This article is a preview of an upcoming webinar in which I will be discussing how to flawlessly execute your IT strategy. I’d love your feedback on the article and, if you find it interesting, please see the special free offers at the end
I was speaking with an Army Ranger recently. He mentioned that his son was interested in a military career. The Ranger explained to his son that, if he joins the military, it will be as a Ranger.
I immediately understood why. I said “because that’s where he’ll be safest”. And the Ranger agreed, acknowledging that nobody is better trained -- better prepared – than those in Special Operations (Rangers and SEALs).
Preparation is a Differentiator
The legendary college basketball coach, Bobby Knight, said “most people have the will to win but few have the will to do what it takes to prepare to win”. Rangers and SEALs do what it takes to prepare to win. Do you?
Prepare to Win
Special Ops and winning basketball teams never engage without a plan. Many IT organizations, and companies, have a great strategy. Yet, as Bain research shows us, most fail to achieve the desired results. Why is that? In my experience as a CIO, head of corporate strategic planning, and a trusted advisor to CEOs and Boards, I’ve seen a consistent pattern. It’s poor preparation.
Moving IT Up the Maturity Curve
Your IT strategy is really a roadmap for your journey up the IT Maturity Curve.
But the roadmap is only as effective as your ability to execute. And your ability to execute is clearly dependent upon – you guessed it – preparation.
Break Down the Barriers to Flawless Execution
So what separates the best from the rest when it comes to flawlessly executing our IT strategies? Consistently, I find that there are five obstacles or pitfalls. You address these and you and your organization are going to drive IT farther up the business value chain.
The five obstacles to flawless execution that I see most frequently are:
Manage the Metrics
We’ve all heard that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Well, it’s true. Metrics not only tell us when we’ve achieved our goal, but they also give us visibility into progress toward that goal.
Translate all of your strategic objectives into measures and targets for those measures. How about improving customer satisfaction by four percentage points by the end of the year while reducing the average cost of resolving a ticket by seven percent?
Those metrics can be cascaded to your team as performance objectives and they can be tracked throughout the year so you know if you’re on pace to achieve your goals.
Don’t Stop at the Goal Line – Build Actionable Plans
Many leaders that I speak with will tell me that they have a great strategy but never extended the strategy down to Action Plans or projects. The strategy is esoteric to most of the organization. Strategy is “management speak” that doesn’t translate to what I, as a team member, need to do every day to achieve our goals.
Once you have your strategy and metrics (the What), engage members of your team, at all levels, to come up with the How. Let them define action plans to support every strategic objective, based on the metrics. I’m always amazed at how well the people who do the job every day can describe how to achieve lofty goals. It creates employee engagement. And the peers of employees that help develop the action plans also increase their engagement because they see that management is listening.
Manage the Precious Resources
The next major obstacle to executing strategy is Resourcing. How many times have you come up with a great plan, gotten six months down the road, and then had the shattering realization that you don’t have all of the resources you need to deliver the results?
Once the action plans have been developed, work with your team to estimate who needs to work on each project and how much time is required. Use these estimates to figure out who is overloaded and identify the resource gaps.
Now you have two choices. Either eliminate some projects – and adjust your strategic objectives and metrics – or get more resources. Often, you will find that the cost of a few contractors will be more than offset by the profitability of the associated project.
Make Shiny Object Syndrome Work for Everyone
The metrics, action plans and resourcing are the preparation that gets you ready to flawlessly execute your strategy. But just like the Special Operations and the basketball team, unexpected stuff happens during execution of the game plan. In business, that’s usually the Shiny Object Syndrome —or chasing squirrels. New initiatives come in, either opportunistically or in response to a competitive threat. Do you have a way to deal with Shiny Objects without jeopardizing the entire strategy?
Here’s a simple but effective technique to deal with Shiny Objects. Once the strategic plan is in place and you begin execution, treat every new initiative as a trade-off. Who needs to work on that new initiative? What are they working on today? With those answers in hand, team up with your IT Steering Committee or executive sponsors and determine if the new initiative will earn back the sunk cost of any initiative that you stop, and still be profitable. And determine if the current projects can be stopped and still deliver value. (That’s the beauty of Agile software development. We can often stop an initiative after 30% of the features are delivered and still provide great value to the business while saving the cost of the other 70% of development).
If the shiny object doesn’t create more value than what you’re currently working on, then it has to wait.
Granted, managing shiny object syndrome requires a great relationship with your business partners. Remember that we’re all on that journey up the IT Maturity Curve. Having worked with thousands of IT organizations worldwide, we find that organizations that are higher in the Maturity Curve have better relationships and more discipline. And they drive the smart, albeit difficult, conversations that ensure that we are truly operating as strategic partners and Innovative Anticipators TM, and no longer as order-taking IT suppliers.
Which brings us to the fifth major obstacle to flawlessly executing your strategy…
Culture and Talent
The Gartner Global CIO Survey reported that Talent and Culture are the #1 and #3 obstacles to achieving the CIO’s goals. We know the talent crunch is starting, reminiscent of the dot-com era. But the culture gap may be even bigger.
Let’s start with talent. We’re moving, or have moved, to Agile, DevOps, Cloud, increased Cyber Security, and more. Have you done a gap analysis on your team’s skills versus your strategy? Are you full of “A” players or do you expect your “B” and “C” players to transform your business? I can’t think of any basketball team that won a championship with “B” players and I can guarantee you there are nothing but “A” players in our Special Operations units. (Call me if you want to discuss techniques for shifting your team to all “A” players).
Now let’s discuss culture. O&A research with 130 leading CIOs – people operating at or near Stage 4 – uncovered 14 core competencies required of IT organizations to operate at Stage 4. Surprisingly, 13 of the 14 competencies have nothing to do with technology. We call these the human side of technology. What historically had been referred to as the soft skills are now determined to be core competencies for IT success.
As you develop your strategy and prepare for flawless execution, think about the culture of service in your IT organization. Think about the entire IT organization and their communication skills, ability to influence others, business acumen and collaboration skills. Is there a culture of innovation embedded in the DNA of your team?
Every member of your team is an ambassador for IT. Your credibility comes from, not just your achievements, but also from the conversations that your team has with your clients, internal and external, every day.
Leading CIOs have told us that it’s not enough for IT leadership to have the required culture. The entire IT team needs to live the culture every day.
Changing the Conversation
O&A Unleashes the Power of IT by Developing the Human Side of Technology and Changing the Conversation About IT Strategy, Culture and Talent. Strategy, flawless execution, innovation and a service culture are fundamental requirements of every IT organization today. We prepare every member of the IT team to take their game to the next level, to move IT up the maturity curve to become the Strategic Partner and Innovative Anticipator TM that doesn’t just align with the business, but drives the business.
Two Special Offers
Offer #1: See how you can drive flawless execution of your strategy. Follow this link to register for the March 14 webinar and use discount code ARTICLE.
Offer #2: Be one of the first 15 people to call O&A at (603) 623-7373 or email Tracy Dinu at TDinu@Ouellette-online.com and choose either an O&A review of your strategy or a 60-minute call with Larry to discuss how you are going to flawlessly execute your strategy in 2017!
About Larry Wolff
Larry Wolff is President and Chief Operating Officer of Ouellette & Associates (O&A). He served in several CIO roles, as SVP of Corporate Strategy Management, and as a trusted advisor to Boards, CEOs and CIOs. Larry specializes in technology led business transformation and corporate and IT strategy management.