The role of the IT leader is changing daily. We have to be comfortable with a new kind of role with different challenges and objectives. Picture in your mind a set of steps. At the bottom step is Service Delivery. Our role at this level is to make sure that the day to day needs of the organization are handled. It provides us a license to exist, but little impact or influence overall. We definitely hear about it if things are not working well, but at this level, we are utility providers.
My uncle Junior Snead was a railroad man his whole life. On the wall in his kitchen beside the CB radio base station was a little plaque that said:
It’s not my job to run the train,
The whistle I don’t blow.
It’s not my job to say how far
The train’s supposed to go.
I’m not allowed to pull the brake,
Or even ring the bell.
But let the damn thing jump the track
And see who catches hell!
The only way to increase our value as IT leaders and break out of utility provider status is to take the next step up. At this level, Project Delivery, we are addressing new needs of the organization and gaining influence and starting to collaborate with line of business managers to provide benefits to the organization. We now have a license to influence, but we are still looking inward at the business and improving our processes or technologies.
On the top step, we are providing Competitive Advantage through technology. We are now fully engaged with the business and aligning our team’s actions and focus with the business strategies. We also are given a license to direct and guide the business with our unique perspective. We have not only realized improvements for our organization, but we have also given it a new set of tools to improve its market position, which improves our value individually and IT’s value as a whole.
What does it take to move from Service Delivery to Project Delivery and finally to Competitive Advantage? It takes some risk taking and quite possibly a little failure along the way. The point is that if you are not trying, you are not succeeding. If you are trying you might fail from time to time. Make sure you limit the impact of the failure or at the very least take lessons to heart that you can incorporate into your next attempt.
That focus on experimentation and innovation is at the core of a recent Gartner report on Enterprise Collaboration. Collaboration is the central theme of most organizations today and a core reason that teams assemble, but many companies are struggling with providing an effective collaboration environment for an increasingly mobile and technically astute workforce.
It seems that workers look at the tools available on their mobile devices and the tools provided by their company and often come away disappointed that their legacy systems and enterprise applications don’t seem to provide the same level of ability and don’t integrate effectively into the day to day routine of most people in the same way these mobile apps have.
In his book, “The Learning Layer”, Steven D. Flinn says,
Participatory technologies have the greatest chance of success when incorporated into a user’s daily workflow.
That is, if a business user needs to make an extra effort to put information into a stand-alone wiki or blog, initial enthusiasm will eventually peter out and long term results will be disappointing.
Gartner estimates that 3 billion new connected devices will be shipped annually by 2017. This brings the total installed base of connected devices to more than 8 billion devices. Monica Basso, a vice president with Gartner in research, says that the coming together of mobile devices, social networking and cloud technologies is transforming enterprise collaboration.
Collaboration can turn into something more contextualized and more impactful in terms of the business. This new collaboration is going to be a differentiating factor for the competitiveness of your company going forward.
So if collaboration is the next killer app for organizations and an effective way to improve competitiveness, how do you improve collaboration?
John Stepper with Deutsche Bank started thinking about how to enable more effective collaboration within his organization. His company employs about 100,000 people in at least 70 countries.
I saw the gap of what I was able to do at home on my phone for free and what I was able to do at work — that gap was growing. We didn’t really change very much. We certainly didn’t make a dent in how people worked.
Stepper decided that he needed to experiment with something that could be impactful, but could also come with a lower risk profile in the event things didn’t work out. He and his team began developing an enterprise social network in 2012 called myDB. This experiment actually worked; 40 percent of Deutsche Bank employees are now using myDB. While this is a success story, it should also be clear that there are no short cuts to collaboration and there is no prescription for success. You have to try a variety of less expensive experiments before quickly narrowing your focus to the most effective solution.
So, how do we leverage these mobile devices and this connected society we live in to improve our organization’s competitive advantage through better collaboration? I think Stepper found a great way. Look at enterprise social networks as a way to bring it all together in an inexpensive and low risk experiment. If you think about it, these social networks bring together mobile, cloud and data technologies in a unique way that can be quite effective.
In the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” the Soggy Bottom Boys have just come out of the radio station recording “Man of Constant Sorrow” when they run into Governor Pappy O’Daniel and his entourage. The governor is seeking reelection. His son asks Pappy, “Ain’t you gonna press the flesh, Pappy?” The governor replies, “You don’t tell your Pappy how to court the electorate! We ain’t one at-a-timin’ here! We’re MASS communicating!” One of the entourage says, “It is a powerful new force.”
A powerful new force? What would my company need with an enterprise version of Facebook?
I know my colleagues will have a fit if they heard me saying this, but what is wrong with a corporate version of Facebook? Think for a minute about the impact Facebook has had on our culture, our conversations, and our ability to communicate and collaborate. It is a powerful new force. Think about communication alone. If I stand in front of you and speak, each of you in this room knows what I am saying and we are communicating. The conversation really just stays in this room. We may talk afterwards, we may share a bit about what was said and it may even lead to a collaboration. Take this same thought into an enterprise social model.
The communication is broadcast just as it is in this room, but the reach is automatically far greater because it goes beyond the walls of this room and the people in it. Combine that with the ability to comment and react to what is said. What is a one to one or one to many type of communication becomes a many to many type of communication network with exponentially increasing nodes of connection taking our message even beyond its original purpose. It can become the kindling for a firestorm of thoughts, ideas and actions growing well beyond its original limitations.
Now not only has that communication grown beyond its initial purpose, it is now also saved for prosperity. It now has a legacy and history that can be mined just as any other data source. How many times have we wished there was a place to store the institutional knowledge of the company and access it as needed?
The Yammer environment has this thought already in mind. The tool offers the ability for administrators to export data from the conversations and reactions posted on the site to be analyzed and evaluated. Think about Sentiment Analysis. Sentiment Analysis uses natural language processing and algorithms to determine the attitude of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic. If this is interesting to you, check out TCSC’s webinar on Sentiment Analysis of data provided through public social networks. Companies can leverage that same ability with the Yammer enterprise social network to gain greater insight into the minds of the team members who engage with the network, providing managers with another tool that can help them keep in touch with the company and a finger on the pulse of what is happening.
Social networking has rewired our minds to expect the ability to communicate in open conversations that allow us to connect personally. The impact of enterprise social networks on organizations has to be evaluated in the context of other tools that significantly changed communication, but were met with equal skepticism in their early stages. Email and instant messaging were once as foreign to business as enterprise social networks are today, yet we see how impactful those technologies have been. We need to keep our minds open to the potential, experiment and see if it connects with our company’s people.
Employee engagement and trust are key to company success. The prowess with which you engage your customers, employees, partners and constituents is an important determinant of your organization’s success, yet it challenges most organizations. Advances in social media, content analytics and ubiquitous mobility are already smoothing the path toward more effective collaboration. The future holds even further hope. Zero in on the tactics and technologies you’ll need to move beyond failing or, at best, ho-hum engagement, and move toward an era where you are creating exciting and engaging collaborative environments that will yield competitive advantage for your organization.