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CIO to CEO--Get Value from IT

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12/31/10

Much as I suspect many of you have done for the past week, I have spent some time in the office closing out things for the end of the year. As I have cleaned out e-mails, thrown away old files, worked on year-end performance plans, and signed off on final purchases, I've had some good time to reflect on the last year.

Performance planning is a great time for reflection. While annual planning is good and necessary, the real value of performance planning comes if you make the time to talk with your employees more frequently--say, every quarter. Things change during the course of a year (if they don't, then you may want to stir things up a bit at your organization). Adjusting the plans to fit the "new realities" is important--it helps everyone stay focused on the things that bring value to the business.

Speaking of business value, it is critical to tie those performance plans back to corporate goals and objectives. This needs to happen at all levels of the organization and to be clearly linked. When you meet with employees, try to discuss the goals and objectives at a higher level so that everyone is working towards the same thing.

As the new year begins, spend some time making plans--but be ready to change those plans as the environment changes. Flexibility is important.

Happy New Year!!!


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11/14/10

A Vision, according to Webster, is "a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination." Recently, I have participated in several visioning sessions that were designed to create end-goals for projects. Visions be developed at many levels--organizational, business unit, technical, operational. What is critical is that the visions be in alignment with each other.

How do you ensure that everyone is working towards the same vision? Early and frequent involvement is key--make sure that you cross-pollinate each visioning group with people who have participated in the development of the other visions. Have those people be wanderers--going around, gently keeping people within the bounds of the bigger vision while also listening for things that may have been missed in earlier visions.

Pictures are worth a thousand (or more) words. Try to draw a representation of your vision and share it with others. If done well, people will instantly "see" what you are trying to accomplish.

That alone is worth the time investment.


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10/12/10

If someone said to you, "We need to talk about this new ERP system replacement", what would you immediately think about? What new servers you might need to buy? How many consultants you will need to hire to implement the system? Whether or not your network can handle the new data loads?

These are all important questions--and quite appropriate given the statement.

But what if that same person, talking about the same thing, said "We need to talk about this new business transformation project". Then what would you think about? How many people will see their job change? Whether or not your processes are robust? Are you following industry best practices?

Almost any project today has a technology component to it. That does not make it a "technology project." It is important to think about, and talk about, these as "business projects". Using different words (as in the examples above) can help people to think differently. Describing your project appropriately may be the difference between success and failure.


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09/29/10

Permalink 10:56:07 pm, Categories: IT Leadership, Business Leadership

"We need to standardize!" has been a rallying cry for IT (and other support areas) for many years. And there have been measurable improvements made by introducing standards (processes, hardware, software) in these areas.

But is there such a thing as too much standardization? As with many things, it depends.

There are often legitimate reasons to deviate from standards. The challenge is to define the parameters for these exceptions so you can act in a reasonable manner when a "non-standard" request comes along. Otherwise, standardization stops helping the business and starts hurting it.


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09/07/10

How many times have you heard an IT person say "Oh yes, we can buy a thingamajig that will fix that problem for you." And how many times has the thingamajig actually fixed the problem?

If your answer is more than 0, then you've been fortunate to work in an organization where business forces likely came together to resolve a technology train wreck.

The simple fact of the matter is that technology rarely fixes business problems. Technology is an enabler--able to make business processes work better, but not actually fix a problem by itself. (Truth-in-Writing Disclaimer--There are a few cases where technology might fix a business problem by itself, but that is usually because the problem is defined much too narrowly.)

The CIO should be looking at business problems and working with the business units to see how technology can be part of the solution. It is a fine line sometimes--because many businesses want IT to help drive the business. And IT **can** do this--but it must be in the context of people and process changes.

I would love to hear your stories about times when technology failed to fix a business problem--and what may have been done to fix the problem later. Please share and I'll post the best stories to this blog.

-Don

ps. You may have noticed that I have not been posting as often. I hope to get back on a weekly schedule in November, but in the meantime, postings will be somewhat sporadic. Thanks for your patience.


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Don shares his experience and ideas about how to get the most value from your IT function. Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of Don and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of his clients or employers.

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