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A New CIO’s Guide to Mapping Experiences

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Delivering and enabling business value is a large part of IT’s job.  As such, the CIO must track how value flows, not only within IT, but across the organization. 

It may sound easier than it actually is. Because value is tricky. For one thing, it’s not always well-defined. And it often gets lost in day-to-day operations as the business evolves.  This often leaves end users wondering what happened to the value that they were expecting. 

One of the first tasks of new CIOs is to determine what’s driving value, what’s not, and how improved value can be delivered to all stakeholders. But how can you do that? Where do you start? 

In order to answer that question, we need to stop talking only about value. Instead, we need to include talking about the experiences of the customer, the user, and the employee. 

Customer experience

As defined by Hubspot, customer experience is “the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey.” The customer experience factors into a customer’s view of your brand and it can impact the bottom line. A strong customer experience can increase customer retention, which will reduce marketing and advertising costs. And loyal customers often spend more than new ones as one study found that if a business increases customer retention by 5%, profits can increase by up to 95%. Additionally, according to a survey by Info Quest CRM, a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times more revenue than a somewhat satisfied customer.

User experience

The user experience is very similar to customer experience but it is directly related to the product, application or service. User experience refers to the journey a user takes when they interface with a system whether that is an application, a digital service, a website or a product. In today’s digital world, user experience matters. 88% of consumers are unlikely to return to a site after a bad experience and a recent study found that a well-designed user interface could increase conversion rates by 200%. 

 Employee experience

According to Gallup, the employee experience is the journey an employee takes with your organization and is made up of all the interactions that employees have during their tenure at the organization. The employee experience matters because research shows that companies with actively engaged employees outperform competitors by 147% in earnings per share and happy employees are up to 20% more productive at work. Improving the employee experience can earn your company money. 

The experience matters

Each of these experiences contributes to the overall value that stakeholders derive from an organization and all of these experiences directly impact the bottom line. If an experience is bad, there is no realized value from that experience. Therefore each of these experiences is very important to CIOs because better experiences means better value. 

Luckily, there is a tried and true approach for enabling more value through creating better experiences.  It starts with mapping the current experiences.

Whether you are mapping customer journeys or employee journeys, every mapping exercise will include the same steps. My recommendation is to choose one experience to map and improve before addressing the others. You’ll be able to use the lessons learned from mapping that one experience as guidance when mapping each of the other two.  Also, you can iterate faster when only focused on one experience at a time.

1. Include all stakeholders

This is the first and most important step you can take when mapping experiences — get all stakeholders involved. These stakeholders will want to work with you if they understand how improving experiences will benefit them, so communicate those potential wins. For example, if you chose to map the employee experience, you can explain to HR that mapping and improving this experience can improve the onboarding experience, decrease employee turnover, and increase employee engagement — thus helping HR to hit their departmental objectives.

2. Map the value streams

How is value flowing through these experiences? For example, how does a user realize value from first touch with your website through purchase? What are the steps and who is responsible for each? Mapping the value streams that enable experiences will identify where responsibilities lie, what parts of the organization are involved,  and where there may be gaps or bottlenecks.  

3. Audit workflows 

Once you have the team on the same page, review and audit the processes that underpin the value streams that underpin an experience. What’s going on under the hood of that experience? Approach these audits with an open minded curiosity, and don’t be afraid to ask why a workflow is designed the way it is.  Let your team know that this is a discovery and learning exercise, not a blame exercise, and that you are simply building a clear picture of how work is being completed. Workflows, no matter how well they were designed, have a tendency to ‘drift’ over time. 

4. Embed continual improvement  

Where is the experience falling short or encountering friction?  

This is the most critical question a CIO must be able to answer when it comes to experience.  And it’s a question that the answer is continually changing, due to continual changes in marketplaces, stakeholders, technology, and more. This is why embedding continual improvement within the experience is so important. 

New CIOs have a big opportunity to establish a mindset of continual improvement right from the start. Regularly survey end-users regarding improvement suggestions and feedback.  Develop and maintain a continual improvement log for capturing, prioritizing, and publicizing improvement suggestions. Establish a regular cadence for designing and implementing improvements. Market the successes and lessons learned from continual improvement. Why?  Because continually improving the experience continually improves value realization.

Applying the above four steps will provide great insight into each of the three experiences that are driving value within your organization. Even though the focus of each experience is different, the process of mapping these experiences is the same because they all revolve around people, processes, and technology, and how well each of these factors are working with the others. 

What has been your experience with mapping experiences?  I’d enjoy hearing about your discoveries and successes with experience mapping. 

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Is the CIO the Continual Improvement Officer?

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The CIO is often wearing many hats. They have to be tech whizzes and also strategic visionaries. And in my opinion, they now have to be the Continual Improvement Officer for their teams, their organizations, and in their careers.

Continual improvement is about improving the quality of products and services by learning from past successes and failures and making incremental changes over time. It helps IT align and realign its products, services, and activities to meet ever-changing business needs.  Continual improvement can be the key to large-scale growth. 

When done correctly, continual improvement can improve product and service quality, boost productivity and creativity, increase teamwork and create a competitive advantage. 

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? We should learn from the mistakes – and the successes –  we have. But, in a business environment, it’s never that simple. Why? Because many leaders don’t want to admit to mistakes. They don’t want to explore why things aren’t working as well as they should.  They settle for “good enough”.  They don’t want to examine what could be done better because they want to plunge ahead into that next project and hope that people forget about whatever mistakes were made or problems that were encountered. 

For continual improvement to have success, it has to be embedded into the culture of an organization. It has to be accepted – and driven – from the top-down so that everyone is empowered to look at failed initiatives and missed KPIs as learning and improvement opportunities. 

How can the CIO become the Continual Improvement Officer and build a culture that supports this?

Continual Improvement in IT

If a CIO wants to become the Continual Improvement Officer, she has to start with her own teams. One of the most important things a CIO can do then is allocate the time for continual improvement. IT is often (usually?) inundated with day-to-day work. They often are putting out fires or working to meet aggressive delivery deadlines and objectives. There is rarely-if ever- time for that “be back” work that inevitably comes up. 

It’s up to the CIO to ensure continual improvement becomes a standard mode of operation and allocate adequate time to address continual improvement. How? It could be frequent projects or sprints with an objective to reduce technical debt. Perhaps it is establishing a cadence of regular meetings or time to discuss and implement continual improvement initiatives.  Or it could be requiring that teams take the time to reflect on completed projects and initiatives and identify gaps, issues, and what could have been done differently. 

Make these efforts inclusive by encouraging team members to bring their ideas to the table — and then identify opportunities to implement those ideas. Companies with a strong culture of continual improvement implement about 80% of their employees’ improvement ideas, according to KaiNexus.  By implementing the improvement ideas from those that do the work establishes a mindset of continual improvement and encourages the team to identify and suggest further improvements.  It’s a win-win for both the team and the organization. 

Continual Improvement in the Rest of the Organization

IT is only one piece of the improvement puzzle though. To really build a culture of continual improvement, the CIO has to be the continual improvement champion within the rest of the organization and that requires communicating with and motivating other leaders

CIOs can share their own continual improvement learnings and lessons. CIOs must be open about the setbacks and the growth from continual improvement activities, and when able, connect how continual improvement enhanced another department’s initiatives. Invite other executives to your continual improvement meetings to demonstrate how building a culture of continual improvement within IT is working.  Offer to provide coaching and the expertise to help those leaders establish continual improvement efforts within their teams. 

Continual Improvement as a CIO

I think the CIO needs to be the Continual Improvement Officer because it will not only improve their organization, but it is a critical skillset and approach that will benefit the CIO’s career. 

Unfortunately, the CIO role has one of the highest turnover rates among the C-suite. According to TechTarget, the average CIO tenure hovers around 4 years. That means CIOs are frequently moving into new environments and navigating new work cultures. The best thing any CIO can do when they first step into a role is to bring an attitude of continual improvement.  Not just for the new organization, but for their own individual actions.

It’s a powerful move to reflect on what could have been done differently in a  past role as you move into a new role. This will help you embody the culture of continual improvement that you want your team to adapt as well. Be willing to address and share your own opportunities for improvement with your team as you begin implementing new initiatives.

What continual improvement successes have you had within your organization? What advice would you give to other leaders working toward a culture of continual improvement? Share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn

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CEOs, are you making your CIO sick?

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Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEO Expectations and CIO Needs

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

In Conclusion

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

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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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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.

Want more? I share more pragmatic leadership advice in my bi-monthly newsletter. Sign up here.

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Enterprise Service Management or Enterprise Silo Management?

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Kelly orders chocolates through her favorite confectioner’s digital storefront from the comfort of her living room. Kelly makes her selection, enters her credit card and shipping information, and presses the “order now” button. Within seconds, she receives an on-screen message from the confectioner, thanking her for her order, and informing her that she’ll have her chocolates the next day.

At the confectioner, Kelly’s request is first processed by the Order Entry Department, who confirms her information and charges the sale to her credit card. Order Entry then creates a sales order, which is sent to the Fulfillment Department. Fulfillment selects the chocolates from inventory and updates the inventory management system with the change. Fulfillment then packages Kelly’s selections and sends the package to the Shipping Department for overnight delivery.

All of this behind-the-scenes activity happened without any involvement from Kelly – other than her single interaction to order the chocolates.

Are your customers enjoying a differentiated experience interacting with your company’s digital storefront?

Are the customer’s interactions seamless and friction-free?

Do materials and information flow smoothly through the organization?

If you’re not able to answer ‘yes’ to the above questions, then you have some compelling reasons to implement enterprise service management (ESM).

Some Popular Approaches to ESM

Many ESM approaches consist of extending the use of the IT service management tool into other areas of an organization, such as Facilities or Human Resources. This is a popular approach that often results in cost optimization of the IT service management tool by using that tool outside of the IT organization.

In a lot of ways, this is a reasonable thing to do. Whether it is a work order being completed by the facilities organization, or human resources on-boarding a new employee, using a tool that facilitates a consistent, repeatable approach to information capture and managing workflow just makes sense.

Another popular approach is establishing an enterprise service desk. Like an IT service desk, the enterprise service desk becomes a single-point of contact for internal employees to receive assistance with any request or issue. Employees benefit from having only a single point of contact for any organizational need or issue. The organization benefits by delivering a centralized approach for managing such contacts, rather than having each department having to individually staff such functions.

Implementing a self-service portal is also a popular approach for ESM. Employees can use a portal to find information or make requests without having to contact anyone. Issues such as requesting a replacement for a burned-out light bulb or updating voluntary benefits can be conveniently managed from an employee’s workplace.

But are any of these approaches really “enterprise service management”? Or are these examples of enterprise silo management?

What You’re Doing is Enterprise Silo Management

Extending the ITSM tool to other areas of the organization may improve the ROI of the tool. Establishing enterprise service desks may help centralize management of internal requests and issues. Implementing enterprise self-service portals can result in time savings for employees. It may even result in optimized departmental processes and workflows.

But if the goal of your ESM initiative is to only extend the use of IT’s service management tool into non-IT areas of the organization, what you’re doing is Enterprise Silo Management. You’re enabling (encouraging?) your organization to continue working as a collection of siloed departments.

While I would agree that optimizing departmental processes and workflows is a good thing to do, keep in mind that departmental optimization will deliver benefit…to only that department. It’s like speeding up one part of a conveyor belt but ignoring the big stack of boxes on either end. In fact, it’s really not speeding anything up – it is only exacerbating the symptoms of an organization whose interdepartmental workflows are not well integrated.

This is where these so-called approaches to ESM fall short. These approaches don’t enable or deliver a cross-departmental flow of information and work. There’s no end-to-end view of enterprise value streams. Requests or issues that (will) come up within the enterprise still requires the consumer (employee) to know what they need and what organization fulfills that need before they interact with the portal.

By following these approaches, your business will never realize the value of enterprise service management.

Why Your business Needs Enterprise Service Management

Organizations operating within a silo mentality, in which the departments within the organization are poorly connected with (or even isolated from) other parts of the organization, cannot react or respond as quickly as needed to changes in market spaces or business.

Think about it. There is no single part of an organization that can exist in complete independence from the other parts of the organization. The best business value is created when all parts of the business are contributing and collaborating to deliver value in the most effective and efficient way.

And in the digital age, having the ability to quickly shift and react to changes in market spaces is critical for business success.

This is why your business needs ESM – Enterprise Service Management.

Good ESM:

  • Provides business decision support – Good ESM provides transparency into how work is done within the organization. Decisions become data-driven, based on objectives measures captured as part of enterprise value streams.
  • Enables organizational agility – Well defined, interdepartmental workflows enable organizational agility because there is clarity and shared understanding regarding workflows. This helps leaders understand where to pivot if needed. Good ESM results in improved cohesiveness and collaboration within the organization and aligns activities toward shared organizational goals, not on departmental objectives.
  • Improves organizational understanding of the business – Individual departments not only understand their workflows and processes, but also how information, work, and value flow across the organization. There is a greater awareness of the interdependencies between the various departments within the organization.
  • Enables an enhanced customer experience – Good ESM removes the internal friction that gets in the way of a good customer experience.

Moving to Enterprise Service Management

Here are some tips to help you move from Enterprise Silo Management to Enterprise Service Management.

1. Strong leadership is required 
To have success with ESM, the focus must shift from achieving departmental objectives to enterprise goals. Silo mentality must be eliminated from the organization.

2. Teach employees the business of the business 
Many employees today are unaware of how the business operates outside of their own area or department. Having a good understanding of how the business does business helps with ESM implementation and enables improved employee productivity.

3. Map the enterprise value streams
No single part of an organization is independent of the rest of the organization; it takes all parts of an organization to deliver value to its customers.  Mapping value streams at the enterprise levels helps the organization visualize how work and value flows through the organization and to the customer.

4. Define or lean out processes
For each value stream, form a cross-departmental team to define any needed supporting processes. If processes are defined, review those processes to ensure that they are as lean and waste-free as possible.

5. Iterate
Don’t try to instantiate all your enterprise value streams within your service management tool at the same time. Rather, start with a single enterprise value stream, capture any learnings, and then apply those learning to the next value stream-to-tool implementation. (By the way, this approach should be the “new normal” for maintaining your ESM implementation.)

So, should organizations optimize at the departmental level or at the enterprise level? The fact is that to be successful in the digital age, organizations must do both. Doing one without the other only results in internal friction and waste.

Following the above tips will get you on the right path for good ESM that also results in optimized departmental and enterprise work streams.

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The Number One Reason IT Is Unappreciated (and how to change it)

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There’s a quiet mumbling that occurs in every IT organization across the world. You can only hear if you listen very carefully. It’s the quiet sounds of IT organizations feeling underappreciated.

The C-Suite and many parts of the organization don’t fully understand what IT does so they pile on projects and hold off on praise. The IT team members get frustrated with their workloads and the thankless nature of the job. If you’re an IT leader, then you have seen this from both sides.

You know that most of the organization sees IT only as a support team and IT feels like they are an order taker. When other departments have unrealistic needs or timelines and IT pushes back, they are seen as resisters who are blocking productivity.

The truth is, many people in the organization don’t understand the complexities of IT and IT team members are so overwhelmed with work that they can’t take the time to explain to other departments how they are contributing to the business.

There is one person in every organization who can help IT feel more appreciated: the IT leader.

IT Is unappreciated because IT can’t clearly communicate its wins and how those wins contribute to the business. The responsibility of communicating these wins falls onto the IT leader.

Let’s take a look at what every IT leader can do to help their team feel more appreciated.

1. Claiming IT wins

Most organizations don’t pay any attention to the IT department until something is falling apart. But IT leaders can help spotlight their teams by sharing wins and updates from their department.

This can be easily done with a regular IT update, either monthly or weekly. Send this to the C-suite or to other leaders in the organization. You may stop me right there and say “Well Doug, I already do that and no one seems to care.” So I’m going to ask you how you framed these wins?

Because, unfortunately, it’s not enough to just share your team’s wins. Unlike the sales department, IT wins don’t always directly relate to revenue. The C-Suite may not understand how improving service desk response times connects to business goals.

As the IT leader, you must be willing to learn to connect each of your team’s wins to the organization’s business goals.

Most people don’t really care what you do unless it affects them. This isn’t just in business. This applies to everything in life. Think of it this way. If you live in Indiana, you may not care about a thunderstorm in Miami. But you will care if you have a flight booked to Miami and that thunderstorm is delaying your vacation.

As the leader, you need to show your organization how that thunderstorm in Miami is affecting someone in Indiana.

How does IT impact the rest of the organization’s ability to do their jobs and hit their goals? This is the question you must regularly ask yourself when you are reviewing projects and strategies.

When you view your team’s wins or accomplishments through the scope of the rest of the organization, you can better communicate them to others so that they care about those wins. This brings me to our next point.

2. Speak business language

In this digital day and age, it is required for IT projects to link to business outcomes and value. Most IT leaders use technology terms that business leaders don’t understand and really, don’t care about. IT often communicates backward. IT loves technology and features and think others do as well. But most others in the organization will only care about the benefits and outcomes of using the technology. The function of technology is not the value. The features are not the outcomes. It’s necessary to focus on the outcomes of every project.

Be willing to look at the data of projects from start to finish. Many organizations justify IT projects by citing anticipated revenue increases or advances in customer satisfaction but many are unable to track these successes after the project is completed. Work with other departments to understand how your IT work contributed to their win.

As an exercise, we recommend dividing a piece of paper into three columns. Label the columns features, benefits and outcomes. Then under each project, service or product, break down them down into each category. You’ll be able to develop value-driven messaging when you view your projects through this lens.

3. Get over the fear of self-promotion

Many leaders struggle with self-promotion but it runs rampant in IT. There is no easy way to release this fear other than to recognize that if you cannot clearly explain how your team is winning, no one else will be able to either.

As a leader, when you self-promote, you are doing so for the benefit of your team members. It’s not bragging or selfish. It’s improving your department and it can improve the entire organization.

When your organization works well. the entire organization runs better. Not only that but when you claim your wins, the organization feels more confident in their own wins and can own them as well. 

If promoting your department truly isn’t for you, there is another option. Many organizations have started hiring IT communications specialists to help market the IT department internally. If you don’t have the budget for it, you may want to enlist help from your marketing department to learn how to better market IT.

4. Be visible

A frequent mistake made by IT leaders is they feel they are too busy to participate in interdepartmental meetings.

While it is tempting to choose to do the work over promoting the work, no one will ever know what you and your team is doing if you are too busy to attend the meetings. No one will know what you’re doing if you’re too busy to attend meetings.

If you want a seat at the table, it’s important to act like you want a seat at the table. Of course, you may point out that you don’t get invited to the high-level meetings. Well, if they don’t give you a seat at the table, you can make one.

Connect with other department leads, form alliances when necessary and support other departments in their goals. These other leaders can help act as a champion for IT when you are unavailable.

If you absolutely cannot be visible and have no choice but to remain in your own department, I recommend being active on emails and quick to respond to voicemails.

5. Training your team to do the same

Finally, it’s important that every IT leader teaches their team to communicate their wins and share the business value of IT. Your team can act as IT department evangelists if you empower them to repeat these steps at their level.

When you talk about your services to your team, identify them in terms of business value and outcomes. Encourage your team to share their wins in your team meetings and ask them about the business value of their wins so that they have a better understanding of how to explain their projects.

How can good SM help IT become appreciated?

1. Defining IT services in terms of business value and outcomes. 

Define and describe the business value and results that your business colleagues get from doing their IT business with you. Remember that PCs and smartphones can be obtained anywhere so you need a case for why they need to go through the IT organization. Create a service portfolio that establishes an understanding of how the business is using technology solutions from IT and how that technology contributes to the business outcome

2. Implementing processes that facilitate, not control, getting work done.

Don’t allow your process to kill your productivity. Too many processes are designed and implemented with “control” in mind. Good process design should enable, not constrain, getting things done. Work with your team to evaluate your processes and measure if they are the most effective way to get the work done.

3. Formalize the business relationship management approach.

Business relationship management focuses on the relationship between the IT organization and the business it serves, as well as the level of satisfaction with IT. Proactively building positive, business-like relationship with key stakeholders helps change the perception of IT from “order taker” to “business differentiator”. 

As much as we don’t want to admit it, there’s politics at play in every organization. IT leaders can hide behind their computers and stay overwhelmed or they can learn to step out and own their team’s wins and communicate their teams’ value.

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