Tag Archives: Digital Age

The Opportunity of Failed IT Plans

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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.

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Can the CIO Save The Day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  1. Get out of IT and into other departments.

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

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

 

  1. Identify the impact of technology in other department initiatives 

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Get Started

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

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

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

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How IT Can Enable Organizations to Make Data-Driven Decisions

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

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

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

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

  1. Shift the perception about the value of IT 

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

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

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

2. Follow the Value Streams

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

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

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

3. Identify services 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

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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.

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Are You Prepared to Meet Customer Expectations in 2020?

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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.

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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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Where Is IT On Your Customer Journey Map?

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In today’s digital world, it’s imperative that organizations create and deliver world-class customer experiences. The Amazons and Zappos of the world have changed how customers want and expect to interact with organizations, especially online. Customers expect continual updates, easy to use self-service options, and streamlined processes, from start to finish.

This means organizations must research, understand and optimize every part of their customer’s journey. This process of documenting a customer’s journey was once thought to be a job for externally-facing departments, such as marketing or customer service.

But this siloed style of operations won’t work today. Today the modern C-suite must work together to create customer journey maps and, most importantly, IT must include themselves on those maps. The good news is that the door is wide open for CIOs to grab this opportunity.

What are Customer Journey Maps?

Before IT can make sure they’re properly included on customer journey maps, let’s address what we are referring to when we discuss these maps.

Customer journey maps are documents that help organizations visualize and understand how they attract and retain customers, and how customers interact with the organization. These documents depict each touchpoint a prospective customer may have with an organization. Touchpoints include interactions like a customer visiting their website, placing an order, contacting customer support, and leaving a review. Customer journey mapping provides a 360-degree view of a customer’s wants and needs.

Why are Customer Journey Maps important?

As I pointed out earlier, customers expect world-class experiences from every organization they interact with, no matter how large or small. According to Oracle’s Customer Experience Impact Report, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better experience with a brand. They expect a seamless purchase experience and if they don’t find it with your organization, they will quickly go find it somewhere else. The internet has limitless options for today’s consumers, so the best way to win is to provide a flawless experience.

Additionally, we live in an interconnected world, and a bad customer experience often doesn’t stop as soon as the person hits “cancel order.” Many customers will take to social media and review sites to broadcast about the experience, which could negatively impact future sales with other potential customers. According to Temkin, 30% of consumers tell the company after a bad experience. But 50% of those consumers tell their friends, and 15% of those consumers provide feedback online. It’s easy to see how a single bad customer experience doesn’t just impact one customer.

A customer journey map can also reduce the number of assumptions that your organization is likely making about your customers. It’s natural for certain biases to exist when it comes to how your audience interacts with your organization. It’s important to look at the data instead of trusting the beliefs or views of internal teams.

Why does IT need to play a role?

Perhaps a decade ago, it was unlikely that IT would have been a part of these customer journey mapping experiences. But today, IT has to be a part of the exercise because technology is a key component in delivering a seamless customer experience.

For example, one of the leading trends in customer experience is personalization. 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that offer a personalized experience. To create a personalized experience, like offering relevant product suggestions or targeted ads, requires the use of technology to track and store data about a consumer’s behavior. Even though this may sound like a marketing task, it will be IT that will be implementing the technology and managing the data. Therefore, IT must understand why this technology is necessary and have a role in how it should be implemented and leveraged.

What Should IT Do to Be Involved?

Creating a customer journey map is a collaborative project. The best first step any CIO can take to be a part of this project is to break down any silos or any competing goals that may exist with other departments. No single department can “own” the customer journey map. Either everyone is on board and in consensus or you have a flawed map.

The actual creation of the map requires both quantitative and qualitative data. Since CIOs and IT rarely directly interacts with consumers, they won’t have much qualitative data. However, they will have quantitative data found within the systems of engagement and systems of record. The CIO should deliver whatever data they may have about the customer experience, whether that is customer analytics or website data.

Finally, it’s important to remember the overall goal of this experience: it’s to delight the customer in every phase of their journey with you. IT can often hold preconceived notions of what’s the best technology or tool or they can have doubts over whether technology is necessary. These beliefs will only put up roadblocks in the process. Let the needs of the customer drive this process. As Steve Jobs once said back in 1995, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.” For CIOs to succeed they must open their eyes to the journey the customer is on and then work to support it.

Customer journey mapping is an important exercise that every organization should do and IT shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to help shape the experience for the customer. By bringing the right data, clarifying the needs and understanding the wants, IT can deliver the technology that will enable fantastic customer experiences and support the company in their business goals.

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5 Signs You’re Not Ready for AI

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We’re inundated with headlines about the power of artificial intelligence (AI) these days. AI is everywhere and most businesses know they will need to adopt it soon, if they haven’t already. A recent study from Gartner shows that 37% of organizations have implemented AI in some form. That’s a 270% increase in the past four years!

I suspect that there are many CIOs feeling the pressure from their boards or C-suite peers to implement AI-related technologies. But even with the increase in the number of companies implementing AI doesn’t mean that every organization should hop aboard the AI train right now.

AI isn’t something that you can just pop out of the box and have it work effectively. Like most technologies, it requires a little preparation. Trying to implement AI in an organization that isn’t ready is a disaster waiting to happen.

How do you know if your organization isn’t ready for AI? Look for these signs.

 

5 signs you're not ready for AI

Your processes are undocumented or unclear

You can’t just “turn on” AI and expect it to magically – and instantly – solve problems or take on those tedious, repetitive manual tasks in your organization. The algorithms that power AI can only do what they’re told to do. This means that AI needs processes – and not just any processes. Your processes need to be clear, well-defined, and well-documented.

Organizations that are ready for AI have already identified and eliminated any convoluted parts of their processes. They’ve discovered and corrected gaps in process definitions. They’ve addressed process issues that caused human intervention and eliminated any waste or bottlenecks. They’ve already documented and polished their processes so that when they are ready to automate it, that automation can be implemented easily and quickly.

Your data is a mess

AI-related technologies rely on having data – lots and lots of data. And not just any data but accurate, reliable, relevant, and trustworthy data. One of the ways that the use of AI can be effective is that the algorithms that power AI have relevant and accurate data, in the proper context, on which to take action. If your company has taken a blasé approach to data capture and quality, this is a big red flag for AI adoption. Bad data is one of the main reasons that many AI projects fail.

It’s crucial that an organization has a robust approach to data capture, management, and quality before implementing AI. CIOs and IT leaders should investigate what data they already have, why and how the data is collected, and how that data is maintained.

Like any other technology-related initiative, bad data provided to AI only means bad data – and actions – out. Trying to adopt AI using unreliable data will only result in bad outcomes – only those bad outcomes will happen almost immediately.

Your team is resistant

Even though AI is all the rage, there are many IT professionals who are fearful that AI will automate them right out of a job. Implementing AI is an initiative that requires a purposeful approach to organizational change. If one member of the IT organization is resistant, the entire implementation could be at risk.

Leaders must help their teams understand that implementing AI does not indicate loss of jobs, but that some of the tedious, repetitive work done by people are better suited for AI – freeing up people to do the things that people do best – innovate, create, think, and plan. Associates should be provided with training to grow their skillsets for use in an AI-enabled world.

Communication and transparency across all levels are key for successful AI adoption. It’s important that those who will be working with AI are involved in the implementation process as early as possible. Team members will be more likely to engage and support the initiative when they have all the information upfront about how AI will be used.

There’s no business case for AI

The use of AI is trendy and exciting, but as I’ve pointed out already, AI is not a magic bullet.

It requires an investment of time and money. For an organization to realize the value in AI and for it to be implemented and managed correctly, AI implementation must solve problems that result in improved business outcomes. This is the only way AI is going to provide any ROI.

Yes, there are some eye-catching headlines around the use of AI out there. Don’t chase them. Look for the problems and opportunities in your company where AI use would help. Look for cases where the use of AI meets a need of your business or enables the achievement of a valuable business outcome. No, it may not be the most exciting use of AI – but it will be the most valuable.

You’re afraid to experiment

This is a real fear, especially among IT teams. You are too afraid of failing, so afraid of costing the business money and being unable to show any ROI, that you are paralyzed from experimenting with making AI work in your organization.

There are going to be stumbles and pitfalls along the way with AI adoption. They are unavoidable and inevitable, just like with any new or emerging technology. The key is to fail fast and learn so you can innovate, evolve and continue moving forward. You have to experiment to determine the right data infrastructure, the volume, and quality of the data, and getting the right people into the right roles. Adjustments will be necessary. AI will evolve and your business will evolve with it. Bottom line: be prepared to make those mistakes, find the learning opportunities and share those learnings across the rest of the business.

AI is not a passing fad. It’s only going to become more embedded in our world. So while there may be pressure to begin implementing AI right now, don’t make the mistake of getting in a race you’re not prepared for – it’s the fastest way to lose.

It’s not about being one of the first organizations to use AI. It’s about using AI correctly for your organization. Look for these signs to see if you are ready for AI and fix the foundation before you zoom off into an AI future. By starting from a strong foundation, you’ll be assured of success with AI.

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Does Your Service Desk Need a Tune Up?

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It happens to every CIO eventually. There’s a low grumbling across the organization. It gets mentioned at a few meetings. Other members of the organization take note of it. Then all of a sudden, the word on the street is…..

“The service desk isn’t performing.” (Okay, perhaps that is the family-friendly version…but you know what they’re saying.)

Whether it’s a lack of customer service, it’s taking too long to resolve issues, or there are slow response times, almost every CIO has heard complaints about the service desk.

Of course, no department in any organization runs flawlessly 100% of the time. And technology issues can be one of the most frustrating experiences for professionals (especially when they are not technologically-savvy people). So how can a CIO tell when there’s actually something wrong with the IT department?

In short, how can you tell that your service desk needs a tune-up? CIOs must have a plan to tackle service desk issues and they need to know the right way to do it.

service desk need a tune up

Collect the Right Metrics

No matter how annoying complaints can be, complaints alone may not be enough to initiate a service desk tune-up. CIOs need to obtain the data on their service desks.

The most popular metrics for measuring service desk basics are:

  • Speed to answer
  • Number of contacts logged
  • Average call abandon rate
  • First-contact resolution rate

However, there are many different metrics you can use (and that your service desk tool might track!) but don’t get bogged down in measuring every possible metric. Identify the right ones for your organization and gather the data to determine where the service desk may be struggling from an execution, whether that is a drop-in service levels, decreased user satisfaction, or long resolution times.

It’s also smart to survey end users. This will help identify specific issues that might be plaguing your service desk. These surveys don’t have to be lengthy or complicated. You can simply ask if the user is happy yes or no. If the answer is no, then you can ask the user to elaborate (in their words – an open text box works well for this) or you can follow up afterward.

Of course, metrics only tell you part of the story. Once you have those metrics, you have to dig into each one to understand what’s not working and see the full story of your service desk.

  • Is customer service lacking?
  • Are your processes and procedures out of date or not implemented?
  • Do you have insufficient staff to handle the volume of work?
  • Is there a lack of qualified staff?
  • Is there a lack of collaboration?
  • Is there a separation of roles and responsibilities for different service channels?
  • Are there proper escalation procedures?
  • Are there adequate contact handling procedures?
  • Is end-user support available when and how the end-user wants it?
  • What is the user experience when interacting with the service desk?

Your metrics should give you insight into where the gaps are in your service desk. If they don’t, then it’s time to reevaluate what metrics should be tracked.

Define goals

Once data has been gathered and it’s clear where the service desk currently stands, new goals can be set and communicated to the team. Be inclusive as these new goals are defined – include members of the service desk team as well as people from the user community to help define goals. Collaboratively set KPIs for each goal, establish timelines, milestones, and ideas for how each goal can be met.

Create a Service Catalog

If you don’t have a service catalog, now is the time to create one. Service catalogs can help organize resources, manage expectations, and identify inefficiencies. They also provide transparency between the IT organization and the rest of the business so that colleagues are better informed and equipped to take advantage of IT services.

It’s also important that someone owns the service catalog. Service catalogs are living documents. They are ever-evolving as new technology is purchased, new processes created, systems change, and business needs evolve. If you have an existing service catalog that is out-of-date, then take the time to review and update it.

Provide the Right Training

Often, the service desk technicians don’t know what they don’t know. They’re busy putting out fires or managing an issue until a more senior or skilled technician tech can jump in and resolve the issue. But how much time is this costing your organization? How much more could the organization accomplish if the senior staff was not having to assist as often they do?

Properly trained and enabled technicians to solve more issues without having to escalate up the chain. This results in faster resolution times and happier end users. According to MetricNet, companies that allocate more time to initial and ongoing training have higher first-contact resolution rates. Additionally, advanced or senior technicians can stay focused on larger initiatives.

Technicians can make or break a service desk. Invest in them by offering training courses and certifications.

Invest in Technology or Tools

Finally (and I do mean finally), after you’ve reviewed data, set goals, created or updated your service catalog and trained your team, you may want to consider upgrading your tools or technology. There is no shortage of fantastic service desk software out there and many of those tools can improve your service desk but only after you’ve diagnosed the problem and made adjustments to your team and your services.

Maintaining a service desk is not a one and done type of initiative. It requires consistent monitoring and improvements. While it’s not easy, giving your service desk a tune up is a worthy undertaking!

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