Connect by Unplugging

December 1, 2014 by

When looking at descriptions of successful IT executives (whether the word in between Chief and Officer is Information, Digital, Technology, et al.), key words found include ‘collaborative,’ ‘business-savvy,’ ‘influencer,’ ‘social.’  (For the purposes of this post, I’m using CIO to mean the executive(s) with primary accountability for technology.) Even if there are technology challenges in these organizations, there is trust and comfort that the leader will fix them.

When talking to organizations who are having technology challenges, I often hear that the CIO knows a lot about technology but 1) didn’t establish relationships with their peer executives, 2) didn’t understand the business, 3) couldn’t develop the right workforce, 4) couldn’t manage our vendors …. and so on. These aren’t technology issues. These are leadership issues.

CIOs must be Chief Officers before they are technology executives. Teams in IT organizations must be industry experts before they are technology professionals. Technology professionals without business knowledge are like people who build cars who don’t know how to drive.

Know the business. Deep understanding of the business(es) of your organization is a must. It’s more important for me to understand how MSU runs than it is to know the details of fiber channel backups. I’ve got a skilled technology team, for me to know everything they know would be a) impossible and b) redundant.

Get out of your box – get out of your office! Have conversations with business leaders and key personnel (in research institutions, that would include deans, registrars, faculty, athletic directors, students, admissions directors, fundraisers) that aren’t part of your slate of regularly scheduled meetings. They’ll appreciate your time, and you’ll learn a ton.

Go to where people stand. Literally and figuratively. What’s going well? What are they worried about? What are the top things they are working on? What’s their favorite mobile app?

Give without getting. Help people without expecting anything in return. While internal charge backs for IT service is de rigeur for most organizations, it can be a barrier. If someone needs a small mobile app or an extra wireless access point, just do it or buy it and don’t worry about the money. Call these small expenditures “loss leaders” and move on.

The only technology point I’m going to make here: Move towards a mobile-first or mobile-only strategy. If you haven’t already done this, you’re behind. There are ~7 billion mobile phones in the world, compared to 7 billion people (sadly this is not a 1:1 ratio, which is a topic for another day).

You cannot deliver innovation that makes a positive contribution to your organization unless you connect. And you can’t connect unless you unplug.




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