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Effective IT Leadership, 8 Essential Methods that deliver results

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Effective it leadership

  1. 1. EFFECTIVE IT LEADERSHIP 8 ESSENTIAL METHODS THAT DELIVER RESULTSTHE CHALLENGEToday’s IT leaders face countless challenges in their day to day environment.Resources and budgets are limited. Technology evolves at a faster pace than business requirements. Security threats continue to rise. Added to these challenges, IT leaders are expected to deliver high quality of services with fewer resources and smaller timelines. They must allocate limited IT resources in ways that create value for their organizations and support future business growth. They continuously search for better ways toidentify, measure and communicate IT value to the organization.The goal of IT leaders is to deliver greater IT value that drives business successwhile attempting to increase shareholder value and decrease operating risk. In anutshell, today’s CIOs must be business leaders, not just technology leaders andbe able to communicate technology issues into comprehensive and usefulbusiness terms.The role of IT leaders has never been more challenging.So, what are the requirements necessary to overcome some of these challengesand become a truly effective IT leader? 1 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  2. 2. OUR PURPOSEThis white paper is geared towards IT leaders, or CIOs of small, medium and largesized organizations (note that we use the terms ‘IT leaders’ and ‘CIOs’interchangeably throughout this paper). Recognizing the various challenges thattoday’s IT leaders are facing, this paper identifies 8 essential leadership methodsthat can assist IT leaders to effectively and successfully guide their organizations.We offer points of consideration to the current challenges that IT leaders arefacing, and provide tips to help IT leaders face these challenges. While there aremany different skills and strategies, ways and styles to effective IT leadership, wefocus on the ones we feel are the most powerful and can deliver the best results.In addition, we recognize that successful leadership is also a product of anindividual’s skill, qualifications and personality traits. 2 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  3. 3. 8 ESSENTIAL LEADERSHIP METHODS THAT DELIVER RESULTSONE: CREATE EFFECTIVE TEAMS As a leader in your organization, some of your responsibilities extend to attracting, cultivating, and conserving talent (human resource management). In today’s economy structure, the responsibilities to seek and administer talent reach well beyond the conventional boundaries of the company to include vendors, consultants, business partners, and all the various outsourcers that ITdepends upon. Successful IT leaders know the importance of building a team thathas depth as well as skill in critical areas. Building a good team enables a CIO toposition IT to help an organization achieve its goals and objectives. A few points to consider • Competition. IT leaders are competing for talent with cloud providers, IT vendors and other corporate IT shops. • Shortage of talent. There’s a limited supply of IT professionals who possess valuable and specific skills that meet today’s technology needs (e.g. networking, IT security, applications development and database management). In fact, 75% of CIOs say it’s challenging to find skilled professionals today. (Source, Robert Half Technology, survey of 1,400 CIOs, 2012). 3 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  4. 4. Some Tips  Third party involvement. Consider hiring the services of recruitment agencies that specialize in the IT field and are familiar with the skills and requirements that potential candidates must have.  Get involved. Polish your assessment skills by volunteering to help your HR department screen job applicants. Offer to train or mentor new employees to enhance coaching skills. CIO involvement during the interview process also suggests the importance of the position to the potential candidate as well as the value of the position for the organization.  Craft your message. Don’t forget the importance of a positive and impactful ad. Describe the exciting environment, the rewards, and the learning experience. Make sure that your ad is carefully assembled and describes the specific skills and requirements of the ideal candidate. You don’t want to receive 500 resume submissions that are not geared towards the specific skills and requirements you advertised for.  Go for free talent. Hire an intern. Interns tend to be young and fresh out of school. They are likely to be in tune with new technologies. They are also eager to gain experience and learn new skills. Many colleges and universities have postings geared towards interns.Looking forwardPreserve your talent pool. Meet with your team on aregular basis. Connect with them by setting up forumswhere you can listen and questions can be posed by yourteam and discussions can occur. Don’t forget to spend timeto carefully and continuously communicate your vision andkey expectations. 4 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  5. 5. TWO: DESIGN AN IT STRATEGY Most organizations have a detailed business strategy which acts as a guide to business decisions. An IT strategy is the structure which ensures that the money being spent on IT by the organization is being used to further its strategic goals. Your IT strategy organizes all the elements of your IT function including infrastructure, organization andapplication/data strategies. Don’t forget that effective governance is alsoimportant as it helps to align business with IT strategies. An effective IT strategyshould help an IT leader to prioritize investments as well as provideunderstanding on how the organization can use emerging technologies to satisfycustomer requirements, manage business processes and organizationalperformance. A few points to consider  Your focus. What do you want the IT strategy to do? (e.g. improve key processes in your business, such as supply chain management).  Constraints. Consider the technical skills your employees have (to use, develop and support the IT strategy) as well as the existing systems and budget constraints. 5 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  6. 6. Some Tips  Identify and define. Where there is room for improvement in IT? What is the purpose of the plan?  Evaluate. Is the current IT organization effectively aligned to support operations and key business functions? Are the current IT strategies and processes appropriate and how should they evolve over the next few years? Are current IT expenditure levels appropriately focused on cost/benefit and what future funding levels would be anticipated over the next few years? Are the IT risks acceptable and manageable both now and over the new few years?  Develop. Develop an IT strategy that provides a near-term and long-term roadmap for the IT organization. The roadmap should include: a mandate, vision and scope of services for the IT organization, alignment of IT projects/priorities with the business strategy, the future state vision of the systems (applications and databases) and supporting infrastructure for the organization, the resources and competencies of the IT organization in supporting the future state vision and the projects and timelines required to implement the vision.  Don’t forget budget and timeline. Produce cost approximations (both capital and operating expense costs) so that you know generally how much you will need to spend and when (in accordance with your timeline). You can estimate these figures based on your own research (such as supplier literature or websites).  Fit. Always make sure that the IT strategy conforms to the organization’s overall business plan.Looking forwardReview your IT strategy to make sure that it continues tofit with the organization’s overall business plan. Be sureto follow up quarterly with reviews that assessimplementation, the project’s impact on business andperformance measures. All of these will enhance thevalue of your company’s technology use, and help inmaking IT a strategic partner in business objectives. 6 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  7. 7. THREE: BUILD AND MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS Every business today is a relationship business. The quality and impact of your work, and the profitability of your organization, depend upon relationships — with customers, employees, and competitors; with suppliers, distributors, and support services; with direct reports, senior managers,and boards of directors. As an IT leader, you should strive to build and managerelationships to push the best results. As an IT leader, it is important that youconcentrate on building relationships up, down, and across the organization andoutside its customary borders. One of your most impactful contributions as a CIOis the ability to create and maintain good relationships with all stakeholders. A few points to consider  Perks for the relationship-oriented CIO. A recent poll from Search CIO, (of 875 senior and mid-level IT executives) stated that CIOs who earn the highest salaries make building relationships with top executives more of a priority than managing IT projects. (Waxer, 2012)  Time spent on relationship building. No one will argue that relationship management takes up substantial time. Approximately half of the time CIOs spend on non-technical work is devoted to managing relationships, with either the business or their own IT staff or vendors. In fact, the numbers are: relationship management with business: 20%, relations management with IT Staff: 12%, and relationship management with vendors: 7% (according to new survey data from the Society of Information Management (SIM).) (Bednarz, 2011) 7 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  8. 8. Some Tips  Network, network, and network. Get involved with professional organizations; make a contribution by helping out or participating in events in a way that best utilizes your skills. Sign up to speak at conferences or serve on boards which allow you to provide valuable input.  Volunteer externally. Seek out a non-profit organization that fits your personal or professional passion and determine how the organization can benefit from your skills.  Volunteer within your organization. Identify projects that could use your aptitudes and get involved. Meet other colleagues and get to know them and their skills and interests.  Find a mentor. Regardless of how senior you are, there is always someone who has more experience and proficiency than you. Seek them out and study from them.  Vendor Management. Select vendors that, at the right cost, can help provide the greatest incremental value to the organization.Looking forwardListen to others and discover what their goals and skillsare. It might be valuable for building relationships, tosend others pertinent information that you come acrossthat may be of interest to them (such as interestingarticles, advice, event schedules). Ask for feedback, andsuggestions from others and respond to others when asked for their feedback(reciprocate your time). Keep track of who you want to develop relationshipswith, who you already have relationships with and how to reach them. Ponderabout the kind of relationship you want with each individual in your network(mentoring, informational interviewing, support, feedback, introduction to others,etc.) Update people on your network (LinkedIn). Don’t forget to thank people fortheir time and their feedback. Staying in touch with key people in your network ofrelationships is important so that you do not miss out on future opportunities. 8 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  9. 9. FOUR: MANAGE IT RISKS The most rudimentary level of the IT environment is a sound and healthy infrastructure. Consider issues of information security, data privacy and cyber threats and the need to certify compliance with new regulatory structures (such as email privacy). IT leaders need to be mindful of these risks andbe able to administer them properly. They need to be shrewd in working throughpolicy, procedure and technology to address disaster recovery, continuityplanning and data breach procedures. Don’t forget that risk management is not aonetime exercise. Continuous monitoring and assessing are essential for thesuccess of your risk management approach. Such monitoring ensures that riskshave been appropriately identified and evaluated and suitable controls put inplace. It is also a way to learn and make improvements to your risk managementmethodology. A few points to consider  The threat. The threat of damaging consequences resulting from the operation of information systems has increased radically for many reasons such as: large scale mergers and acquisitions (M&As), the need to consolidate people and systems (due largely to M&A transactions), greater use of IT hosting and outsourcing, the shift to replace full time employees with contractors or consultants and new technologies like cloud and mobile computing.  CIOs are facing a remarkable challenge. How do CIOs balance the need for adaptable and open access to their company’s IT infrastructure (so business can be conducted) with the need to lessen the IT risks associated with that access (so that nothing damaging will happen?) 9 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  10. 10. Some Tips  Understand the risk. IT creates business risk. Being aware of what those risks are is the first step in handling them properly. The increasingly widespread insider threat should be tackled via access control and identity management systems.  Treat IT risk management as a business investment. Aligning IT risks with business requirements will help you allocate the resources you need to manage those risks.  Re-evaluate risks regularly. Periodic re-evaluation of risks and controls should be part of any businesss IT control strategy, not just when a problem occurs. In any case, you should reassess your risk management strategies if your controls collapse.  Use the right controls, and make them secure. You can have all the controls available to you, but if they can be easily compromised they wont be of much use. Similarly, if you possess the wrong controls, or an insufficient amount of controls, youre just as ill-equipped to manage risk. Make sure to administer suitable controls and provide access to your systems to select people (who should have authorization). Then monitor and constantly re-assess the controls.  Compliance does not equal security. Securing your systems and data may make you compliant, but being compliant doesnt inevitably brand you secure. If your controls suit your regulatory requirements, but dont alleviate risk, then they are inadequate and should be changed.Looking forwardWhen organizing and conducting risk reviews, IT leadersoften uncover ways to improve IT and business processes.In other words, companies that mange IT risks well alsofind ways to manage IT well. 10 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  11. 11. FIVE: COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY Successful IT leaders are able to communicate on many different levels with all types of people. Career success for an IT leader is highly dependent on effective communication skills. Getting your message out to technical staff as well as non-technical staff is essential in order to achieve leadership success. Those IT managers who are able to communicateeffectively with all levels of people such as employees, colleagues, clients,vendors and senior management have a greater chance of creating opportunitiesfor their organizations. Communicating includes listening, informing, persuading,and facilitating. In addition, it is important to speak clearly and in a manner that isunderstood by others outside of the IT realm. A few points to consider  The word on the street. “The demand of the CIO position requires much more than technical knowledge. Those who have poor communication skills--and refuse to improve them-probably won’t be CIOs for long.” (Hoenig, 2003).  Numbers speak words. In a poll of more than 1400 CIOs working in the US, 40% said putting technical information into non-technical terms was the biggest hurdle when working with end users, according to a summary of the report by RHI consulting. (Computer Weekly, 2012)  Bridging the gap. Being able to “bridge the gap” between IT and the rest of the organization hinges on a CIOs ability to translate high tech concepts into consumable business standards that can be comprehended by HR managers, warehouse workers, and techies alike. 11 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  12. 12. Some Tips  Understand your audience. Communicate to the wants and needs of your audience, without overloading them with additional information. If asked to address a specific point, do so at the beginning of your communication. Consider their current knowledge level, and use this as your starting point in the communication.  Keep it clear and avoid jargon. Get to the point, and communicate your message clearly and concisely. Exclude unclear or complex details, letting your audience know if they want to learn more you would be happy to provide the data and any additional information.  Communicate in a timely manner. When it comes to prioritizing projects, key expectations, or critical work, keep those in leadership informed - in a timely manner. Avoid the inclination to wait until you have all the details to begin to share with others what you do know.  Take a course. Consider taking a course in communications skills.  Look for a mentor. Establish a relationship with a mentor who can assist you in developing your communication skills. Look for mentors in your industry who have experience in dealing with all levels of the organization and can provide you the benefit of their communication experience.Looking forwardIT is part of the business-not separate from it and musttherefore be communicated accordingly. CIOs must losethe habit of speaking in technology terms and learn tospeak in business oriented language. Effectivecommunication requires listening to and askingquestions of colleagues to better understand theirstrategic business needs. 12 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  13. 13. SIX: CHANGE MANAGEMENT Technology, by nature, demands quick change. Whether it is business process reengineering, organizational restructuring or a new strategic direction, change can create unstable ground for any organization. Mergers, acquisitions, terminations and other organizational changes often create anxiety and uncertainty because such businesschanges affect every level of an organization. As IT leaders begin to take on morebusiness-oriented roles, their comprehension of the risks, benefits andramifications of change become highly important. An effective IT leader should beable to embrace and work with changes in an organization in order tocontinuously meet goals. A few points to consider  The results are in. The 2011 State of the CIO results identified that 38 per cent of CIOs spend their time leading change efforts. The survey also revealed that 42 per cent of IT leaders would like to focus on this goal over the next three to five years. (CIO Magazine, 2010)  Competition is increasingly fierce. As a result of increased competition, CIOs are under pressure to regularly upgrade existing systems or realize new technologies either to preserve the organizations leadership or, more often, just to keep up.  Intricate technologies. Technology complexity is on the rise thanks to a multitude of environmental factors, from mergers and acquisitions to increasing regulations. 13 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  14. 14. Some Tips  Define change management process and practices. Create a plan for dealing with organizational changes. This plan should cover areas such as: procedures for handling changes, roles and responsibilities of the IT staff, measurements for change management, and the kinds of changes to be handled.  Define the change. You need to consider the organization as a whole (both IT and business objectives) to determine where the organization is versus where it needs to be and to identify the specific goals and objectives of the change initiative.  Communication matters. Effective communication skills are highly important when it comes to change management in an organization. Your coaching skills will be valuable as people within an organization must be allowed an opportunity to react to the desired change, and may need some one-on-one support.  Implement and oversee the changes. At this stage, apply the change and monitor the effects. During implementation, employees throughout the organization need to remember why they are working hard on implementing a change. Therefore, as change leader, you should continually remind people, using multiple media (formal e-mails, meetings, in house training,) what the change is and why it is crucial for the organization.  Adjust your change management plan if necessary. If you notice that the change is not being properly implemented, or employees are not handling the change well, you may need to adjust or reformulate a part of or the entire change management process to make it more effective.Looking forwardIn effective change management, all changes should berecognized and planned preceding any type ofimplementation. Back-out procedures should be createdin case changes generate problems. Then, after changesare applied, they should be carefully verified andassessed. 14 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  15. 15. SEVEN: BE PROACTIVE IN SETTING AND PLANNING IT GOALSBe proactive in establishing and developing appropriate IT goals for the organization. Selecting the right priorities for the organization and designing plans that are aggressive but attainable can make a big difference in formulating clear IT goals. Planning is an essential ingredient for an IT leader, but unfortunately too many executives fail to plan. Possessing the faculty to create a clear and concise plan that speaks to the organization’s goals andobjectives, and aligns with the organization’s overall IT strategy, positions ITleaders for more responsibility and makes them proactive instead of reactive topossible situations in the organization. A few points to consider  CIO’s role. Research strongly suggests that the CIOs role is more and more developing into that of a proactive position rather than a reactive one and that this trend will become even more evident as the CIO morphs into just another member of the C-level executive team that already includes the CEO and CFO.  CIOs responsibility. CIOs responsibility continues to shift from one that is at a technical/operational level to one at a more strategic/management level. This shift will result in a slow advancement of the CIOs role in association to other C-level executives, with achievement or success in their context being re-termed to include strategic, organization-wide business goals and objectives. 15 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  16. 16. Some Tips  Gather a team. Consider a team that is embodied by each department in your organization. The team should make sure that the company mission statement reflects the company’s principles. (Don’t forget the organization’s IT strategy.)  Create a plan. Growth and better use of technology to directly support a company’s needs and strategy must be the drive of all of IT’s goals. Formulate a company mission statement, primary goal(s), key operating goals, departmental main goals, supporting actions and timeframe for accomplishment.  Assess. Ensure that the technology selected will support current and future business needs. In addition to considering areas that will benefit most from new technology, examine how to maximize the benefits of existing technology.  Select. By using information to gain control of your technology decision, you can weigh the pros and cons of each possible goal by determining the expected benefits, total costs, and implementation timeframe.  Implement. This requires a comprehensive plan to ensure that you achieve specific, measurable goals with a systematic approach, as well as improved business procedures that match your new system’s capabilities.  Support. Ensure that technology is meeting the business goals by building in the necessary support and ongoing evaluation necessary for success. Consider training as well as third-party support needs.  Review. Using the target objectives, and with clear statements of the specific activities required to achieve the goals, ensure that periodic reviews are in place.Looking forwardYour ability as a company to compete in the marketplaceis accomplished in part by an ongoing investment in eitherleading-edge technology or the integration of solidtechnology into your work practices. Smart growth andbetter use of technology to directly support the companysneeds give you the chance to fulfill the goals you set forth. 16 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  17. 17. EIGHT: DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN BUSINESS ACUMEN First and foremost, CIOs must be business executives. CEOs expect these leaders to provide technology solutions that support the overall business objectives rather than pursuing “nice to- have” enhancements to the current IT systems portfolio. In order to create the most effective and value-added IT function, CIOs must understand fully the strategy and specific challenges facingeach business unit. In fact, the objective is less about IT-business alignment andmore about total business integration. A few points to consider  The numbers are in. In a survey by CIO Magazine, 58 percent of the responding 500 CIOs reported that understanding the business is a pivotal skill for CIO success-a skill that falls way outside any classic set of technical skills. (State of the CIO survey, 2006).  Don’t forget business goals. Aligning IT initiatives with business goals (64 percent), improving IT operations & systems performance (51 percent) and cultivating the IT/business partnership (48 percent) are among the most frequently cited activities where CIOs spend the majority of their time and focus.(State of CIO survey, 2010). 17 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  18. 18. Some Tips  Develop a professional reading list. Seek out ideas of great books on each of the functional areas within your company and read and learn.  Financial knowledge. While it is not critical to know how to read balance sheets or cash flow statements, it is important to be able to interpret profit-and-loss statements, ROI, depreciation and how capital expenses differ from operating expenses. Consider taking online tutorials as a primer on financial statements so you can operate in synch with your CFO.  Take business classes. You do not have to take masters level classes to learn basic business concepts. Consider enrolling in an online university program that has some first and second year undergraduate classes to fit your schedule.  Discuss business concepts and seek help from colleagues. Seek out a mentor, or group of people that you can discuss business ideas and strategies with.  Search the internet. There are many online forums and blogs that can add value to your leadership experience.  Start an Executive MBA Program. This is probably the best and easiest way to get a good foundation in all of the areas, (but also the most costly). There are several great schools with very flexible programs including weekend and evening coursework or accelerated programs that limit your time away from work.  In house training. Some corporate giants are getting their CIOs trained in business management fields such as strategic planning, risk management, financial management and people management.Looking forwardA CIO really needs to understand what the key businessdrivers are for the organization. Business acumen startsfrom finance. You therefore need to understand whatdrives revenues, what drives profitability and what isyour competitive positioning. You need to have thecommercial skills and also have the ability to take what you do as a CIO and relentit in business terms to the business stakeholders. 18 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  19. 19. WHAT’S NEXT FOR TODAY’S IT LEADERS?Today’s IT leaders would benefit from the application of these 8 essentialleadership methods in order to create a vision for their organizations. Effective ITleaders need to focus their attention towards business and change leadership.They need to apply their strengths to issues arising in their organization in a waythat goes beyond the technical responsibility of the traditional CIO role. Aneffective IT leader should be able to articulate where and how technologysupports business strategy, pinpointing business change issues and propellingoperational innovation. CIOs need to envision themselves as playing the roles ofbusiness strategist, IT strategist, IT functional leader, technology advocate andchange agent. In other words, effective IT leaders should focus their time andattention on strategic issues, on external relationships and on the future. 19 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  20. 20. THE LITCOM RESPONSELitcom helps organizations align business strategy and shape IT directions andpriorities. We focus on aligning processes, technology and people to achieve astrategic vision. We collaborate with our clients on an IT strategy that achievesvalue growth for the enterprise. We provide our clients with key IT managementresources that can assume overall or specific levels of responsibility for the ITactivities on a temporary basis. In addition to day-to-day management of IT staffand operations, Litcom conducts reviews of existing systems and projects,develops comprehensive profiles of all IT-related projects underway, monitors theprogress of initiatives, organizes IT efforts to support any business processimprovement activities, and identifies and brings forward IT-specific valuepropositions which outline either cost saving or revenue enhancing opportunities.THE LITCOM COMMITMENTOur commitment and approach to creating an open, partnering environment withour clients is key to our mutual success. With this commitment, we have beensuccessful at building enduring relationships. Our people are some of the mosttalented, skilled and dedicated in the industry allowing us to provide our clientswith a sustainable competitive advantage by delivering the highest level ofexpertise and know-how to get the job done. Our clients benefit from the deepexperience, knowledge and dependability that our dedicated professionals bringto engagements. We are committed to our client’s success and ensure that wehave a thorough understanding of the goals, requirements and technicalenvironment. 20 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
  21. 21. WANT MORE INFORMATION?Sign up to receive regular email updates at http://www.litcom.ca/newsletters/ orfor our article RSS feed at http://www.litcom.ca/news/For more information on how we can assist your organization meet its IT needs,please visit us at: www.litcom.ca or send us an email at: info@litcom.ca Litcom 265 Rimrock Road, Suite 202 Toronto, ON M3J 3C6 Tel: 905-763-8900 Fax: 905-763-8233 21 Litcom ‘Delivering results oriented IT solutions’
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