It’s Time to Get in the Game

It’s Time for CIOs to Get in the Game

Are you in the game or on the sidelines? In a recent article on, it is suggested that its time for CIO’s to get in the game. while I couldn’t agree more, I would encourage you to take this article one step further.

If you find yourself wanting to get in the game now, I suggest that you are significantly behind the curve. For how many years has the concept of transformation via the CIO role been around? This is not a new concept, rather a concept that is rising in importance and possibility due to the level of disruption enabled by technology…think “commercialization of IT” as an example.

So, lets presume you are behind the curve. Where do you start? How do you start? I recently fielded questions like this at the PhillyETE conference. Some food for thought:

  • Follow the pain – What are the top 3-5 problems in the business? Find a sponsor to partner with and go solve for one of them, then make it a poster child for the business value you can drive as a CIO. to help identify the pain points, think of the following areas of your enterprise: revenue, operations, client perspective, and competitive position. Surely, there are some low hanging fruit to address in these contexts.
  • Attack the white space – To avoid turf battles and resistance to your delivery of business value, find areas of the company where there is no business model, or little risk. In Adam Hartung’s book Create Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition, he discusses this concept in detail. My simple interpretation is “white space = unexplored opportunities” in your enterprise. For example, find areas of the business where there is no risk to the existing revenue streams and drive value.
  • Innovate, Transform, Lights-On – Chances are you have projects that are transforming your company, and you are undoubtedly running systems to keep the lights on. However, what are you doing to innovate? Framing your activities within these constructs can help you focus on the innovation part. What innovations could be valued by your company? How is your budget allocated across these three areas? Can you find ways to reduce your “lights-on” spend to fund some innovation? presents a great topic that is timely given the current state of the CIO. Take the discussion a step further, get off the sidelines, and get in the game!

Waiting for the economy? That won’t work.

The Phoenix Principle: Waiting for the economy? That won’t work..

Adam Hartung is a fellow ex-CSCer and well published speaker / author on helping companies turn around and establish new growth share some interesting thoughts in the above link. In this article Adam discusses the trap of “waiting for the storm to blow over” so that happy days are here again, and I could not agree more.

Most interestingly, Adam takes the alignment of a business to a new frontier…aligning your business to the shifting markets and re-aligning as fast as the markets change. In a nutshell, for those of us involved in leading change and transformations, use the emerging markets to drive your alignment. Build organizational capabilities to seek out new markets that are core or tangential to your current offerings. Then create a system to align all of your value chain to them. And don’t just do it once. Your system should be set up to align to a fluid set of emerging markets. Ever heard the saying “the only thing that is constant is change”? Does that resonate?

I prefer to frame these markets, their shifting nature and aligning my organization them in a tradition 2×2 quadrant map. In the map, I place the market paradigm on the “x” axis, and a position of complexity (think barriers to entry for your business) on the “y” axis. If you can plot the affinity of markets (relationship of markets to each other) and then categorize (traditional, complimentary, and emerging) the markets, you have established your “x” axis or “market scope”. Then by plotting the complexity of the barriers to entry and operation for your organization to participate in these markets, you can identify the markets you could target, with a degree of prioritization. Other analysis could include more external factors on the “y” axis like market opportunity, annual market growth, etc. You need to shape your analysis to reflect classic business concepts as well as those factors that are germane to your current industry, leadership team, and culture.

The “Change Management Manifesto”

If you are familiar with agile techniques from the software development industry, I propose that we as change leaders, can benefit from reflecting on agile principles. You can reference “The Agile Manifesto” at

In the same spirit, I propose the following “Change Management Manifesto”. The most effective change approaches embrace:

– Shared success over heroic efforts
– Culture evolution over strategic planning
– Customer-centric results over parochial goals
– Personal growth over organizational growth

While a comprehensive change management approach values and addresses all the concepts presented herein, this manifesto proposes the first attributes over the second attributes.

Much like the Agile Manifesto, I invite you to become a signatory of this manifesto and leave a comment to this post.

Defining Agile Change Management

UPDATE – Please be sure to check out the Change Management Manifesto as well.

How much process is too much process? How can you implement enough process so that you get the benefits (e.g. efficiency, repeatability, scale, etc.) but not too much so as to slow down your agility? The Change Management discipline / industry would be wise to reflect on the concept of “agile” from the software development industry to address these questions.

If you are a change leader, I encourage you to learn more about “agile” concepts in software development. You can easily search on the term “agile” and get a plethora of sites with information. In summary, the agile approach embraces

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Don’t take my word for it. These bullets originated in “The Agile Manifesto” at

Personally, I find agile principles serve as a helpful guideline when trying to balance the need for process. However, many people incorrectly define agile as “without process”. This is not true, and in some ways, agile techniques require more personal discipline than a classic SDLC approach (e.g. waterfall). Agile processes exist, but they live within the context of the four bullets listed above.

Processes are definitely needed, in particular for companies that have reached a certain scale. I have come to experience that “with complexity comes a need for increased discipline.” Processes are proven and worthy tools to deal with complexity in scale, speed to delivery, geographic distance, business risk (e.g. SOX), language barriers, technical barriers, human resource management (e.g. hiring & firing), financial planning (e.g. establishing and managing budgets), software development, etc.

So, in our current environment of a shrinking economy, is complexity going up or down? I say, up. Companies are forced to deal with challenges that they previously may have avoided due to success. Said another way, “success covers up many ills”. To deal with these new complexities, companies may look to leverage processes for increased productivity, efficiency, and most importantly transparency into their business. It is my assertion that, with process comes the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where process gets in the way, and inhibits a business if process is not actively managed. How do most large entities (companies, governments, institutions) deal with the complexities listed above? They implement processes to manage risk and maintain a level of homogeneous execution across a diverse operations model. This will work, and many companies are proving their success with large scale process deployments today (e.g. look to the Business Process Outsourcing models of any big consulting firm and the existence of ERP software).

The challenge I want to address here is the need to balance process with innovation, delivery, and growth as a change leader. I am not sure there is an answer to “how much process is enough process?” but I am certain that the agile manifesto and the principles it aspires to are helpful to begin addressing the question.

The Shrinking Gap of the Back Office and Front Office

CIOs: Put Business Technology Leadership Maturity In Your 2010 Strategic Plan | CIO – Blogs and Discussion

The back office and front office of business is collapsing. Businesses everywhere are experiencing tremendous shifts in their IT usage. 40 years ago, IT was a pure back office function buried in the bowels of corporations under the head of finance and used almost exclusively for accounting and book keeping.

Now, thanks to technology revolutions including but not limited to Web 2.0, the businesses ability to engage IT services has broadened. External service providers are selling their capabilities into the business at an increasing pace. The business is purchasing simple services from external “no name” providers in order to bring speed to their operations. The “land grab” aka “gold rush” is picking up speed, popularity, and credibility.

However, it is still early. These disparate services and the increasing ability to buy into a “cloud” of computing are in their infancy stages. If you are a small company (e.g. $500M or less in annual revenue), you are most likely buying into a cloud of some form to address your economic pressures and maintain your quality of service. If you are a mid-sized company (e.g. $500 – $1B in revenue), you need to start  experimenting and probably will, soon. If you are a large company (e.g. >$1B in annual revenue), you should start experimenting, and probably need to start winding up the corporate engines to warm up to this “experiment”. Your business customer is probably already doing it, so “resistance is futile”.

I expect that concepts like enterprise architecture, standards, governance, security, privacy, and integration will remain important and only increase in significance as more and more companies buy into the cloud.

IT needs to be a better partner to the business, but that message is not new. However, the compelling reason to do so, is more real now than ever. One of the best aspects about working in technology, is the requirement for eternal learning. Those who focus on learning, thrive. Pay attention, learn, embrace the change and increase your value to the business. Business technology will help you achieve these goals, should you choose so.

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