Business Issues, CIO Leadership, Technology, IT Performance

3 Steps to Harness Change for Competitive Advantage

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The ability to change is fundamental to achieving and sustaining a competitive advantage. However, change can be expensive in more ways than one, especially for technologists and the business units that invest in change.

While the first key to Agile IT governance is a focus on stakeholder satisfactionthe second key is the ability to harness change for competitive advantage.This can be a complex challenge for CIOs who have their hands full keeping legacy environments operational and managing constant pressure on their budgets while facing expectations to deliver innovation.

Harnessing change can be tactically achieved by taking three steps:

1:Make Small Investments in Innovative Skunkworks Projects

CIOs have a lot of new technologies to choose from, and it can make Agile IT governance difficult. Incumbent vendors are trying to sell them on new versions of existing products, while new vendors are trying to earn their spot on the procurement rung. Performance can only be tested one way—hands on, with specific business use cases that measure tangible, and quantifiable business benefits.

Tests require resources, and most CIOs don’t have excess resources to spare. However, there are always many people on any IT team who would love to contribute their spare time to projects that let them test cool new technologies. Alternatively, allowing the team to focus on innovative skunkworks projects one day per week can be a great reward and retention mechanism for top-performing engineers, who are infamous for leaving to join start-ups.

2:Change IT Strategy to Align with Changes in Business Strategy

It is the CIO’s responsibility to understand how innovation impacts business strategy and communicate it to business stakeholders in a manner they understand.
An effective way to bridge the gap is to analyze the business plans that are published annually by business unit leaders for the C-suite and approved as business drivers for technology budgets. These plans, in aggregate, communicate the organization’s business strategy. One technology innovation may impact multiple business drivers on business plans for multiple business units. Therefore, defining a technology strategy that encourages the right tactical execution behavior within the teams that the CIOs deputies manage can prove critical in how a CIO’s performance is measured.

3: Build a Culture That Embraces Change
Change can sometimes be difficult for technologists to embrace, since not all change is viewed as being positive. If key employees have built years of expertise in a set of technologies, and the technology strategy mandates migrating to a different stack, these employees may feel alienated and resist the change. Games of change can be a fun but powerful way to get employees to think about and accept out-of-the-box solutions. Awarding wacky prizes to those who think of clever ways to (theoretically) solve nagging business problems keeps employees “familiar” with change while keeping them focused and engaged.

A conscious, concerted effort to build a culture that embraces change is critical to Agile IT Governance. The cascading results will surface in the form of employees who carefully propose changes to technology solutions that have a meaningful, positive impact on the future of the company. Above all, a culture that embraces change can prove to be a powerful harbinger of competitive advantage.

Tags: CIO

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