“There’s no worse time than now to be an average CIO,” said an executive at a recent conference.
If that statement alone doesn’t capture the pressure being placed on a technology leader, then rising expectations from leadership and evolving business needs are more than enough to keep any CIO, IT director, or technology leader up at night.
Too often, IT and tech leaders are left out of strategic business decisions because it’s assumed that their role comes after paperwork is signed. They have to put the pieces together after the fact, resulting in increased costs, security issues, and siloed solutions.
As businesses continue to invest in technologies and become digital-first, involving technology leaders early in the buying process will be critical to business success.
If you’re one of these leaders, how can you break this mold to become a truly strategic technology director?
5 Things Strategic Technology Leaders Don't Do
Being a strategy-led technology director is becoming critical as businesses continue to invest in technologies and become digital-first.
If you’re a technology leader and want to change when you’re invited to the table, then you must lead your team strategically and avoid these five blunders:
- Don’t Respond Reactively to Requests
DON’T just immediately find a resolution to every isolated request that comes to your team.
Even though the initial reaction may be to quickly fulfill everyone’s requests and put out the day-to-day fires, this leaves the team and technology in the backseat, rather than a major driver in the business.
Instead of having different business units dictate what technology they want at the moment, sit down with these teams to really determine what they need.
Strategic leaders should be able to collaborate to find the best tool or process to solve these challenges.
Rather than just being task doers, strategic tech leaders know that they need to slow down and will ask the requester:
- What is the business goal this team is trying to achieve with the request?
- Is a new technology or system actually needed or is there something existing in place that can be used?
- Is there a more efficient and strategic way we can help them accomplish their needs?
DO work together with departments to present solutions that will actually help these teams, instead of blindly fulfilling an ask.
- Don’t Work in a Silo
DON’T work isolated from other business units and see each individual request or initiative as isolated from other projects and the overall business strategy.
While IT and technology teams may not be directly involved with other departments, they have a direct hand in the success of their initiatives based on the applications and systems they build or acquire for these teams. In order for these solutions to be successful, think beyond just this individual team or project.
Break the silo mindset by asking:
- Are there other teams who are struggling with a similar challenge?
- Are there other teams who would benefit from a similar solution?
- How does this play into the overall organization’s success?
- What are other ways we can leverage this solution for other teams?
DO think outside of the individual team or project to expand its success to the organization as a whole.
- Don’t Just Focus on the Short-Term
DON’T think of needs just in immediate context.
Immediate needs arise and should be addressed, but should be done so with thoughtfulness. Tech teams can step in to be integral to organization-wide success by thinking beyond immediate needs and looking toward long-term solutions that empower the entire business. For example, instead of investing in a single point solution, strategic leaders may explore a more holistic option that can address both present and coming needs.DO think ahead to find solutions that can be future-proof as business and customer needs evolve.
- Don’t Just Think Locally/Regionally
DON'T just think or rollout solutions to individual regions or offices, but rather strategize how these solutions can also be leveraged broadly across your different locations.
We’ve all heard the adage, “think globally, act locally.” This can be challenging, as many organizations with a corporate-local office structure struggle with offices operating in their own silo, creating different procedures and policies from location to location. But, strategic leaders will find better ways to unify the entire organization so that everyone is consistent in how to solve issues, find the right tools, and scale efficiently.
DO work with other teams, especially the tech teams, across all offices. The success of your business requires constant collaboration.
- Don’t Try to Build Everything In-House
DON’T always assume that building a custom solution is the best option.
Traditionally, IT leaders have preferred to build custom applications in-house rather than trying to deal with a third-party solution that might not meet their needs or will fail to connect with existing systems.
But, while many IT teams are more than capable of building tailored solutions, the question shouldn’t be whether or not they can, rather if they should build something new.
There are several factors to take in consideration:
- What is the cost and effort required to build and maintain a custom solution vs. purchased?
- How easy will the solution integrate with not only existing applications and systems, but also future ones?
- How much time will be needed to launch and manage a custom vs. a purchased solution?
DO make cost-efficient and scalable decisions to balance both immediate and long-term needs, whether that is building in-house or purchasing from a vendor.
By avoiding these costly mistakes, leaders can move from being reactionary to strategic, from being narrow-sighted to thinking big picture, and ultimately from being regarded as a side character to playing a critical role in business success.
Taking the First Steps
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