little to change the situation. Customers don’t care if they are ordering from a billion-dollar company or from a small shop made up of 10 employees. They expect faster delivery time.

This means organizations have to improve efficiency for every piece of the process that leads up to the actual delivery. From processing the order to packaging, organizations need to improve their process, optimize their technology and push themselves to be as fast and efficient as possible to meet demand.

Device-hopping

Consumers go from browsing on their phones to their tablets to their computers and back again. The experience with your brand needs to be consistent no matter what device someone is on. This means a mobile-friendly website, ordering system and contact forms. Everything you publish and promote needs to be accessible and easy to understand from any screen size.

These expectations are not easy to meet. The pressure is intense for every organization but I encourage organizations to look at more than the expectation but the need behind the trend to stay ahead.

Netflix didn’t succeed because they used technology to mail out DVDs. They succeeded because they understood their customers wanted convenience. Customer expectations are born because organizations pay attention to what customers want and need. Whether its speed, convenience, comfort, customer service or quality, there is a need or a want behind every new customer expectations.

Organizations, especially the IT department, should be listening to their consumers and identifying their underlying needs. If they can do this, then they can identify the best services, create better processes and find the right technology to deliver those services, meeting not only these customer expectations but any expectations that might arise in the future.

Share twitterlinkedinmail