Effective IT Leadership
This month, I’ve been reading some really good articles and books on IT Leadership and Project Management, including several books by Bob Lewis, author of Keep the Joint Running.
If you consider yourself an IT Leader, you could do much, much worse than to purchase one or more of the books you find on his website, and then apply some of the concepts. I highly recommend them for the following reasons:
- They’re insightful, yet extremely practical
- They’re an easy read: serious, but not dry
- Each book is clear and concise
Quite frankly, there is not enough effective leadership on the planet in general, much less effective IT leadership. Too many people still see IT as an annoying cost center, even though for a great many organizations in the 21st century, it is the central nervous system upon which all other business units rely. The members of IT, especially the IT leader, have the advantage of seeing virtually all aspects of the business, because so many elements of the business run through IT. (In fact, in many organizations, IT is more concerned about the success of all business units equally, while some business unit heads are concerned only about their own unit.)
This vantage point should give the savvy IT leader an opportunity – several opportunities in fact – to recommend and drive improvements in overall business process, and facilitate revenue growth. But it takes time and energy to apply IT in this fashion. A clear and effective prioritization process is required to ensure that the right energies of scarce resources are focused on the right problems, delivering the best overall value.
In the January 1, 2009 edition of CIO magazine, the point is repeatedly made that IT leaders who are not driving real business improvement will swiftly become former IT leaders. This requires a broad set of skills. Rather than complaining about how much more the CIO is expected to understand in order to be effective and respected within the organization (as compared to other business leaders), IT leaders need to seize the opportunity to take their organizations to another level, setting themselves on a better career path at the same time.
As IT leaders, we are called to provide value through technology. This isn’t just a matter of installing the latest, coolest toys. Rather, we need to intelligently focus our energies on improving workflow, building key partnership inside and outside of the organization, and synchronizing efforts within the organization towards a common goal of improved revenue, lowered costs and/or greater efficiency. And let’s not forget about security or compliance. These are both key areas that can undermine revenue and bloat operating expenses, when addressed as afterthoughts rather than in a proactive manner. We cannot afford to jeopardize our businesses in this fashion, undermining our credibility at the same time.
If you do not understand the business or IT’s value to it, you will not be able to adequately communicate that value, and you will find yourself under constant attack by other business leaders who are fighting for the same pool of scarce financial and personnel resources. This brutal economy is going to weed out ineffective leaders and ineffective organizations. Those leaders who are able to successfully communicate the business value of IT, and can provide strategic leadership to IT and the organization as a whole, will be the ones that take themselves, their teams and their organizations to another level. They will be able to weather the storm.
A downturn is an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack – if you are prepared. Ready or not, here it comes. Separate or be separated…