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 We are so focused on doing – that we forget where we are going.”

Yesterday, the Swedish national football team played a decisive qualifying game against Portugal and lost. Hence, Portugal will travel to Brazil to participate in the 2014 World Cup – and Sweden will not. It was interesting to listen to the comments from the Swedish players and head coach after the game – and their total focus on the game. All distractions and negative thoughts were removed from the players to allow 100% concentration on their game objective – to beat Portugal and qualify for the World Cup. But how is it in “real life” in the IT organization? Do we have focus of IT objectives in creating business success? Are we free from distractions and negative thoughts?

The question about CIO focus hit me a couple of weeks ago when I talked to an old friend in a senior position at an IT organization. He described a situation of organizational fatigue where the organization is overwhelmed by changing business demand, cost reduction, unclear focus and a continuous reduction in staff. His conclusion was that there was no time for reflection or direction but only on doing – and that was a problem. How do we know we are working in the right direction? Who got the complete picture?

I did a very unscientific research and call a few other IT organizations to understand their stress level and what was causing the stress. The conclusion from the unscientific research was that CIOs and IT organizations are overwhelmed by work, and approximately 70% of the CIO was locked into contract re-negotiations, ERP launches, and sourcing set-ups. Activities in essence focusing on cost reduction through an Operational Excellence approach. Build long-term governance and process structures to reduce cost in the long run.

The conclusions of the unscientific research raise more questions than it answered.

  1. What is the role of a CIO in these organizations? A program manager or a business driver?
  2. Who is actually setting the direction and focus for the IT organization and driving the change agenda?
  3. Is Operational Excellence really the right approach in a business landscape driven by digitalization and increased unpredictability?
  4. Why is the CIO caught running all these operational activities?
  5. How does business react to this situation – with decreased business value creation?

These are obviously difficult questions to answer. Nevertheless, if you never have time to reflect – then you don’t have time to ask these questions and achieve change. The situation is quite easy to understand. First, many CIOs have a technical background building a career on mastering large programs, outsourcings and EPR systems implementation and like (and are hired) to focus on where they are most comfortable. Secondly, the task to understanding the IT and business trends, setting a direction and driving transforming and performance is demand different skills and is often underestimated. How difficult can it be with all consultants giving advice?  We need to show that we take action! Progression before direction!

“If you find yourself in a hole – stop digging!” – Denis Healey: First law of holes

The consequence of this behavior is devastating. Primarily because the business and IT landscape is changing rapidly with the breakthrough of digitization and increased unpredictability. As Gartner puts it: the future of the company rest in the IT organization and its ability to support business in sustaining competitive advantage. This new environment demands much higher focus on steering the IT organization in the right direction and supporting change to unleash performance. It will take time from the CIO and the IT organization! It will demand different skills and insights. It demands a CIO not caught in operational implementations and re-negotiations. The successful CIOs are the ones that can drive a business agenda in IT from a holistic level with great leadership – allowed to climb out of the hole and see the horizon.

Recommendations:

  1. Define what is important in your role to create business success. Set time in agenda to reflect and carry out these tasks in high focus with no distractions! Time management!
  2. Considering bringing in people to manage the service (performance management) with focus and experience to drive direction of organization (service offering of The Goodwind Company – give us a call!).
  3. Delegate the program manager and contract negotiator role to someone else. This is not supporting business value creation in an unpredictable environment.

It is the privilege of sportsmen to completely focus on their tasks and not really a reality in our everyday life.  We are overwhelmed by information, demand from work and family, and a quest for success. But what is important is define how to be successful (what does this mean for you) and focus you time on where to get the best effects and value. As someone said – “the biggest threat to success are interior designers and plumbers”. Distractions you cannot get rid of.

Hans Legend 1