The Reluctant Sponsor

  Just after new year I caught up with a friend and colleague for lunch (I’ll call her Nikki). We had worked together very closely previously for a joint client but we hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. Our conversation was wide ranging and free flowing and eventually turned to concerns related to work. Nikki was having a tough time with her current client. She was supporting a large project organisation and things weren’t going well. The number one issue they had, reluctant sponsors. That is, critical senior Read more..

The Three Levels of Influence, and How to Improve Your Level of Influence

  I believe that for technologists to be truly effective they need to not only have great technology skills, but they also need to be influential.  Indeed, I believe that influencing is so important that we need to view it as a technologist’s second expertise.  That’s all very well, but how influential do you need to be and how do you go about building influencing skills. The Needed Geek The needed geek is the entry level of influence for a technologist.  The name itself is somewhat disparaging.  At one level Read more..

The Psychology of Change: Why don’t people follow the damn process?

  “We’ve invested heavily in defining and implementing good processes, practices and methods, the problem is we can’t get the people to consistently follow the process. Why is this?” I hear this lament from Service Desk Managers and ITIL SMEs about the service desk and support staff, I hear it from PMOs about Sponsors, Business Owners and Project Managers and I hear it from Agile Coaches about their teams, Product Owners and Executives. One CIO recently confided in me that they had made a huge investment in building project management Read more..

Six Tips for Award Entrants: One judge’s view.

  Over the past six months or so I have had the privilege of judging several industry awards programmes including the CIO 100 in New Zealand, the CIO 50 in Australia and the NZ Hi-Tech awards. I judge awards for several reasons.  It’s a good way to give back, you learn a lot about what others in the industry are thinking about and working on and the best of entries are incredibly inspiring.  While the best entries are inspiring the judging process itself is anything, but inspiring. The judging process Read more..

High Performing IT Teams

  For those who know my Warehouse (TWL) IT story you’ll know that things were a bit bleak in the early days. I had joined TWL from Deloitte with the expectation that as a CIO my role would be to lead a team that would use IT to provide competitive advantage and create value. However, what I found when I arrived was a team in disarray and under attack. I have numerous ways of illustrating this, however my favorite is that we had 62 P1 incidents in the first 60 Read more..

In Pursuit of Operational Excellence

| I recently wrote a blog where I outlined an epiphany I had around the need for an IT team to be operationally excellent  (the original blog can be found here).  In essence the insight was that high performing organisations have high performing IT teams and that a key characteristic of being a high performing IT team is operational excellence.  That is, high performing IT teams spend significantly less than their industry peers on managing business as usual activity. Operational excellence is not something that I find naturally inspiring.  When Read more..

The Case for IT Value: A review of my favorite research

| For all of you who are regular readers of my blogs you will know that I am fairly obsessed with the notion of IT Value. This obsession stems from a belief that IT has huge potential to make our lives and organisations substantially better and that it is our job, as an industry, to ensure that this value is delivered. You probably also know my view that in general we fail to deliver this value. The evidence of this is captured extensively in both IT and business literature.  Here Read more..

Innovation and Change. When Leaders are the Problem.

  Innovation is a hot topic around the globe at the moment and given the  tight connection between technology and innovation today it is something I am intensely interested in.  So it was with great interest that I read the following article and the full report from a few weeks back.  First things first, congratulations to Chris Paykel and James Hurman for doing the survey and adding some local information to the forever growing literature on innovation. Overall the finding of this study are consistent with previous findings around the Read more..

Project Success and Failure

| A few years ago I was contacted by a local doctoral student.  They were looking into success rates and best practices for ERP implementations.  What he as looking for was local case study input into his thesis.  Whenever I get these requests I try and help as much as I can,  It’s a good thing to do in terms of giving back to the industry in a small way and it all helps contribute to the accumulation of knowledge around our industry.   To support him the first thing Read more..

We Want to be Digital, But What Does that Mean?

| A few weeks ago I got a call from a client “Owen, we presented our digital strategy to the board yesterday.  It went well but the board wants us to go quicker and are prepared to invest in that.  Can we talk?” “Of course we can talk” I replied, “but before we dive into it, what exactly does the board mean when they say digital?” I have asked this question a lot over the last few years.  I asked this question initially because I didn’t have a clear definition Read more..

Shadow IT. Mandate Without Service.

  Many IT organisations are strong on wanting a mandate.  This is what IT does and this is what users can and cannot do. The expectation is that if we can simply clarify and enforce the rules then shadow IT will go away and we will solve all, or at least a few, of the world’s problems.   The problem is mandates have never worked when it comes to users and IT. It was the mid 1980s and I am a freshly minted graduate working at Deloitte.  I have bought my Read more..

High Performance. The Role of Process vs Outcomes

| I was meeting with a client a few months back.  This particular client was having some ongoing issues with the performance of their help desk.  Specifically, tickets were not getting closed in a timely fashion and as a result IT’s customer (i.e. users of IT services) were getting some what exasperated (to be polite).  The question on the table was how do we change this trend and begin to improve service levels?  It was a serious issue for the IT team and it had been a problem for a Read more..

It’s Not Where You Begin

| I don’t know about you, but I have a series of moments which are burnt on my mind and I can recall them easily and always will.  Whether it is the birth of my children, the 1995 World Cup, which I watched with friends in Ngaio, or the turn of the millennium with family at Waikoikoi.  Another of these times for me was September 1998 in Paris. I was there for the Deloitte global new partners conference.  As the name implies it was an annual conference for all the Read more..

When it Comes to Value Execution Rules

| I consider myself to be a strategist.  I love the process of determining a goal/vision, diagnosing the current situation, understanding the gaps  and working out a plan or an approach to bringing the goal to reality.  The best part of my job is working with teams through this process, supporting their problem solving and facilitating a joint understanding of the challenge they face and the likely solutions available to them.  It’s important work as success is normally built off the back of an effective strategy.  The reality is though, Read more..

A Renovation Approach To Going Digital

| I reckon that for most large incumbent organisations (that is those born in an analogue age) going digital is a bit like embarking on a significant house renovation and extension.  But first let me take you back to the beginning of 2004. My wife and I decided to buy an old villa in Auckland.  We were new to Auckland and needed a place for our family to live in.  We knew where we wanted to live, loved period villas so when this smallish 3 bedroom villa came up we Read more..

The Need for Speed – One Team’s Transformation

| Speed is one of the imperatives of our time.  Every organisation I work with wants to be able to do things faster whether it’s speed to gain an advantage or the not so positive, but equally important, speed to close down a competitor’s advantage. Everyone wants to go faster. The need for speed is not a new phenomenon. For as long as I have been in the business world speed has always  been an issue and I suspect it always will be. It was certainly an issue for me Read more..

Finding Common Ground

| In my job you don’t go to many days without hearing someone talking about the gap between IT and “the business”.  It may be from someone in IT, who is struggling to be heard and understood by their colleagues.   It may be from an executive, who is trying to “go digital” and is finding it difficult to get the support they need from IT.  It may be from a user, who is frustrated at the complexity and limitations of the current systems.  It doesn’t really matter who you are Read more..

How to Transform Technology from a Negative Disruptive Force to a Positive Opportunity (Start with Why – part 2)

| I recently wrote a blog on the importance of starting our thinking about technology based innovation from the perspective of purpose or as Simon Sinek urges start with why. To me the power of purpose as a starting point for thinking about technology is twofold.  Firstly, purpose tends to be everlasting.  How you fulfill on your purpose may change over time, as technology changes, but your purpose itself changes rarely.  The second is that purpose gives a powerful context for understanding the role of technology. When you start with purpose Read more..

When it comes to digital, always start with why!

| In the third most popular TED Talk of all time Simon Sinek urges leaders to start with why.  Sinek’s message was fairly simple.  Great communicators communicate very differently to most people.  Whereas most people communicate from the outside in, by describing what they do, great communicators communicate from the inside out by describing why they do what they do.  That is, they begin by describing their purpose, their cause, their beliefs.  Sinek argues that this is important as people are inspired by why you do what you do much Read more..

Hype Cycles vs Investment Cycles

I noticed that Gartner released its latest hype cycle for emerging technologies last week (see this Forbes article for a summary).  I love the Gartner hype cycles and I loathe the Gartner hype cycles all at the same time because to me they represent the best and worst in the IT industry all in the one graph. I love them because they provide me with an excellent reference point on what is happening within the industry.  Reading the relevant hype cycle is a great way to get a quick update Read more..

Line of Competence

| Technology is changing the way companies do business but the sad reality is that in many organisations the IT team, the supposed technology experts are barely participating in these changes let alone leading them.  On the surface of it this makes no sense at all and many IT professionals are confused if not downright angry about it. They have a good case after all why would you go around the very people that are employed specifically to bring technology expertise to the organisation? The unfortunate answer is because many Read more..

Persistent Problems and Conventional Thinking

I I have been thinking a lot about projects and project management lately.  Why?  Because effective project delivery is critical to delivering value from IT and as an industry we don’t do a great job of delivering our projects.  We are all aware of the statistics.  Most commentators report that 50% of our projects fail and to make matters worse the larger and more critical a project, the more likely failure is.  Until we change these statistics we will continue to struggle to deliver to our organisations and we will Read more..

Failure is Good. Yeah Right!

| It has become very trendy to trumpet the importance of failure.  Many authors, and commentators are encouraging us to fail.  The rationale?  The only way to make progress, to change things, to innovate is to do something, most likely to do something new.  When you try something new there is a chance that it won’t work out the way you expect it too.  That is, you will fail. I get the need for progress.  I get that progress means that you need to try new things.  I get that Read more..

Facilitated Governance

| There we were halfway through the workshop with the IT leadership team and our attention shifted to the team’s project delivery performance.  The insight from the executive was very clear.  They saw the IT team as the department of no!  It didn’t matter how good an idea it was IT would find a way to make sure it didn’t get done.  If through some cosmic miracle anything did get done then it was seen as being too little too late.  Slow in the extreme and often what was done Read more..

Left Brain Leadership

| I have spent a large part of my career leading / managing teams.  I have had my moments of success and my moments of failure as a leader.  I look back at some of the things I have done in the name of leadership and cringe at my crassness and stupidity.  In a recent blog on persistent problems I noted that to be successful in IT we needed to be able to solve both engineering and psychological problems.  In the subsequent conversation on the blog with J. M. Auron Read more..

Is the Internet Safe? Of course not!

| The internet is not 100 percent safe, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using it to support you to take your business forward.  And rather than worrying about all those things that you don’t understand I think you should think of the internet in the same way you think about driving. Think about it, is driving safe?  Of course not.  There you are hurtling down the open road at 100 kph with another vehicle coming straight towards you at the same speed. The only thing between you and Read more..

Influencing Through Value Propositions

| Value.  As I have mentioned many times in my previous articles the role of IT teams is to use technology to deliver value to their organisation. One of the biggest challenges to the delivery of IT value is that delivering value through technology is a cooperative act between IT and other teams across the organisation. While every team is dependant on others to some extent, no team is so dependant on effective cooperation as IT.  Why?  Because IT value is not delivered within IT. IT value is delivered across Read more..

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CIO’s (part 2)

| I have been a fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits for a long time now.  It has been very influential in how I look at the world and how I live my life, despite my constant failures to live up to the habits.  It has also been influential in my understanding of what you need to do to be successful in realising the value of technology for organisations that I work with.  You can see the influence of Covey’s work in my ideas.   Despite this influence, I have never Read more..

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CIOs (part 1)

| I have been a fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits for a long time now.  It has been very influential in how I look at the world and how I live my life, despite my constant failures to live up to the habits.  It has also been influential in my understanding of what you need to do to be successful in realising the value of technology for organisations that I work with.  You can see the influence of Covey’s work in my ideas.  For example the concept of competence Read more..

Sources of IT Value

| I talk and write a lot about value and the ability of IT to deliver real value for organisations. That’s our role, delivering value to our organisations through the smart and effective use of technology and information.  Despite this I have never formally captured my thoughts on what are the sources of value for an organisation and how IT can impact these sources of value.    This blog seeks to address this gap and to provide an overview of what I believe are the six sources of value that Read more..

Digital, the 21st Century Gold Rush

| A few weeks back I was deeply involved in a conversation with a colleague.  I don’t really remember where the conversation started or what’s its ultimate purpose was meant to be but it was one of those beautiful conversations that starts in one place, generates many connections and tangents and ends somewhere completely unrelated.  I love those conversations as they spark so many new connections and different angles to explore.  In the middle of this particular conversation one of us and I’m not sure who said something to the Read more..

We’re a Technology Company. Yeah Right!

| It’s become very popular lately to declare yourself as a technology company.  It doesn’t seem to matter what industry you are in, the growing popular view is that every company is a technology company.  Here are some examples of company / executive pronouncements: Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs said “We are a technology company. We are a platform.” David Smoley,  CIO of AstraZeneca said “In the past, we’ve said we’re a drugs company …… but the reality is we are a technology company.” and locally Barbara Read more..

The Chief Influencing Officer

| I have always thought that success as a CIO ultimately comes down to your ability to be influential. It’s true that influence is important in many roles and essential for executive roles but in no other roll is it as important as for the CIO. Let me explain. The CIO is often the only executive role where you are not directly responsible or involved in the delivery of organisational value and there is no legal or compliance need for the role.  This is changing slowly as technology is increasingly Read more..

Too Much To Do

| I had arrived early and took up a seat in a quiet corner of the cafe.  I was here for my first coaching session with Roseanne.  Roseanne was identified early as a high potential leader within a major corporate IT team.  Recently, however, her CIO had noticed a disturbing trend in her performance.  Roseanne and her team were missing deadlines and seemed to be working on all the wrong things.  She seemed incapable of prioritising her work and that of her team.  Roseanne had gone from being a potential Read more..

The Problem with Projects – They Don’t Deliver Value

| Organisations are obsessed with projects.  Every year they invest millions of dollars into projects presumably with the expectation that these projects will create value for them and support them to achieve their goals and visions.  The problem is, projects seldom if ever actually deliver value and seldom if ever move organisations forward towards achieving their goals.  I’m not saying this based upon the well reported statistics on project failure.  You know the statistics, most commentators believe that  70% of all change initiatives fail.  And very often they fail on Read more..

The Relentless Pursuit of Sameness

| “Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don’t much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go. Alice: …So long as I get somewhere. The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland Change or die.  That is the mantra of our time.  Everyone is trying to work Read more..

The Technology Puzzle

For more than a decade now the proportion of organisational technology spend being managed outside of the IT team has grown rapidly.  Most industry analysts reckon that the split in IT spending is nearly 50/50 between IT controlled and spent outside of IT.  There are many reasons offered as to why this move has happened, however it is hard to escape the reality that the underlying cause is that IT teams have not been meeting the perceived needs of the organisation.  Why else would “the business” seek to go around Read more..

Driving Digital Competence

My daughter Sarah has just passed her learner’s driving licence.  It is a very exciting time for her and a somewhat nervous time for myself and her mother.  The day after she passed I took her out for her first ever drive.  I decided that having her actually drive on the road with other cars was a step too far for the first time, so I drove us to the North Shore Events Centre.  There were no events on this day so what we had was a large empty parking Read more..

Investing in Digital Competence

Many years ago I remember sitting in a classroom listening to a lecturer. I don’t remember why I was there or what it was that I was meant to learn, the only thing I really remember is a cartoon that was flashed up on the screen. The cartoon had two pictures on it. On one side was a small boy jumping joyously off a low fence. On the other side was a grown man about to skydive from a plane. The caption said something like “the principles are the same, but the techniques required Read more..

One Approach to Strategy

| “Forget the arduous, intellectualised number crunching and data grinding. In real life, strategy is actually very straight forward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” Jack Welch I love this quote. It captures so much of where I have ended up when it comes to understanding strategy. Not long after taking up my role as the CIO of The Warehouse I began to turn my mind to producing an IS strategy. However as I went through a traditional strategy exercise as a CIO rather than a consultant Read more..

The 4 Jobs of Technology

I have recently reread some of Clayton Christensen’s work. Christensen is most famous for his theory of disruptive innovation first espoused in the Innovator’s Dilemma.  In many ways the popularisation of the term disruption can be traced back to Christensen.  In one of the pieces I read Christensen looks at how incumbent companies can avoid or at least be prepared for disruption in their industry. One of the thing Christensen advises is that most businesses would be better off if they focused on “the job to be done” rather than Read more..

Defining Digital Competence

In a recent blog I raised the issue that most organisations don’t systematically invest in the digital competence of their team.  Having under invested, they then lament their inability to deliver real tangible value from their technology investments.  You can’t be a digital leader, or expect to realise the full value from your digital investments unless your team members, who use and support your digital enablement and data, are digitally competent. On the surface that makes sense, right?  But it begs a question – what does digital competence mean anyway? Read more..

Wizards in the Workplace

| Last July we embarked on a family trip to the United States. I dubbed it the “parks and parks” tour as the first half was spent in some of the famous national parks. The second half was spent in Orlando’s theme parks. One of the highlights of the trip was Universal Studios, and the undoubted winner was the Harry Potter attractions. All of my children are Harry Potter fans, and Universal has three major Harry Potter attractions. The queues were long, as we were there during the American summer Read more..

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling

I am a bit of a contrarian at heart so when I see large groups of people lining up on one side of an issue with no apparent opposition my natural inclination is to look at that big group of people and try and understand their point of view and then proceed to pick holes in their position.  I reckon the IT industry, and perhaps global business, is in this state now and has been for a number of years. The rallying call.  This is the age of disruption and Read more..

Culture, First Among Equals

In my view, Peter Drucker is one of the best leadership thinkers of our time so when Drucker says something I sit up and take notice. If Drucker said it then there is a very good chance that it’s true. So when I discovered that Drucker said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” I became quite disturbed.  Why? Well, while I acknowledge the role and importance of culture I am an unashamed fanboy of the power of great strategy in driving organisational success. This disconnect between what I believed and Read more..

C-Suite Soup: Win with Actions, Not Titles

| While a C-Suite title may sound cool and make you feel good, having a title or position is not the same thing as being a leader. It is also no guarantee that you can or will make a positive contribution. And in my book, making a positive contribution is what it is all about. The title doesn’t matter, it is the contribution that counts and, in the long run, it is our ability to contribute that earns respect and grants influence. So, while all and sundry may obsess about Read more..

Thoughts on Culture

Lately I have had a lot of conversations about the culture of IT teams.  These conversations tend to have one of two themes.  The first is whether their team has a positive culture or a negative culture. Typically, these conversations are quite negative and focus on why our culture is so bad and whose fault it is that it is so bad.   The second conversation is focused on how, or indeed if, culture can be changed and improved.  It started me thinking and reading about culture and I got drawn Read more..

Focus Equals Progress

| It started in high school.  Exams were coming closer and closer and I really hadn’t done any work for them at all.   I had spent many hours at my desk, supposedly working, when really all I was doing was listening to the radio and doodling a little.  Then eventually something inside me clicked and I was into my work.  I became very focused on studying, cramming like there was no tomorrow.  I know I am not alone.  Most people I knew did this.  Maybe that says something about Read more..

Don’t Sell Technology, Satisfy Needs

| I often get asked how I go about selling technology. Sometimes, the question comes from technology company sales teams, other times from leaders of organisational IT teams. It doesn’t really matter who is asking, because the answer is always the same: it depends on the needs of the customer. I have learned this lesson several times, most memorably on presenting a business case for the implementation of a virtual desktop solution. Taking a user and business focus, we deliberately set out to highlight the potential benefits to users and Read more..

The More Things Change …..

We hear a lot about the increasing pace of change in our world today.  So much so that we have created a whole new set of acronyms.  My current favourite is VUCA, which I saw in a recent McKinsey article.  VUCA world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. We seem to be obsessed with VUCA and the increasing rate of VUCA.   While the pace of change is increasing, particularly in our technology industry, the obsession with uncertainty is at best  unhelpful and devastating at worst. The problem with our focus Read more..

Technology Hammer

In 1964 Abraham Kaplan coined what he called the law of the instrument – “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”  This law, and all of its variations, describe the IT industry, we play the role of the small boy and technology, particularly new technology, fulfills the role of our favorite hammer. | You can see it everywhere.  Whether it is in the creation of organisational IT strategies or the many vendor and commentator  articles and white papers that come from Read more..

Educational Principles At Work

As our oldest daughter was approaching her third birthday, my wife began to discuss with me what she wanted to do with preschool education for our children. In short, she wanted our children to attend a Montessori preschool and if at all possible a Montessori primary school as well. I didn’t know anything about Maria Montessori or the education system she founded, but it sounded like the type of alternative system that my wife, who has deep Nelson hippie leanings, would like. Besides, there are some topics that aren’t worth debating and Read more..

Codifying Change and Success

I have recently had reason to apply much of what I have learnt in my business life to my personal life. Without going into too much detail it occurred after a trip to the doctor where he told me I had type 2 diabetes. Initially I was devastated and went into a personal pity party. After a few days however I began to think about what can I do about this as I am committed to living a long and healthy life. As I thought about this it occurred to Read more..

Hurry Up and Wait

| For large enterprises, the cloud is a revolution for those processes that are necessary, but not necessarily that important. Therefore, think very carefully before you move any process or application into the cloud, especially if it’s a source of competitive advantage. I have been to a number of events over the past few months where the theme, or a major theme, of the event has been cloud computing. The flow of these events goes something like this. An industry analyst stands up and talks about the trends leaving the Read more..

Aspiring IT Leaders

What makes a great CIO? What do CIOs do anyway? These two questions and variations of them seem to get asked regularly at conferences and on social networks such as LinkedIn. The latest round of these questions has inspired me to write this blog.  This is my take on what makes a great CIO. At a high level I believe a CIO needs to be competent in 7 key things: Setting the Foundations for great performance through Personal Leadership.  Current research suggests that great leadership performance is directly proportional to your Read more..

The Eight-Step Change Process Guide for CXOs

| Ultimately, if CIOs are going to be successful in realising the value of IT for their organisations, then they need to become experts at successfully delivering change. However, organisations – CIOs included – are not very good at change. Depending on the research you read, anywhere between 50 per cent and up to 70 per cent of change initiatives fail to deliver the benefits they were designed to deliver. Whenever I contemplate that statistic, I find myself involuntarily shaking my head in disbelief. The business world has spent millions Read more..

How to Sell to a CIO

Before I took up the role of CIO at The Warehouse I was a partner with Deloitte Consulting. As with most professional services firms my role was a mix of selling and delivering services to clients. Because of this when I joined The Warehouse I was quite open to meet with potential service providers to see what value they could add to us.I was unprepared for the onslaught however. Every week I get many phone calls and emails from companies who have a great product or service to sell. | Read more..

A New Change Paradigm

Ultimately, if CIOs are going to be successful in realising the value of IT for their organisations, then they need to become experts at successfully delivering change. However, organisations CIOs included are not very good at change.  Depending on the research you read anywhere between 50% and up to 70% of change initiatives fail to deliver the benefits they were designed to deliver.  Whenever I contemplate that statistic, I find myself involuntarily shaking my head in disbelief.  The business world has spent millions on leaders and we have many of Read more..

Unmasking The New CIO

For as long as I’ve been in the IT industry (which is a disturbingly long time) commentators have been lauding the virtues of the emerging ‘new CIO’. While the details change, the underlying theme remains constant; technology is changing rapidly and with these changes the role of the CIO must change as well. Today’s version of this is what IDC have called the third platform and is built on the convergence of mobile devices, social technologies, cloud services and big data. This ’new platform’ will fundamentally change what technology services Read more..

The Mind Straining Test

  It is 8.50 am and you are working on the IT help desk. You receive a panicked call from the chief executive’s PA. There is an executive meeting due to start in 10 minutes and she has a number of documents she needs to print for the meeting. The problem is the printer is not working! What do you do? This scenario is one my team often uses in an interview for new team members. The answer normally comes in one of two generic forms. In the first style Read more..