Those of you who read my column regularly know that I don't believe that IT is separate from "the business." I'm not a fan of all that "alignment" hooey. Rather, I believe that IT is a critical core component of the business. Therefore, if we are truly part of the leadership of our organizations, there shouldn't be a whole lot coming down the pike that surprises us. We should have been engaged with our business partners in strategy discussions, and therefore should be very clear on what the upcoming fiscal year has in store for our enterprise.
That said, the economic turmoil of the past few years has taught us that a certain level of surprise is endemic to any company. I am not a fan of always reacting to what happens. I believe that there are three kinds of people in this world:
- those who make things happen;
- those who watch things happen; and
- those who wonder what happened
As CIOs, we should help drive the enterprise agenda, instead of waiting to be told what we need to focus on. For example:
- If we know our organizations are going through tough times, we should proactively look for ways to reduce our operational cost structure.
- If we know that we will need to innovate to survive, we should help drive the innovation agenda and set the pace for the rest of the organization to follow.
- If we know that we need to identify new revenue streams, we should explore opportunities to leverage the technologies we have implemented to generate new revenue.
Here's a personal holiday story. At the end of 2008, when all of us were planning for what turned out to be an extremely challenging 2009, my team and I decided to make a conscious effort to go on the offensive and made a video starring our clients. We highlighted the tremendous value-adds the entire enterprise was seeing from the technology investments we had made. We marketed the fact that we had completed all of our projects on time, on budget and on value for seven years running.
We proactively reorganized IT (instead of waiting for the Grim Reaper to knock on the door), lowering our headcount and reducing our budget, while also streamlining our operation and improving client satisfaction.
What was the result of this approach? Our team received 100 percent of the capital project dollars we had requested, while others in our organization struggled to get their projects approved. We were identified as business leaders in driving effectiveness and efficiency throughout the entire organization.
This was a total team effort. (I'm just the guy who gets to write about it.) Instead of having a group of people who were demoralized and scared of what lay ahead, we had a team of invigorated and motivated people who performed at an even higher level than we had in the past.
So my question to you is this: Are you sitting around anxiously waiting to see what Santa will be leaving for you under the IT tree? Or, are you busy elves, driving the agenda at your enterprise "North Pole"?
Before I sign off, I would like to take advantage of this forum to thank the talented and dedicated members of my team who have made this our best year ever. I hope that all of you are blessed to work with such amazing people. Wishing you happy holidays and a successful 2011.
Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com
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