Friday, March 30, 2012

Creating the balance _|_ (Part Two)

<<Continuing from Part One>>

As the success and market cap of Apple (great tangible experience) and failure of RIM/Blackberry (terrible tangible experience) indicate, people relate best to technology and IT when they can hold it, play with it, and take it with them.  Therefore, many times the goodwill that IT generates for itself is done indirectly.

I could give numerous examples but let me just focus on one.  Between 2008-10, as a CIO I needed several millions of dollars to do some very necessary but exceedingly boring (to a non-IT person) projects.  These projects were focused on core network upgrades, negotiating and implementing new enterprise software licenses, and the testing of new products that were in our "skunkworks" team pipeline.  I didn't always have a good business case with a fancy ROI, but I felt in my gut that they needed to be done.  I knew that with the projects completed, my company would be much more competitive and profitable. And don't get me wrong, the justifications and ROI projections were created and they were quite positive, but as a story to my stakeholders they read just like the script from "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy".  Solid material but the equivalent of Ambien in paper form.

Rather than try to go through a business case cycle where I calculated elaborate ROIs, relational linkages to our weighted-average-cost-of-capital (WACC), and developed extensive work breakdown structures, I tried a different approach.  I identified several personalized pieces of technology, all of it familiar stuff by now - iPhones, iPads, Samsung Galaxy phones, Microsoft Home Use Program (HUP), Desktop Virtualization by Citrix (a whole other conversation), and mobile wireless hotspots that could work anywhere (for people in cars or with no wired Internet connections at their rural residences).  I matched this technology up with key executives in a way that I could make each of their lives more productive, connected, and fun.  Each instance was personalized to the individual.

There was no "quid pro quo" involved, just a general exercise on my part to build goodwill and political capital.  The benefit to doing all of these things for each individual is that each outreach built trust between them, individually, and me.   They could see that I was working hard to utilize technology to the benefit of the company, but in a way in which they could specifically relate.  That translated into real political capital that made it possible for me to gain support and approval for critical projects that might have never been realized if I had approached their actualization through traditional means.

IT leaders must always understand that technology is intricately entwined with emotion.  Take it from me:  If you always work to "Create the balance" your career will be blessed with much less friction.

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