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..

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..

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..

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..

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..

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 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 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..

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..

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..

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..

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..

Paid To Do Nothing

| One night after a long day at work I came home wanting to chill out and relax. As a father of four that is seldom an option. This particular night I arrived home right on bedtime and soon found myself in the middle of stories and good night cuddles. In our house the bedtime ritual usually includes a period of time where we ask each other questions about our day. On this particular night my daughter asked me, “Dad, what do you do at work?” This was not the Read more..

The IS Hierarchy of Needs

I developed the IS Hierarchy of Needs while I was the CIO of The Warehouse. I developed the hierarchy because I had to. Let me explain.I became the CIO of The Warehouse full of joy and hope of the world because I believe in the power of technology to be a major catalyst of change and a source of competitive advantage and as CIO I was in the prime position to make this happen. You see previously I was a consultant and while I love consulting two things in particular Read more..

The Life Game Project

  A few years ago I was invited to breakfast at the Takapuna Beach Cafe by a friend of mine. The purpose of this breakfast was to introduce me to Ian Howard, a friend of his. I turned up to the breakfast with no particular expectations. However, the conversation we had at the cafe that morning has changed my life’s priorities and I hope it may change yours. During our conversation, Ian and I discovered that we had a number of core beliefs in common. The most important of these was Read more..

Knowledge is Power! Or is it?

| We hear all the time that knowledge is power. In our industry we use this mantra as a justification for all sorts of investment, particularly investments in business intelligence. But is knowledge really power? Let’s consider this. In our house we have one rule (thanks to my sister, from whom we lifted this rule). That rule is “everyone deserves love and respect no matter how I feel now”. I love this rule because if you use this as your filter for everything that you do it is very difficult Read more..