How IT Can Stay in the Game Through an Economic Downturn

Depending on what you read and who you talk to, an economic downturn or outright recession may be in the works. Growth has slowed, trade is uncertain, and economic cycles inevitably cycle. What does this mean for IT organizations? And how can IT leaders help the enterprise thrive through challenging economic conditions?

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two team members looking at the head of the conference table

The Hidden Benefits of a Customer-Focused Culture

Being focused on customers isn’t a unique organizational trait. Almost everyone in business claims to be customer-focused in one form or another. Some even consider the term cliché. Inc.com contributing editor Jeff Haden cited it as culprit number 1 on his list of 10 Tired Business Clichés You Should Never Use Again.

Jeff Haden, Inc.com

Naturally, stating an intent to be customer-focused and actually being customer-focused are two different things. Sometimes the right thing for your client doesn’t align with the right thing for your organization. This is when having a customer-focused culture truly matters—when the right move is to do the hard thing in the short term for the best outcome for the client in the long term.

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The 3×3 Framework for Digital Transformation Alignment

To write a post on a trending topic, one would typically start with a definition, but in this case, “Digital Transformation” means different things to different people. From the Bennet Frank survey, CIOs’ Perspectives on Digital Transformations, industry analysts, and our own client engagements, we have heard the term used to describe anything from consolidating ERP systems to accepting bitcoin payments. You could attend an IT conference and listen to three Digital Transformation sessions that give contradictory advice. Practitioners in the trenches can easily get confused and overwhelmed.

So let’s break down the key components of a Digital Transformation into a systematic approach to help you focus your efforts and align expectations with top management.

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An IT Leader’s Empathy Exercise Bootcamp

Co-authored by Chris Kondracki and ChiChi Lu.

Understanding and empathizing with others helps IT leaders navigate complex business environments. Empathy enables us to better understand a situation, relate to other people, and view issues from different angles.

Here’s why it works, and how to put it in practice.

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It Starts with Intent: Do you want a “throat to choke”—or do you want the project to succeed?

Whenever I hear the expression “one throat to choke,” it makes me cringe. The phrase, in most cases, refers to contracting with a single vendor to help with every aspect of a technology project. Another variation is, “a single wringable neck.” Either way, it sounds like an explicit threat to the vendor: If this project fails, the blame will be placed squarely on your shoulders.

In reality, if a project does fail, it is very difficult to go after a vendor. Most organizations don’t. Lawsuits are risky, costly, and time-consuming. The only practical concession you can expect from a vendor is free labor, hardware, or software. But it’s from the same vendor that botched things in the first place.

Let’s face it—setting up a one-throat engagement is not really a threat. It’s a bluff. And it stems from an attempt to outsource accountability.

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Want to Accelerate Change? Slow Down and Observe Team Dynamics

Originally presented at SIM Connect Live 2019 (“Make Winning Normal: Maximizing Agility with High-Performing Teams”), the following concepts offer a new way for IT organizations to implement disruptive technologies and innovations at scale:

The Pace of Change and the Adoption Curve

The pace and complexity of new technologies and innovations have only been increasing over the past years and show no sign of letting up. We consistently hear the following questions from IT leaders:

  • How do I maintain a competitive advantage while keeping up with the pace of change?
  • How do I ensure my organization can effectively adopt new technologies?

One way to address these questions is by examining the Adoption Curve as described by Geoffrey Moore. The Adoption Curve details the distributions and tendencies of a population as it adopts an innovation.

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Data Consistency Is the Key to a Standardized Reporting Process

Standardized reporting is an intricate type of reporting process that aims to produce consistent, reliable, actionable information from disparate systems or sources. A reporting process is standardized if it can be applied across different business units or sub-units in an organization. The processes that generate and collect the data to be reported on must remain the same across all the business units.

For an organization to understand the status of conditions in real time, and make decisions quickly, standardized reporting is required. A universal understanding of information enables clarity and transparency. Clarity supports effective communication based on trust. And studies show that effective communication leads to enhanced productivity and deeper customer relationships (Source).

It’s not a stretch to say that data consistency creates a competitive advantage over other organizations that do not have standardized reporting processes.

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Being a Leader in a Non-Leadership Role

The presence of “manager” or “director” in your title does not make you a leader. Being a leader is not about officially holding the power to make a decision, supervising others while they do the grunt work, or making the most money. Leadership is a skill, not a role. Leadership is the ability to connect with those around you and shepherd a team toward a successful outcome, to see the bigger picture, and to do what’s right—not what’s easy. You don’t need a specific title to do that.

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Traditional vs Transformational: Breaking down the differences between IT leadership archetypes

As a company embarks on a journey of digital transformation and immense change, the expectations of IT leaders change as well. Two general archetypes have emerged, but in reality, individuals fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes. Both archetypes can be extraordinarily valuable in the right situation. Each can also be incredibly ineffective when placed in the wrong context.

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Avoid These 3 Traps When Intervening On Team Performance

How is it that some people can inspire us to strive for greatness while others turn us off?

For me, one of those amazing leaders was my high school biology teacher, Mr. Kaziersky. He knew how to engage, inspire, and motivate his students to achieve outstanding results. Our classes consistently outperformed our peers on AP exams and SATs. What was so remarkable was that he didn’t always have the best or brightest students. There was something about his approach and the learning environment he created that enabled us to thrive.

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