Guest blog by Ian Cox, excerpted from his new book, Disrupt IT.
Faced with the disruption of their roles, the CIO and the IT function need to change. To survive the perfect storm of disruptive technologies and trends, tech-savvy colleagues, higher expectations, vendors going directly to other executives, business units bypassing the IT function and shadow IT, CIOs need a new model for IT in the digital age. But this new model is more than just another step in the evolution of the IT function; to close the gap between the capability of IT and the expectations of the rest of the business, this change has to be equally, if not more, disruptive in order to create a sustainable and long-term model for IT.
CIOs need to think disruptively
Disruptive thinking involves challenging constraints, questioning even the most basic and long-standing of assumptions to create different thought patterns and a new model for IT in the digital age.
True disruption comes from redefining business models, not business processes. In other words, it is about starting again without being limited by what has gone before, old ways of working and thinking, and legacy solutions and technology. That is one of the advantages companies, and particularly start-ups, have when entering a new market; they do not have the constraints of legacy systems and processes, and ingrained thinking. New entrants can look at markets afresh, identify customer needs and then take advantage of new technology, ideas and thinking to design business models that offer products and services that better meet those needs.
A new business model for IT
So how does the CIO disrupt IT? How do they design a new model for the IT function that is not constrained by what IT departments look like today? How do they make a truly disruptive change to the IT business model that forces it from the Service Provider era in which it has become stuck into a model that is fit for the digital age?
What would a new player in the IT market do? Would they start by buying, building and configuring servers, buying and installing software, establishing service desk and support teams, etc.? Certainly not. In fact, given the way technology and its use within business has changed in the mobile computing era, it is unlikely that someone creating an IT department from scratch for a business in the digital world would ever do those things.
To create disruption in IT a new entrant would start by identifying what the rest of the business needs from its IT department. It would then design a new business model for IT that met those needs in the most efficient and cost-effective way using the latest technology and vendor offerings, combined with new thinking and lessons from other industries.
With the gap between the capability of the IT function and the expectations of the rest of the business now so wide, the result of this process would inevitably be a very different looking type of IT function compared to the service provider model that exists today. This new model is also likely to have a more focused role and a clear understanding of how and where it adds value to the organisation.
An IT function for the digital business
The range and type of technology products and services has grown significantly over recent years and so has the number of technology vendors. As a result it is now possible for an organisation to source most, if not all, of its technology needs from external service providers. Indeed, this is how most start-ups operate; cloud-based systems are used for everything from finance and HR through to customer relationship management, collaboration tools and content management systems.
And every day, new and improved devices, applications and services are launched into an already crowded and complex market place. And they are being marketed directly to non-IT functions. So when asked what they need from IT, the rest of the business says that they need their IT department to work with them to decide which products and services are relevant to their needs and to advise how they can be deployed alongside other tools. But they do not expect IT to be the provider of those products and services or to be involved in supporting or administrating them on an ongoing basis.
The IT department needs to be a partner to the business in the selection process, not the gatekeeper it has been in the past. The days of the CIO alone making decisions about which technologies, tools and systems are allowed into the organisation are over. Decisions about technology need to be made jointly between IT and the relevant stakeholders.
The business needs IT to act as its broker for technology and services, knowing what is out there, how (and whether) it works, assessing vendors, validating security and understanding service levels. And once a decision to purchase has been made and the solution deployed, the business needs its IT function to manage the technology and service providers on its behalf. The IT function needs to ensure solutions continue to be secure, that service levels are met and integration points with other solutions are maintained. But the rest of the business also needs IT to step back on a day-to-day basis, leaving the other functions free to use the tools, systems and data as they require and without the involvement of the IT department.
Technology is fundamental to the digital business. It is being used to create new business models, products and services. As the organisation’s technology partner and broker, the IT function needs to play an integral part in the design and transformation of new business models and in creating new and enhanced products and services. The CIO and IT staff need to be capable of engaging in the full business lifecycle, contributing to the discussion and using their knowledge of both the business and technology to help shape business outcomes, create value and increase revenue.
The new era for IT has started, but CIOs and IT departments are behind the curve and are in danger of being bypassed as a result. CIOs still have time to transform their departments and their own roles but they need to act now. They have to disrupt IT to break out of the service provider model and create the type of IT function needed by a digital business: the technology and service broker.
Guest blog by Bob Kantor, IT executive coach and author of Shatter Your Leadership Limits - Better Results in Less Time with Less Stress.
A comment I hear more and more often from IT leaders these days is, “We can’t do that because we are resource constrained.”
I believe that there are helpful ways to reframe this common situation. Just as the quality of the questions that we ask determines the quality of our answers, the way that we frame our challenges determine the effectiveness of our approaches to solving them.
So, I’d like to reframe the “resource constraints” challenge. When we see our IT organization’s ability to deliver business solutions as constrained by the amount of resources we have available, then the most apparent solutions look like adding or finding more resources. More often than not that means raiding other projects, asking for budget increases for headcount, or additional project funding for consultants.
Reframing IT Resource Constraints
What happens to the way we view our options if, instead of seeing the issue as “not enough resources,” we see it as “too much demand?”
Does that sound like I'm splitting hairs? “Same problem,” you say? Perhaps. But think about it for a minute… What options do we have when we have the problem of too much demand?
There is the still the option of going after more resources, just as before. But now we also can consider options for managing the demand that exceeds our current resource capacity.
One such option is to reduce demand by dropping specific requests for new services, and/or by reducing service levels for existing services.
For example, if your infrastructure or DBA groups currently provision new servers in 10 business days, what happens to “resource management” when you provision servers in 15 business days instead? If the Help Desk time-to-answer target is 90 seconds, what happens when you increase it to four minutes?
IT Service Management as a Business Partner Choice
Please note that this is not to suggest that the IT organization makes any unilateral decisions regarding changes to service levels. With this approach, and the others that follow, the idea is to offer your business leaders business investment choices. Each choice has different investments levels and performance impacts. Each aligns differently with your strategic business drivers and operational requirements.
The same approach applies to dropping or postponing requests for specific new services or projects. Which requests might be deferred until the following fiscal year, or postponed until a current project is completed? What happens if you force-rank the business priority of all the requests for IT projects and services across the enterprise, and then identify how far down the list of requests your current resource level can take you?
This approach significantly changes the dynamics of the dialog between the IT organization and all of its constituents. No longer is IT complaining about resources or saying “No” to project and service requests.
Now, IT is engaging business colleagues in making collaborative business choices to maximize the ROI from the company’s investment in IT. You now have joint ownership of exploring options and making the best collective business decisions.
Similarly, you can explore changing the scope of new requests so that you can address a larger number of them. For example, instead of rolling out a mobile application interface to all the functions of your legacy ERP system, maybe you roll out mobile access this year to just the most used functions.
Manage IT Resource Constraints with Technology Platform Choices
One more strategy for managing demand, rather than resources, is to consider the impact of different technological approaches to providing services. One way to manage this approach in the past had been the ‘build vs. buy’ decision. Today, we can take that one step further and look at the ‘buy’ approach as SaaS vs. in-house deployment and support.
While there are certainly more options and approaches for managing the insatiable demand for IT services, I’ve offered these to illustrate a few ways to rethink the challenges related to managing “resource constraints.” I hope that I’ve provided a couple of ideas for reframing your conversations on this topic that result in reduced stress, stronger partnerships and improved outcomes.
Please post your comments or questions here.
Bob Kantor is an IT executive with over 25 years of leadership experience at companies like KPMG, Lotus and Ciba-Geigy. He is currently an IT executive coach serving Fortune 1000 clients and members of the CIO Executive Council. He can be reached at Bob.Kantor@KantorConsultingGroup.com.
Guest blog by Dr. Lance B. Eliot
The Oxford Dictionary declared that the word-of-the-year winner in 2013 was "selfie," the social media self-portrait phenomena that even ensnared President Obama in some controversy when Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron snapped a selfie shot with the President.
A selfie, though, can be more than just a narcissistic exercise. Now, as the New Year gets underway, undertaking a CIO Selfie can be illuminating and instructive. Take a moment to look at yourself via your smart phone’s camera, and reflect upon how you are perceived in your CIO capacity.
I recently had an opportunity to chat with several CEOs about their perceptions of CIOs, and you might find it useful to augment your own internal reflections by the external views that CEOs hold of our vaunted CIO role.
I’ve boiled down the CEO feedback into three key areas. The numbering of the areas is intended for ease of reference, rather than a priority ranking.
CEOs Reflect on Their CIOs
1) Be more politically adroit
Several CEOs complained of CIOs who lack political savvy.
One CEO told the story of a CIO who convened an IT Steering Committee meeting and seemingly got blindsided by the CFO about IT budget issues and a major ERP implementation that was underway. The CIO complained afterward to the CEO that the CFO had been unfair. But, it turned out that the CIO had not done his homework and had failed to prep with the CFO before the meeting.
|"Even though the notion of “politics” is currently eschewed, being politically savvy is part and parcel of success in the executive suite."
Thus, from the CEO’s perspective, the CIO had not exercised good political judgment. He called an important meeting and did not work out critical issues with his peers before the meeting took place.
Even though the notion of “politics” is currently eschewed, being politically savvy is part and parcel of success in the executive suite.
In short, for 2014, CIOs need to improve their politicking skills, which includes having the motions that exhibit political acumen, but that do not overtly trigger the stench of political maneuvering that can then undermine their actions.
2) Observe the doctrine of absurdity
For those of you with a passing familiarity with the American legal system, you might be aware of the so-called absurdity doctrine. It states that adhering to the strict interpretation of something is potentially absurd, especially when it violates common sense reasoning.
One CEO shook his head in disgust as he told me about a recent circumstance involving the doctrine of absurdity and his CIO. The CIO had reworked her IT Service Desk and decided that henceforth, all callers to the IT Service Desk would be treated equally. This was a reaction to some callers that had tried to elevate their priority by either trickery or subtle bribes to get on the top of the Service Desk response heap.
Though an “every person is equal” policy may seem fair, in a business environment there are top executives making crucial business decisions and others who should be treated as high priority. A caller from the sales team who is about to land a big account, and requesting help with their tablet to close the sale, is far more important than the R&D junior staffer requesting a memory upgrade in her PC.
This new “equality” policy put in place by the CIO seemed to defy common sense reasoning, and the CEO was aghast that the CIO could have purposely instituted such an approach.
In short, CIOs need to look at their operations and activities, and make sure that common sense prevails and that the doctrine of absurdity does not overtake their heroic efforts.
3) Be a heads-up team player
On a day-to-day basis, it is easy to fall into the trap of narrow mindedness, failing to see what is going on around us, or opting to ignore aspects that do pertain to us.
One CEO described his CIO as having the proverbial head-in-the-sand on a recent rollout that was promulgated by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
The CMO had pushed hard for a saturation social media campaign (perhaps something akin to actor Will Ferrell’s recent nonstop scorched-earth marketing for Anchorman 2).
In the case of the CEO’s tale of woe, he lamented that his CIO had stepped away from the CMO, and blindly let the CMO work on his own using powerful technology to execute a social media campaign.
Unfortunately, the CMO was not especially technically gifted, and the customer file that had been used to do various email blasts got posted onto a web site that was easily lifted by nefarious hackers.
The black eye on the company, along with potential lawsuits and legal ramifications, though perhaps not as striking as the recent 40 million swiped credit cards at Target, nonetheless presented a large financial and PR nightmare for the company.
Had the CIO and CMO worked together, it seems likely that the CIO would have been able to foresee the potential technical hazards and help to secure the valued data.
In June of this year, I attended one of the first major CIO/CMO Conferences (produced by CIO magazine in conjunction with The CMO Club), and it was readily apparent that gaps still exist between CIOs and CMOs. One way or another, the gap needs to get closed, especially since the rise of social media has increased the ways in which technology can help, or potentially harm, an organization as it pursues new and exciting marketing techniques.
For some of us, 2013 was not a bellwether year, given a government shutdown in the U.S., Congressional deadlock, sequestration, Obamacare website blow-ups, and the breakup of the Jonas Brothers (well, that last one wasn’t so bad).
For 2014, some soothsayers are predicting a banner year, including added bipartisan cooperation in Congress, no more government shutdowns in the U.S., the stock market continuing to rise, modest growth in Europe and no large crises within the EU, and further growth of technology and IT budgets (well, that’s a relief).
Using your CIO selfie, think about 2014 and what you plan to do, both at your job and for your career. If nothing else, try to ensure that you are politically adroit, observe the doctrine of absurdity and practice common sense reasoning, and be a heads-up team player.
It just might make 2014 a banner CIO year.
Dr. Lance B. Eliot is a noted IT executive and thought leader. He has written over 200+ articles and columns, consulted with Fortune 500 companies, appeared on CNN, and co-hosted the Technotrends radio show. Previously a professor in business at USC and UCLA, he has served on the Board of the Society for Information Management (SIM), and holds a Ph.D. in business strategy and technology, MBA, and Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He has been a serial entrepreneur and has served in various high-tech advisory capacities. He may be reached at email@example.com
Guest blog by Joseph Topinka, excerpted from his new book: IT Business Partnerships: A Field Guide. Joe is CIO & VP Multichannel Commerce at Red Wing Shoes.
Sample Job Description
Job Title: IT Business Partner
(Other titles for the same role include Business Relationship Manager, and Business Information Manager)
Department: Information Technology
Reports To: Chief Information Officer (CIO)
General Purpose of the Job: The IT Business Partner (ITBP) has the overall responsibility to serve as the strategic interface with assigned business units or functional area for the purpose of business technology strategy development, solution discovery, service management, risk management and relationship management. The ITBP serves as the business relationship link between business units and IT at the executive level. The ITBP provides highly valued strategic consulting level support and guidance through key IT initiatives. They communicate decisions, priorities and relevant project information to appropriate levels of staff regarding business unit requests and projects and initiatives. They proactively share knowledge of technology risks and opportunities to build competitive advantage and improve efficiency and effectiveness of business units. They partner with business leadership and other key stakeholders to define opportunities and identify and prioritize projects based on predefined criteria (e.g. return on investment, productivity, compliance).
The ITBP proactively serves as a “trusted advisor,” and is the primary IT point of contact to business line executives and managers. They operate as the key business contact representing IT in promoting IT services and capabilities. The ITBP provides support in delivering technology products that meet the needs of the business. The ITBP focuses on strategic initiatives and planning activities for their business area. They strive to understand market challenges, including customer priorities and competitive issues. ITBPs are proactive and anticipatory in their thinking. They are, by nature, driven and provide significant value to business units. ITBP’s facilitate the investment intake process and the high level planning and execution of business initiatives through the use of technology. They serve a lead role in enabling the business to achieve their objectives through the effective use of technology.
Related articles on this role:
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITES:
- Responsible for the development and implementation of solution roadmaps and to ensure successful introductions across the organization and with customers.
- Collaborate with management to develop annual budgets for respective business areas.
- Develop solution concepts and business cases for new investments.
- Perform business analysis and prepare recommendations and business plans as needed.
- Create and analyze relevant information and develop recommendations that they present to senior management.
- Act as the key liaison across all functional areas, including business units, the information technology department, and outside vendors.
- Possess a broad knowledge of most technical and business resources and use them to effectively coordinate team members and external resources.
- Create shared vision of their respective solutions and facilitate decision making and arbitration relating to trade-offs both within and between different solution platforms.
- Develop and implement sound rationale for portfolio management and managing product phase-in-phase-out plans, proactively anticipating gaps and overlaps within the portfolio.
- Create consensus with other functions as to the timing of solution introductions and withdrawals.
- Oversee the launch of solutions and help to maximize the positive impact on the organization.
- Identify, screen and evaluate new solution opportunities to address unmet (internal and external) customer needs.
- Partner with key staff members to create strategic business plans.
- Possess strong analytical skills, including an understanding of business economics and financial resources.
- Utilize the appropriate technologies and ensure that customers have the solutions they need, when they need them, and in the media best suited to their requirements.
- Collaborate with architecture and operations teams to ensure solution compatibility with company standards.
- Collaborate with the Project Management Office on the intake process and prioritization of candidate projects across the company.
OTHER DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITES:
- Participate in strategic and budgetary planning processes, prepare and administer work unit operating budgets; provide recommendations on desired policies and goals and implement new/revised programs according to established guidelines.
- Participate in field research in pursuit of new solutions and to evaluate the applicability and usefulness of current solutions.
CUSTOMERS (Internal and External), Business Units (e.g., wholesale teams, retail teams, supply chain teams, HR, Finance), and key vendors
EDUCATION and EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S.) from a four-year college or university or 10 to 15 years of IT and business/industry work experience, with at least 3 years of leadership experience and 5 years developing and executing strategic plans and/or project portfolios or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Business Administration, or other related field or equivalent work experience. Product Development Management Association- New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification is desirable.
Breadth: Typically has 10 to 15 years of IT and business work experience with a broad range of exposure to various technical environments and business segments. At least 3 years of experience with managing team(s) responsible in strategic planning, business development or client management and working with a broad range of diverse and complicated business units.
The incumbent must possess strong business acumen.
The ITBP works with senior level management, business units and corporate staff executives to develop a technology strategy that is integrated with IT and across all business units. ITBPs must have a strong understanding of each business unit to include their business drivers for success, process and approaches to business models.
ADDITIONAL DESIRABLE QUALIFICATIONS:
- Strategic thinking and planning
- Operational execution excellence
- Nimble LEAN thinking to drive change that enables efficiencies and drives growth
- Systems thinking
- Team and collaboration orientation
- Problem solving
- Performance driven
- Learning orientation
- Public speaking
- Effective written/verbal communication skills
REQUIRED LICENSES, CERTIFICATES OR KNOWLEDGE:
- Strong written and oral communication skills
- Strong organizational skills
- Ability to plan strategically
- Knowledge of and experience with the Product Development Management Association and/or the Project Management Institute
PHYSICAL DEMANDS: N/A
- Some overtime or adjusted hours required
- Moderate travel required
Guest blog by Terry Bennett, CEO of consulting firm Differentiators LLC, and former CIO.
You’ve heard it from Forrester, Gartner, and others – the siren call to transform corporate IT. Yet in your company, the realities of today are limited by current budget, political, and internal/external business constraints.
How can you possibly help your IT department – and your company - start to transform into what you know will be required for their future success?
The Concerns of the C-suite
The C-suite recognizes technology can be a disruptive force. They are very concerned about the speed of technological change, and a large percentage feel that their IT department is not sufficiently prepared to take advantage. Many of them view IT solely as a back office function – somewhat akin to facilities management. Far too many see IT as slow, unresponsive, reactive, costly, and resistant to change. It’s no wonder that they would work to limit the IT budget and question the value of involving their CIO in strategic discussions.
They want more out of technology but aren’t sure how to get it
Your CEO may be thinking about adding a Chief Digital Officer to spur innovation and digitalization. Your CFO might express a lack of confidence in your “organizational and technical flexibility to respond to changing business priorities”. Your CMO could complain that you are not moving quickly enough to support marketing – and the company. He might buy SaaS solutions on his corporate credit card without consulting IT, and then wonder why you can’t quickly integrate his solutions with other corporate systems.
|"The C-suite...is concerned about the speed of technological change, and a large percentage feel that their IT department is not sufficiently prepared to take advantage."
Few in the C-suite recognize that they themselves are contributing to the very issues they desire to overcome. They long for “strong CIO leaders who can articulate a compelling vision for how they will fundamentally change IT’s role, let go of today to embrace tomorrow, and rally the organization behind them.”
Many CIOs understand the need for change, but …
Maureen Osborne, Global CIO for Ernst & Young, notes, “It is quite startling how few CIOs have taken steps to reinvent themselves within their business.” Many recognize the need to move into a more strategic role but lack the urgency and/or skills and knowledge necessary for this transformation.
Practical Steps to Begin your Transformation
- Develop your C suite relationships. It is amazing how much difference solid relationships with your C suite peers can make. You can’t do this by locking yourself in your office or in group meetings. It takes one-on-one time to grasp what makes each one tick. Go beyond business to learn about his family and hobbies. Talk about his career goals. Learn how he is measured by his boss and understand the metrics he uses to determine the success of his team.
- Show me the money. Establish a business-like mindset within IT. Define and establish costs for all IT services, and then give your fellow business executives as much control over these costs as possible. Regularly compare your services with outside providers and share that information with your C-suite. Could any of your services be furnished cheaper/better elsewhere? What must you do to manage those outsourced services to ensure their effectiveness and long-term viability for the company?
- Get strategic. Research the future of your industry. Gain the insight of industry experts as well as your vendors. How can you get closer to your customers? How can your supply chain be tightened? Where do competitors appear to be headed? What are your company’s strengths/weaknesses as compared to each of your competitors? Where could you possibly gain additional competitive advantage? How could technology help generate additional revenue? What potential disruptors are on the horizon? Regularly discuss this in one-on-one conversations with your fellow business executives.
- Change the game. Any company that is quicker and more agile than its competitors has a tremendous advantage. Recognize that this bar is continually being raised. Your IT department must be able to operate at the speed of business and provide the flexibility necessary. This will likely require IT to become more integrator than builder, more consultative and influencing than controlling. Take a hard look at the skillset of your staff. What needs to be done to prepare them for this brave new world? Explore how to accomplish (and afford) such a radical change while ensuring that current business is not adversely affected.
- Get your staff on board. Ensure they know that you need their help, and that this new mindset is not optional. Empower your managers and make certain that they empower their staff. This will necessitate that you communicate direction and expectations. Define the necessary guardrails (e.g., “do not exceed $50,000 for this effort”). Establish meaningful metrics and service level agreements. Give them the responsibility and authority, get out of the way, hold them accountable for results, and then coach them toward success. Free your time for strategic activities by drastically reducing your attendance at meetings lacking a strategic focus.
- Be courageous. This effort is not for the faint-hearted. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. Show a sense of urgency. Schedule a frank discussion with your CEO about the future. Talk about the speed at which business will need to operate. Talk about the impact of technology-fueled, customer-led disruption. Get her honest assessment of you and your IT department. Then commit to making the changes necessary to lead IT and the company into this new frontier.
- Don’t go it alone. You will need support in this journey. Build and actively maintain a network of fellow CIOs with whom you can share ideas and challenges. You may even consider the services of an advisor or coach.
Maintaining status quo is not an option. Will your company thrive by successfully responding to these challenges, or will it wither? Will your IT department become the differentiator your business needs, or will it fade away? The answer may not be the same for each company, but right now, in many ways, the choice is up to you.
You can make the difference!
Guest blog by Michael Blanford, a business and technology consultant.
Objective measures of information technology service are essential to performance planning, monitoring, budgeting and management control. As a service provider you watch a collection of metrics that might include availability, response time, utilization, first call resolution rate and the like.
Consider, though, that your customers’ perceptions are formed more subjectively. After all, the goodwill earned from a year of 99.99% system availability can be lost with an outage in the middle of year-end close. IT-centric performance measures are important for managing services but don’t capture the feelings of your users. The strongest, most effective relationships develop when users are confident in your commitment to their success. It is a level of alignment that transcends a dashboard full of green indicators.
IT performance beyond the dashboard
So how do you gather and exploit subjective information about your services? No doubt you meet with functional peers in various formal and informal settings. You speak with users when you visit their sites, perhaps you include time for Q&A in your presentations, publish a newsletter or accept feedback through a link on your intranet. These can all be helpful but they are point inputs and will lack consistency and structure. A recurring user survey process is a helpful vehicle for analyzing perceptions of your services and the health of your business relations.
Survey tools are inexpensive and easy to use. They allow you to conduct effective surveys and analyze feedback but not without some advance planning. Your survey should be designed to guide the respondents’ thinking, allowing you to draw meaningful and actionable conclusions from their feedback.
10 Tips for better user satisfaction surveys
Here are 10 ideas I have found to have proven their value through repeated survey cycles:
1) Keep the survey short and simple
Use clear and concise language. ‘Test drive’ your survey to be sure it can be completed in 10 minutes or less. You can cover a wide range of topics in a survey but focus any single question narrowly on a specific aspect of service. Stay mindful that language and cultural differences will cause your questions and a respondent’s feedback to be misinterpreted in ways you won’t expect.
2) Avoid transactional surveys that request feedback upon closing a service request
These may be useful in some settings but they’re overused, being offered by most every bank, airline, and car rental or merchant you deal with. They can be inconvenient for respondents who would rather get back to their work and may cause their feedback to be skewed.
3) Employ well-constructed multiple choice questions
These help you tally statistical results but always include the ability to also collect freeform comments. Make sure that response choices are defined consistently (i.e. ‘a’ is always the most favorable response or ‘1’ is always the least favorable response). Offer a wide enough range of responses to get good differentiation in the feedback; a range of seven choices works well. Include an “n/a” response so a user can indicate a question does not apply to them.
4) Design your questions to learn the respondent’s perceptions
Don’t try to measure hard and fast results. For example, consider asking “Do we resolve your problems promptly” rather than “Do we resolve your problems within X hours per the terms of our Service Level Agreement?”
5) Allow anonymity but encourage self-identification
Make the respondent’s name optional but require relevant attributes like work location, business function and role. Use drop down lists to ensure data consistency. When a user expresses a problem and does provide their name go out of your way to ensure they get a personalized response. It sends a powerful signal that you and your organization listens and takes comments to seriously.
6) Survey everyone
Feedback from department heads, senior managers and executives is important but gives an incomplete picture. Solicit feedback from everyone who uses IT services, typically anyone with a network account. Cover all locations and all functions of the business you support. And don’t overlook field-based employees; they can have special needs and unusual service challenges.
7) Use the survey to seed thinking into your user base
For example, frustrations over service or work priorities can be tempered by asking if users understand the formal problem management process, how to submit a project proposal or how priorities are evaluated and managed. Such questions emphasize that there are formal work management processes and help ingrain them as standard operating practices. When you see pockets of negative feedback to these questions you have an obvious education and training opportunity.
8) Announce the survey and send reminder
After the survey is announced, send a reminder or two to solicit additional responses but keep the overall survey window short. Consider leaving your survey open for no more than 2 to 3 weeks depending on the number of sites and potential respondents involved. Expect an initial response rate around 30%; push to grow it closer to 50% with a couple of timely reminders.
9) Tally results quickly and publish them broadly
Use your intranet, staff meetings, town halls, etc. Acknowledge good results along with the bad. Expect some cheap shots and rude responses, especially in the initial survey cycle; they fall off quickly when it becomes apparent that you read comments and deal openly with legitimate issues. Analyze feedback in as many dimensions as possible to understand how each sub-group perceives their service. Service quality naturally varies by location and different business groups have different needs. Above all, make the feedback you collect an active and visible part of your planning processes. Survey feedback alone is not justification for approving projects and budgets but it is a helpful set of planning data.
Repeat your survey regularly, trying to keep questions intact from year to year for easy comparison. An annual survey works well in most large organizations. Examine feedback from year to year to understand changes and trends. The first survey is important to set baselines and institutionalize the survey process. Subsequent can surveys provide insight into your progress, opportunities and relationships across the business.
An annual user survey is a low-cost, low effort endeavor given the information it can yield. It helps connect you as an IT leader with every user you support and offers to engage them in the evolution and execution of your IT services. The transparency and openness it demonstrates are invaluable in building and maintaining strong, lasting partnerships across your business.
About Michael Blanford
Mike focuses on strengthening bottom line business performance through process improvement, technology upgrades and organization alignment. His career includes IT and Operations leadership roles in businesses ranging from start-up to the Fortune 50. Follow Mike on twitter: @Mike_Blanford.
Guest blog by Tracy E. Houston, M.A., Board Consultant and Executive Coach
We live in times of uncertainty and challenge. Never has it been more critical for directors and officers to be capable of leading in the boardroom. The demand for strong board leadership comes at a time when executive recruiting firms are gearing up for the biggest exit of board members in American history.
However, the increasing obligations of board service make it tougher than ever to recruit qualified directors. In the face of fierce public scrutiny and questions of potential liability, willing and qualified director candidates are growing ever more selective about the opportunities they entertain.
And who better to help populate these committees than IT executives such as CIO and CTOs? As a board advisory consultant, I am confident that best-in-class IT professionals are the next generation of board members who will help define the future of corporate growth.
Now is the opportune time for IT executives to position themselves as candidates for board service. If you are a technology leader, this can be a significant career stepping stone. So, how exactly will you create your roadmap for developing board opportunities?
Step One: Create Your Value Proposition
What is your value proposition? Do you have it written out in 3- 4 sentence? Do you bring that focus and input into conversations at defining moments? For example, are you "a CIO who has transformed IT from a back-office corporate cost center to business enabler and strategic differentiator?"
Today, businesses create value where strategy intersects with technology and innovation. You must see yourself and present yourself as a critical player at that intersection. Who else in the organization is more qualified than the CIO to add value in a company’s strategic direction?
Being purposeful about your value proposition will help you overcome challenges you are likely to face along the way. Some of your peers will not change the way they perceive you or your role overnight. Whether it is underrating the importance of IT or feeling threated by the change that IT represents, in some cases there will be resistance.
Step Two: Become a Strategic Partner
Once you have the foundation of a value proposition in place, the next step you can take is to evolve your value proposition into a boundary spanning campaign. You can identify key stakeholders in the organization and begin to be an influencer within projects that involve those people.
To prepare for the role of a strategic partner means you must take a heads up approach to your work. Don’t get caught up in meeting the daily work load. To accomplish this, you will need to have a professional development plan with a boundary spanning focus. You must think ‘big picture’ and hold a personal vision for yourself and your role in the organization.
Step Three: Develop A Comprehensive Networking Plan
Develop a networking plan that includes learning about boards and how directors bring value to their role. List key individuals such as directors, C-suite executives and corporate governance organizations to join for network development. Meet with directors, C-suite executives, executive search firms, venture capitalist, attorneys and others to explore what board service might mean for you, what leadership competencies you might bring to the boardroom, and what types of boards might find those competencies attractive. These conversations may lead to opportunities, but the goal of these meetings is to gain as much information as possible about the world of boards.
From these interviews you should gather some concrete direction on the type of boards that would be the best fit for you. Factors may include industry, company size (micro, small, medium and larger cap) and any adjacent markets. The insights you gain from the interviews will also inform your board resume and bio.
You can now begin a list of potential companies to gain a board seat. Review and prioritize the list by looking at the current board of directors and their skills base. If you have a solid understanding of the company's future challenges, you can identify exactly how you will add value to the board based on the strenghts (and gaps) that exist in the current board.
Important Note: Patience is a key factor in gaining a board seat; recruiters say it takes on average 12- 24 months for a board candidate to gain their first public board seat.
Tracy E. Houston, M.A., is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams, and the boardroom. She is the author of the eBook, Becoming a Public Company Director. For more information visit: www.eboardmember.com or you can follow her on twitter: @BoardGuru
Guest blog by Dan Roberts, President of Ouellette & Associates (O&A), excerpted from his recent book, Unleashing the Power of IT, 2nd Edition.
How do you define good service? At an abstract level, it’s the sense that the people involved with the transaction are fully engaged in meeting the expectations you have for the experience they’re providing. At a hotel or a restaurant, for example, this means the surroundings are clean and well decorated, your needs are met promptly and courteously, and you’re treated with respect, and if you ask for something that’s not within the usual range of offerings, the staff works to accommodate you as best they can.
Now think about the characteristics of good service as it pertains to the work your own IT team does every day, maintaining, supporting, and building technology systems to enable clients to carry out business initiatives.Are downtime and upgrades planned at times that are most convenient for your clients?—or for the IT organization? When a client approaches someone in the IT organization with a request, does the IT employee tell the client it’s not his area, or does he look up the name of the person who can best help the client and then walk the client to that person’s cubicle? Or when a client explains a problem to the help desk, does she get a gruff ‘‘What operating system are you on?’’ or a reassuring ‘‘I’m sure we can get that resolved—let’s start with what operating system you’re running.’’
|"The best way to build client loyalty is not by proving IT’s technology prowess, but by building a service strategy that enables internal IT to be seen as a top provider of service."
Service is in "How" You Deliver
From what I have seen, being a service provider is a new idea for many IT professionals. A remark I often hear from people who participate in the workshops I facilitate on this topic is "Isn’t what we deliver more important than how we deliver it?" For anyone who feels this way, it’s time to think about the job and career in a different light.
I’ve watched IT leaders and staff make or break their reputations with service missteps, thinking that their client base is secure and has nowhere else to go. An even bigger fallacy I’ve observed is the belief that if the outcome of the work is good, it doesn’t matter how difficult you were to work with. As a result, the IT staff is unappreciated and undervalued and seemingly blind to the minor (and major) service irritants that hurt their reputations.
Be Seen as the Top IT Service Provider
Whether or not your staff believes it, the best way to build client loyalty is not by proving IT’s technology prowess but by building a service strategy that enables internal IT to be seen as a top provider of service. In fact, a well-developed and well-communicated service strategy is critical in today’s IT organizations. Clients demand service to be immediate and proactive, and if they don’t get it internally, they’ll find it elsewhere, by hiring either their own staff or external vendors. Indeed, good service is no longer just a 'nice to have'; it’s the make-or-break factor that determines whether clients choose internal IT or someone else to deliver the solutions they need.
What's Your IT Service Strategy?
In too many IT organizations that I encounter, a good service strategy means being all things to all people. In other IT organizations, the service strategy seems to be to provide service only to the people who scream the loudest and have the most clout. This leads to a tremendous amount of frustration on the part of IT, as well as the clients who don’t have the same level of clout.
I also see IT organizations that have created service strategies that are interwoven with their governance practices, in which a committee makes decisions about what’s best for the organization at large. This strategy can be great, but I notice a lot of confusion among both the business community and the IT staff about how this strategy actually operates. That’s usually because this strategy requires a lot of communication about how decisions are made,especially since the lag time between meetings can be months.
Most of the time I see no strategy at all, or sometimes I see strategies that are well thought out but haven’t been communicated well to those providing the service. Having a clear communication plan is the key.
For all these reasons, the development of a service strategy has to start at the top of the IT organization, with the IT leader. These strategies require cultivation and have to be planned and led by the IT leadership team. The strategy has to be consistent across the enterprise, and it must permeate every project, not be something that ‘‘only Joe’’ provides. After all, good service is not defined by good relationships with individual clients. The purpose is to look out for the enterprise, not to make ‘‘my friend in accounting’’ happy.
At its best, service is a mentality, an attitude, and a glue that holds together the entire department. It can’t spring from a negative environment. The turnaround can be difficult and costly, but it can also turn your internal IT group into a must-have resource for clients.
Guest blog by Tom Catalini, CIO, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and blogger at tomcatalini.com.
Good communications among all the stakeholders of IT is extremely highly valued, but often elusive. Getting (and keeping) everybody on the same page can be a real challenge.
Here are three powerful ways I’ve found to help technically oriented people improve communication, both within IT and between IT and the rest of the organization.
1. Embrace Storytelling
Technical people operate at a detailed level and with great precision. Which is awesome when you’re developing software or fine tuning a storage network, but boring and confusing to a good story. And stories are an essential and effective way to communicate. A story neatly packages essential information and shapes it in a way that makes a compelling point.
And that’s what IT communications should do.
To get your point across, it is necessary to step back from the details. You must be able to summarize. You must also be able to make a point. You must be able to inform and persuade. Stories help you do all of this - whether the audience is one other person or a group, inside of IT or outside of IT.
|"To get your point across, it is necessary to step back from the details. You must be able to summarize. You must also be able to make a point."
As technical people, we need to rise to this challenge. Letting go of nuance is hard, but necessary for good communications. Many of the details we can get hung up on don’t contribute a lot to the story. While they may help to make it technically correct, many are just distractions from the essential point. The trick is to figure out which ones to include and which ones to leave out. Use the Goldilocks principle and include just the right amount of details. And like a child’s fairy tale, which is clear and compact and compelling, each detail that’s left in should be there for a reason.
2. Establish Patterns
The details that we didn’t want to interfere with our stories are in fact crucial to getting the work of IT done. So, we need to have ways for these details to flow freely but effectively to and from those who need to exchange them. I’m always amazed at how hard this is, even on the smallest of teams. Here’s where patterns come in.
Establishing a pattern for communications can really help technical people flourish. After all, patterns are second nature to the technically-oriented. The two patterns that I find most helpful to my team and me are the weekly meeting of direct reports and the weekly one-on-one meetings.
The value of the regular meeting is that it establishes a consistent channel of communication for all sorts of important details. The agenda and decorum for a direct reports meeting should allow for ad hoc discussions to emerge from anyone on any topic. Making this a “safe haven” for open communication will help surface insights and opinions and ideas that might not otherwise get shared.
If that’s the case, then why meet with the same people but in a one-on-one format? Two reasons: first, to get down to the next level of detail and to demonstrate that your interest in and support of that person’s particular area of responsibility. Second, and more importantly, to ensure there is always an open channel of communication where the two of you have direct, unfettered access to each other. It’s powerful to have that in place in case either of you need it. And once it’s set up, it will get used for much more than status updates.
3. Teach Writing
Writing needs special attention. Embedded in the task are many of the communications challenges outlined above, along with two additional challenges: writing is both asynchronous and permanent. The advantage of immediate reactions, feedback, or clarifying questions is lost. Everything has to be packaged up neatly and completely while still being concise and compelling. That alone is a significant challenge, but writing also brings with it an air of permanence that makes the task that much more important and intimidating.
But writing also comes with a unique benefit - the ability to review and edit communications before sharing them. And this advantage is the key thing to teach, along with insights and explanations on why you suggest certain edits to someone’s work.
Emphasizing and teaching ways to write that are friendly and helpful to the reader are of paramount importance. Just as we strive to make technology easy to use, we must also make our communications easy to use – particularly the written ones. Toward that end, a focus on using a conversational tone goes a long way in improving IT communications - as does adopting the voice of a patient and supportive (and never condescending) teacher.
It’s hard to understate the importance of good communications to IT. It takes extra time, energy, and focus to make and sustain improvements. But over time these efforts can pay huge dividends in the effectiveness and perception of IT in your organization. It’s always worth the effort.
Readers of The Heller Report have once again stepped up and provided us all with a list books they recommend on leadership, business and technology. Feel free to add your own recommendations to this list using the Comments section below.
The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford
"Without a doubt, the book of the year should be The Phoenix Project."
Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
"A riveting reminder that our main drive or motivation in life is meaning: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty."
The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results, by Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert
"...describes a few straightforward principles which are vital for success, information technology as a major enabler to implement these principles and makes IT very relevant in today’s day and age, and in the executive management teams."
The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
Introduces basic design concepts to be used in anything from software development to architecture. After reading this book, I look at software reviews differently -- how user friendly is it? This is required in the time of consumerization of IT services."
The Circle, by Dave Eggers
"It’s a fictional story that takes place in the near future where a new social network has been created which disintermediates all of the other Web 2.0 sites (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and thus becomes the most powerful company in the world. Reading it causes one to think about whether business executives are headed towards some sort of an ethical crises in terms of balancing the benefits of big data against individual’s right to privacy."
Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam M. Grant Ph.D.
"...very insightful and helpful for anyone that wishes to become a better leader. The author puts forth the concept that most people operate as either takers, matches or givers. What is most interesting is which of the modes of operation is most and least successful. The book highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. The results will surprise you. "
How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton M. Christensen
"Seeking the appropriate balance in life by examining your priorities, focusing on opportunities and optimizing your valuable resources (time, talent and money) to what is most important to you. It will lead you from being successful to being successful and happy."
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries
"This book applies science to entrepreneurship, and has many concepts we can use in our corporate IT environments."
Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar H. Schein
I just ordered copies for all of my direct reports. I generally don’t buy books as gifts because it implies an “order” to read something specific, but in this case the book is so compelling and so meaningful to one’s personal life, as well as to one’s professional life, I decided an exception was okay this year."
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, by Peter F. Drucker
"I just finished the The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker for the third time. I learn something every time I read it, which is ever few years now. It brings home the reason why doing the right things is not enough. As a leader and manager, we have to do the right things, at the right time, and do them in the right way."
Double Your Profits: In Six Months or Less, by Bob Fifer
"It is the simple philosophy which many of the P/E companies use to maximize profitability. (Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital are apparently disciples…). It’s a good read for a CIO because it will either piss off, scare the scrap out of, or mobilize profitability thinking."
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, by Max Brooks
"My favorite line, “Zombies aren’t afraid. You shouldn’t be either.” Perfect advice for those pre-Board room jitters."
Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, by Fred Vogelstein
"A well-researched book. The story outlines how companies like Apple and Google not only attempted to predict the future, but also made it possible."
Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor
Insights on why the Israeli economy is so innovative and successful despite (or is it because of?) the historical and geopolitical challenges the nation faces. I've worked with Israelis directly and this book rings very true."
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, by Robert I. Sutton
"While this is a simple book, the message is powerful. I have 2 very simple principles when it comes to staff: attitude and apptitude. This book explains why these people can destroy corporate cultures and what leaders must do to ensure the integrity of the work place. Overall the book conveys a very serious message, but it's communicated in a very light hearted way. I require all my managers to read this book."
The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, by Oren Harari
Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, by Donald Rumsfeld
"Putting the politics aside, it is a fascinating read about life in some very high circles and great advice about leadership. Worth the time."
Once an Eagle, by Anton Myrer
"Best leadership fiction ever written IMHO."
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't, by Nate Silver
"For CIO's spearheading a data-driven, decision-centric business transformation."
Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?, by Michael Schrage
"Especially for CIOs and CTOS who are focused on revenue and customer service."
The Greatest Secret in the World, by Og Mandino
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
"A superb read!"
Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success, by Rick Newman
Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, Joseph McCormack
From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership, by Harry M. Kraemer
"An excellent read!"
EGO vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence, by Jen Shirkani
The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America's Future, by Gary J. Beach
Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia
Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results, by Judith Glaser
The Smart Way to Buy Information Technology: How to Maximize Value and Avoid Costly Pitfalls,
Leadership: Plain and Simple
, by Steve Radcliffe
View last year's (2013) recommended reading list