Tag Archives: leadership

IT Reset: How to Re-Prioritize IT Initiatives During COVID-19

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CIOs have had their work cut out for them over the last few months. The sudden shift to remote work has put pressure on IT to create solutions for remote workers using technology that perhaps was older or less capable, support overworked and stressed out IT technicians, and, in general, keep the business moving through the use of technology.

The priority at this time must be ensuring that technology supports essential business processes. But that doesn’t mean IT leaders should freeze any other initiatives until after COVID-19 has passed.

In fact, the worst thing any leader can do right now is “freeze” and wait until life “returns to normal.” There will be no return to the normal as businesses knew it before the pandemic. Even after the immediate threat has passed and businesses can resume working in offices, the way we work will be forever changed because of this situation.

There will be an expectation for the business to provide flexible work environments, more self-service options, tighter security, and better contingency plans for addressing future disruptions like this one.

All of these shifts provide IT with a rare opportunity to hit pause, take a step back, and reassess priorities. Adobe’s CIO Cynthia Stoddard advises, “CIOs now have to rethink priorities, or at least reorder them, and we must reinvent ourselves now as virtual leaders.”

Here are a few ways you can reset your priorities and identify what initiatives you should take on right now.

Cybersecurity

One of the first priorities should be your level of protection against cyber threats. Security is imperative for continuing essential business operations but this unique situation has increased the risk of cyber threats. “Zoom bombing” became a trend over the last few weeks as uninvited guests crashed virtual meetings and get-togethers, often disrupting the session with violent rhetoric. While Zoom quickly adapted to protect its users, this may be just the beginning of more frequent cyber-attacks and threats. As more of the world moves online, hackers will most likely increase the intensity and sophistication of their attacks. CIOs should review their cybersecurity protocols and ensure the proper procedures are being followed.

Productive Remote Work Environments

In addition to cybersecurity, CIOs need to make sure that every person in the organization is equipped to do their job remotely. This might mean you need to more heavily invest or leverage self-service technology or AI. Large investments or initiatives around new technology may have been on the back burner but now is an ideal time to reassess whether you need to make those investments now.

It’s also not just about providing technology. You may need to equip your team to handle and manage it. Are your knowledge bases relevant and up to date? Knowledge bases may not be seen as high priority, but techs will no longer be able to just walk down to an office to troubleshoot a problem. More of the organization could be turning to knowledge bases to navigate technology while they work from home.

Service Delivery

Another area to review is your service delivery processes. There are many facets of connectivity that are out of your team’s hands right now, including different hardware and software being used by team members with different levels of connectivity. Like I mentioned earlier, a service technician can’t simply walk down to an office to troubleshoot an issue. If there were any gaps in your service delivery processes before COVID-19, they are likely more apparent and problematic now. Take this time now to address those important issues.

Refocusing priorities will allow you to emerge from this situation more efficient and capable than you were. This will enable you to refocus on those more urgent tasks.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that CIOs and IT leaders need to focus on enabling outcomes instead of simply delivering outputs. Even though the way we work is rapidly shifting, this is a perfect time to reassess how IT can drive outcomes. We’ll never go back to work as before. So, instead of looking at this situation as a blow to current initiatives, look at it as the perfect time to re-prioritize and prepare for the new future.

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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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ITSM is More Than Just Numbers on a Spreadsheet

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This article was inspired by Mel Kerner, whose insightful comments on a recent LinkedIn post of mine started my wheels turning about the heart of service delivery.

Measuring and demonstrating the business value of IT is one of the biggest struggles for CIOs and IT leaders. There are thousands of articles, webinars, and commentary on how to demonstrate the business value of IT (I’ve even written quite a few of those articles!).

There are endless equations of metrics, KPIs, budgets, and technology that one can put together to demonstrate the value of ITSM. CIOs are hyper-focused on that bottom line. What does the IT line on the spreadsheet say about you and your organization?

That’s always the question, isn’t it? I’m not here to argue that CIOs don’t have to prove the financial sense behind their decisions on investments and projects, but I am going to pose another question:

What is at the heart of your service delivery?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes at this vague question that can’t be answered with metrics or financial projections. But I think we need to ask it because there is a goal of ITSM that can’t be measured with specific metrics or financial projections.

People, processes, technology… every IT leader has strategized over these 3 words. They are the 3 parts of every ITSM initiative.

We can measure how much technology is costing or saving the business. We can create baselines from which to measure the improvement of the effectiveness of our processes.

We can’t effectively measure the importance of people. We can capture metrics like call volumes and incident response times, but that doesn’t measure the service being provided. It doesn’t accurately demonstrate the importance of that service to the end-user – or to the organization.

This is important because sometimes everything adds up on paper, but IT is still struggling. Sometimes all of the financial plans make sense and the team is hitting its goals for all of its metrics, but users are still unhappy and service is still poor.

This is a very real disconnect occurring in organizations today. According to PWC, 90% of C-suite executives say their technology choices deliver what employees need. But 50% of employees disagree.

Is IT really delivering services if half of the organization don’t believe they have the technology for what they need? Even when the numbers on the spreadsheet are adding up, if the people in the organization are not satisfied and able to do their jobs, IT is not doing its job.

Impeccable service delivery starts with understanding how much that service delivery means to the most important part of service management: the people.

Do service desk agents understand the true value of solving a user’s technology problem? Do they fully grasp the frustration that arises when a piece of technology is getting in the way of someone doing their job?

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between employee experience and company performance. It’s no wonder why employee experience has become one of the hottest topics in business today. For IT leaders, this is an opportunity. They can use this focus on employee experience to remind their teams what is at the heart of service delivery.

Consider author Simon Sinek’s famous quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Does your IT team understand the “why” behind their metrics?

For example, why is response time important?

Is it important because it’s a box to check off? Or is it important because a service desk agent providing a timely response is able to return a user to their job faster so that they can complete their own work faster. And completing their work faster may mean they are responding to a client faster, closing a sales deal faster, or they’re able to start another project. A timely response time helps a user be better, faster, and more efficient at their job.

Or why is recurring incidents an important metric?

Is it important because it’s annoying for the service desk agent to have to solve recurring incidents? Or is it important because recurring incidents damage the reputation of the IT organization and are a frustration for the user? It can cause their mood and productivity to plummet which can then impact their interactions with customers and colleagues. It can even impact their interactions outside of the office. If you’ve had a frustrating day at work, you may end up bringing that home. The service desk can impact that!

IT leaders must talk with end-users about their experiences with IT. They should investigate the pain points users experience when their service calls are poor and the satisfaction they feel when their work is uninterrupted and technology actually makes their jobs easier.

There needs to be a bigger “why” for IT beyond just collecting metrics and impacting bottom lines. There needs to be a heart to your service delivery and it may be as simple as this: Better service delivery improves the day to day lives of your end-users.

Why does all this even matter if you can’t measure it?

The work IT does is often misunderstood and unappreciated. Most service desk agents won’t be thanked by end-users. Feeling unappreciated and inefficient will lead to burned-out agents who deliver subpar service and that can create a ripple effect. Service management is directly related to employee experience, which is directly related to company performance.

The IT leader must constantly remind the IT team why good service delivery matters. IT leaders need to take the steps to dig into the true “can’t-be-measured” heart of service delivery and communicate that to their teams. Ask the hard questions, dig into how users use services and technology to enable business outcomes, and start capturing and pointing out those immeasurable wins, just as often as you count the measurable wins.

At the end of the day, the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet will still matter. But the real story of IT goes far beyond the numbers on the spreadsheet. The real story is the one that’s told and heard throughout the floors away from the C-suite. It’s the story that really matters- the story of the employee’s experience.

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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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The New Role of The ITSM Professional

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What makes ITSM successful? There are many answers for this question but I am staunchly in the camp that ITSM success has less to do with strategy, processes, or even technology. It comes down to people.

There might be some argument about this belief within the industry, especially as we become more automated. There is a very real fear among many ITSM professionals that embracing AI means that they will soon be replaced by machines. My unpopular opinion on this is that while some ITSM professionals will be automated out of a job, it doesn’t mean that their ITSM careers are done. I believe that there will be new roles that will emerge for those professionals.

ITSM is evolving. We have new technologies and new methodologies – so it’s time that we look at a new way of defining the ITSM professional. As we enter this new decade in 2020, I’d argue that we must redefine the role of the ITSM professional. I see the role coming down to two crucial parts.

The Business of the Business

The first part of this new ITSM professional role is the importance of understanding “the business of the business.”

In other words, how does the business co-create value? What do end-users and customers want and expect from the business? Many ITSM professionals understand how processes and technology work, but often fail to see the bigger picture of how those processes and technology support the value streams across the business and, ultimately, the bottom line.

ITSM professionals have a unique opportunity. While many within the organization may understand the business of the business, few understand the relationships between value streams and technologies, and how technology supports the business of the business.

By working with their teams to understand the business and its bottom line – and the role of technology and service management – CIOs can enable their team members to become so valuable that they can’t be automated out of a job.

AI and machine learning are only as good as the data they are given. If the ITSM professional understands the value streams that flow through the business – that is, the business of the business – then they can ensure that good service management underpins the flow of that data used to make those business decisions that impact the bottom line.

The Soft Skills of the ITSM Professional

The second piece of the new ITSM professional is soft skills. Don’t be fooled by the phrase. Soft skills are crucial for success and there is nothing “soft” about them. In the new ITSM role, the professional must effectively communicate with others, work with the rest of the organization, and have an understanding of what each department contributes to the bottom line.

Silo mentality can no longer be tolerated. A “culture of no” won’t last in this new paradigm. Communication and collaboration are “must-haves”. If your team is feeling resistant about the necessity of working with the rest of the organization, encourage them to recognize that in order to be seen as an integral part of the organization and not a back-office support team then they must step out from behind their computers and collaborate with the rest of the organization.

With the right mindset, a focus on communication and collaboration, and an understanding of the business, this new ITSM professional will thrive in any organization. Yes, even in a world with automation, bots, and machine learning.

Focus on Service

If this shift feels overwhelming or uncomfortable, I encourage IT, leaders, to emphasize the meaning of the word “service” with their teams. We define and create what are called “services”, but too many ITSM professionals think of services in terms of processes, methodologies, and technologies.

The word service can be defined as “the action of a person (or organization) helping or doing work for someone else.” Services are more about people, about working together and helping others than they are about technology and methodologies.

These shifts, whether you view them as large or small, are unavoidable. IT can’t afford to duck their heads behind their computers and hope their knowledge of technology and methodologies will be enough to keep them relevant. They must see the larger picture and work with the rest of the organization to achieve that larger picture.

It’s time to raise the bar.

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Is “Busy” Becoming The New Death of IT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What CIOs Can Learn From CMOs

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

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

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

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

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

 

Customer Experience

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

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

Analytics and Testing

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

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

Agility

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

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

The Language of the Business

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

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

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

The Future of CIOs and CMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Ultimate Guide to Measuring IT Success in the Digital Age

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

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

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

The Problem with the “Old Way”

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

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

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

Metrics in the Age of Digital Transformation

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

Metrics should connect to end-users and the business.

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

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

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

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

The Future of Measuring IT Success

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

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

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

1. Cost and revenue indicators

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

2. Utilization

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

3. User experience

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

4. Customer experience

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

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

The Future is Here

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

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Damn, I Made a Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to others

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

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

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

Question your assumptions

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

Questioning your assumptions is a powerplay for every leader.

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

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

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

Commit to learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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