Links for May 4 2014

Time to rethink your business model

Quote: If your business model is so obsolete that the only way to make money is to extract fees when your customers make mistakes, or to charge for stuff that was once free, it’s time to innovate your business model

The Future of Retail and the Cloud Wars

Quote: Retail is undergoing a massive transformation as we speak. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and apps, constantly connected customers are now able to do what was once pure fantasy. Every day, millions walk into traditional big-box retailers. After finding what they want and intend to buy, they are whipping out their iOS and Android devices and comparing in-store prices with those of online giants, most notably Amazon. If the price is lower online, then they make their purchases via their smartphones and promptly leave the store.

Why You Need to Be Focused on Agile Marketing

Quote: Agile marketing requires people to change the way they do things and to quit doing them, or thinking them, because that’s the way they’ve always done it or thought it. That means tossing conventions and personal opinions out the window and relying on what your data shows you (i.e. we tested this x number of times and here’s what our users told us) to drive strategies.

Amtrak’s CIO Changes The IT Culture In The First 100 Days

Quote: The key has been clear and consistent communication and delivering on my commitments to both the IT team and the business. Since the beginning of my tenure at Amtrak, I have held a town hall meeting every other month. It is important to maintain the dialogue with the entire group. During my second town hall, I communicated the IT strategy, and in each subsequent meeting, I have reiterated that plan and highlighted progress against it. Again the key is transparency. I also leave plenty of time for questions because I want people to feel comfortable asking me questions, and I want the entire team to hear the answers to those questions.

3 Critical Competencies of the Modern CIO

Quote: Garnering your CEO support may be the most critical CIO skill of all. Developing and deploying an IT strategy is really about driving operational change. How can you build an integrated data strategy and deploy an ERP if everyone hasn’t bought into the change? If the CIO is not anointed by the CEO as someone with the authority to drive operational change, he will have a tough time overcoming resistance, when the resistance is particularly high.

When Will We Stop Talking About The Technology?

Quote: Confusing Innovation and Technology limits us. Technologies are easily copyable. Business models, business process, and particularly human engagement are far more difficult to copy and get right. Look at any of the examples cited above. Their Innovations are very public, there’s nothing secret about them, yet there are few who have “copied them,” achieving the same levels of success.

Links for April 27 2014

Shadow IT: Far Bigger, Less Manageable And More Important Than You Think

Quote: Even when lines of business initiate technology purchases, it is increasingly including IT. So for the CIO worried about Shadow IT and the developers that foster it, don’t. Even with the rise of DevOps, those developers more often than not are happy to collaborate with IT in the ongoing maintenance of applications; they simply don’t want to be blocked from starting on such projects.

Can CIOs lead digital innovation?

Quote:But leading digital innovation is more than just having sufficient time to focus on the subject. Whilst the CIO came out top of the list of roles that should lead digital innovation in the Gartner report, CEOs also highlighted that many other roles should be heavily involved in leading digital initiatives. In other words, CEOs see digital as a team activity. This is not surprising given that digital spans the entire business. To successfully transform the organisation, all members of the leadership team need to work together to create the holistic and joined-up approach that is essential to being a digital business.

Mental Model: Complex Adaptive Systems

Quote: Thus, behavioral dynamics indicate a key difference between weather and climate, and between systems that are simply complex and those that are also adaptive. Failure to use higher-order thinking when considering outcomes in adaptive systems is a common cause of overconfidence in prediction making.

What Hemingway would say to the CIO on Customer Engagement

Quote: Try to move outside of your role as an IT person, or BI, or Data Scientist, or CIO, for a moment, and put yourself in your civilian clothes talking to your bank, or consider the products, services, offers, or treatment that you have received in a clinic, or a retail store, or car dealer, at a government office or a university. Does it feel like they have been ‘listening’ to you across the years as your needs have changed and your income gone up or down or family situation evolved? If you are anything like the author, the answer is, ‘no.’ A resounding ‘no.’

Conditions where innovation thrives

Quote: But what this may point out is that innovation in more heavily regulated firms will move more slowly in the areas where products and services are regulated, but there may be opportunities in any industry that reflect what Google is doing.  Increasingly more data is digital and available on the web.  Can any industry create value on the web, where the regulations are lower, the development times are shorter and the willingness to experiment far greater?  I think the answer in many cases is “yes”, but it may take a mindset change in order to identify these areas of innovation possibility.

Links for April 6 2014

16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General
Quote: Rank, authority, and even responsibility can be inherited or assigned, whether or not an individual desires or deserves them. Even the mantle of leadership occasionally falls to people who haven’t sought it. But actually leading is different. A leader decides to accept responsibility for others in a way that assumes stewardship of their hopes, their dreams, and sometimes their very lives. It can be a crushing burden, but I found it an indescribable honor.

Why We Miss Creative Ideas That Are Right Under Our Noses
Quote: Creativity and innovation in organizations is inherently difficult. In part, because the people who make decisions tend to be the people with the most experience. That experience helps you spot big mistakes but it also makes it harder for you to “recognize out of the box possibilities” or do something that might go against how your organization makes money today

Oh I See (CIO Inverted): The King is dead, long live the king
Quote: The future belongs to the enterprise which has mastered the art and science of consistently finding needles in the haystack of data. The individual who can make this happen shall be anointed the new high priest; only time will tell whether s/he will be the Chief Digital Officer or the Data Scientist or the CIO making a transition to becoming the orchestrator of such services. It is certain that sooner or later this will become commoditized and challenge the adopters to find new differentiators sooner than later.

IA is Not New
Quote: But what I am saying is that 90% of the ground we’re “breaking” has already been broken. And if we took a second to look, we’d understand that we’re really just standing on the shoulders of giants.

How do you define the CIO role?

definitionWhile doing a bit of research on the role of the CIO for an article I was writing earlier this week, I ran across this definition of Chief Information Officer from Gartner:

The person responsible for planning, choosing, buying and installing a company’s computer and information-processing operation.

After reading that, I had to check the calendar to make sure that I didn’t invent a time-machine and travel back to the 1970’s. Once I realized that I was safe and sound in 2014, I had to think long and hard about why an organization like Gartner would define the CIO as such.

The only logical answer I could come up with was that someone in Gartner’s web content team forgot to update that particular page sometime in the last century.  That…or the role of the CIO is in more danger than any of us realized.

Let’s assume, for sake of discussion, that the role of the CIO is, in fact, defined as someone responsible for planning, buying and installing computers and processing systems. If this is true, then CIO’s are nothing more than operational figure-heads and we’ll never see CIO’s make it into the boardroom or into any leadership position outside of IT.

But wait…isn’t that what CIO’s are fighting for? More visibility and leadership roles?  Aren’t many CIO’s and IT professionals vying for more business-focused jobs to try to bring more value through technology to companies?

It does make me wonder about the long-term value of the CIO role with a company like Gartner defining it the way they have.  There is a great deal of talk about the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) taking more and more budget from IT. There are many people talking about new roles like the Chief Data Officer (CDO) and Cheif Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO)…perhaps these people are perfectly fine with Gartner’s definition of the CIO.

Maybe these folks want to see the CIO and the IT group  remain in their operational role and stay out of the board room. Or…perhaps these people are talking about these new roles because they have to. Maybe CIO’s are perfectly fine being defined in this manner – but most CIO’s that I know and work with would be horrified to have their role defined in such a narrow manner.

For the record, my definition of the CIO is:

The person responsible for driving business value through the use of technology.  Acts as a consultant and leader at the intersections of technology, business and customer value.

How do you define the CIO role?

The New CIO – Leader first, technologist second

bigstock-Think-About-Leadership-39370759I’ve been writing about the “New CIO”  for almost 5 years and I finally feel like there’s some real change coming to the CIO role and subsequently, to the world of the IT Pro.

For example, Dion Hinchcliffe recently outlined his thoughts on The New CIO Mandate.  In that post, he describes his ‘Five Elements of the New CIO’ as:

  • Lead the business from the front.
  • Re-invent the business for next-generation digital.
  • Create new and highly engaging digital workplace, customer, and business partner experiences.
  • Enable emergent, decentralized tech change in the organization.
  • Don’t constrain IT, fundamentally empower.

All good elements for CIO’s to focus on.

You’ll notice that there’s nothing in there about technology specifically. There’s nothing in there about ‘buzzwords’ and ‘trends’.  There’s nothing there about ‘process’ or ‘cloud’ or ‘big data’.

These five elements are focused on leadership.  Pure and simple.  The New CIO is a leader. Not a technical leader….just a leader.  Obviously, a good CIO will need to understand the high-level aspects of their team and the systems and processes they use, but the focus of the New CIO has to be on the business and delivering business value.

I’m happy to see other folks out there talking about the ‘new CIO’ and the need for the CIO to move into a real, proper leadership role.  Now…its time for CIO’s to heed the advice and step up and lead.

It is time to stop blaming others

Stop_sign_pageWhile having my morning coffee this morning, I was reading through my emails and caught Martha Heller’s “The Heller Report”.  Martha’s report is one of the few newsletters that I always open and read – it is that good (you should sign up).

The first item in the newsletter was an article by Chris Van Liew, Chief Information Officer, Weyerhaeuser Company titled CIO Says “I’m to Blame” if Vendors Don’t Deliver.  I was excited to see this title…because I rarely see anyone in any leadership role willing to take the blame for failure.

In the article, Chris writes:

Why do I suggest that most persistent IT supplier issues, in particular the ones that involve an IT supplier’s sales team, are my fault?  Because it’s up to me to ensure that I create incentives for the right behaviors. In other words, if I want my IT supplier to work well with me, it is up to me to create the business and relational landscape where every IT supplier who wants to do business with me sees no other viable alternative but to provide the right product or service at the right quality and price.

Well said.

While there are times when you can place blame on vendors for failure, the majority of the time, failure can be traced back to a failure on the side of the IT group.  Generally, when something goes wrong, people try to find blame with their vendor and/or partners. It is always someone else’s fault, but it really isn’t.

The role of any leader is to provide leadership, and that is exactly what Chris is pointing out in his article. He views himself as responsible for all things whether they are a success or a failure.

Additionally, Chris believes that as CIO’s, we need to ‘be the change we want to see’. Rather than complaining that our vendor’s aren’t transforming into the type of partner we want, we should show them the type of partner they need to be. Chris writes:

So we should not expect our IT supplier sales reps or the IT suppliers themselves to change until we as CIO’s change first. Here’s a list of some of the ways, in no particular order, that CIO’s can change themselves and their organizations to create an operating environment where their IT suppliers will partner in a predictably productive fashion.


To change our vendor’s, we need to change ourselves. Chris provides an excellent list of approaches that might help CIO’s and IT groups change for the better, which in turn will help vendor’s change for the better.

Jump over and read the article…I think you’ll be glad you did.

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