Technology Negotiations are Still Hard

Technology negotiations are different from other business deals and this has not changed much in spite of the increased digital literacy of our business colleagues.  As Lawrence Susskind wrote in a 2006 Harvard Business Review article, four problems routinely crop up in digital technology negotiations that are not as likely to arise in negotiations that are less digitally complex:

  • The complexity of the other systems that the negotiated product must fit.
  • The uncertainty of how the product will perform in a particular business environment.
  • The egos of the system advocates who feel they have a vested interest in the outcomes.
  • The organizational change involved for the various affected departments.

And one more, based on my experience as a CIO and project manager for many years:

  • The difficulty acquiring intelligence on what is the right price. Software vendors generally give deep discounts; sometimes approaching 95% of list and without deep digital technology relationships you may leave some on the table.

Consider that as a digital technology leader you possess the knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape.  Also consider that if you have earned the trust needed to be an advisor, you can fill the role of consiglieri to the technology advocates before during and after the negotiations to mitigate the uncertainty, ego and organizational change complications and get what is best for the organization.


Crossroads of Control vs. Digital cont.

In my last post, Crossroads of Control vs. Digital, I said would discuss the next logical questions for an IT leader.  The first of which is “How do you embrace this “new world order” without having everyone in the business do their own thing, with little consideration for overall company mission & best practices?”   News Flash: Folks are doing their own thing already.  Embrace it and become an enabler, nay, a leader of a bottom-up, federated technology department focused not on control but on driving productivity and value.

To be successful this will begin at home with what is the biggest impediment – your team.  Your team is accustomed to having control.  You will need to educate them on the new ways and integrate them back into the business.  This means three things.

  • Solid multi-layer governance led not by IT but by the departments in your business.
  • A keen focus on enterprise architecture not to be confused with technical architecture.
  • And perhaps most importantly, immersion of the technologists at the individual level into the various business departments in a way that is a conduit for understanding and influence.

You may feel you are giving up the control, but that perceived control comes with sub-optimal productivity, sub-optimal meeting of customer demand, sub-optimal profits or surpluses and sub-optimal sustainability.  The reward of improved productivity, improved morale, meeting customer demands and bottom line improvements will be worth the short term discomfort.


Crossroads of Control vs. Power

“The technology for digital business is stateless and loosely-coupled, not stateful and closely-coupled like IT.”  This quote from Andy Mulholland, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, caught my attention because it captures a paradigm shift that most IT leaders struggle to embrace.

There is a sense of security in the technology control processes that IT created due to a lack of digital literacy within businesses in the past.  Today, however, digital literacy is universal within not only businesses, but society at large.  The challenge to IT leaders today?  Embrace the stateless and loosely-coupled nature of digital business by creating the required relationship networks.  The reward will be a new sense of power that not only improves their ability to deliver on their mission, but will result in better job satisfaction for their teams.

In my next post, I will discuss the next logical questions for an IT leader:

  • How do you embrace this “new world order” without having everyone in the business do their own thing, with little consideration for overall company mission & best practices?
  • And how do you prevent the business from getting abused and taken advantage of by the technology vendors that love nothing more than having business “go around IT” and work directly with them?

Business teams definitely know more about technology than they did 50 years ago, but do they know enough to make solid decisions about complex technology on their own?  Now, more than ever, is the time for IT leaders to show a healthy respect for business leaders’ interests while positioning themselves as trusted advisors and experts.

Why CIOs Get (Deserve?) A Bad Rep

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen several articles about the challenges with and for CIOs: How CIOs are the obstacle to the missions of business executives; how CIOs and CMOs need to learn to work together; and even articles asking ‘Whose business is IT?’.  Examples include these posts by Michael Krigsman: “CIO and IT Leaders: YOU hold the burden of proof”, and “McKinsey research: IT needs a kick in the keister”.

Sadly, this is not a new discussion.  In 1996, when I came over to IT from an engineering department to implement SAP and lead the IT team, there was discussion about aligning IT with the business.  As someone who came from the business side of the organization, the conversation made no sense to me then, nor does it now.  Alignment implies separate but parallel paths.  What we need is synergy – “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects”.

This lack of synergy is caused largely by two sets of behaviors.

The first is the CIO and the IT team being focused on technology as opposed to the business they’re in.  Even if a CIO embodies the principles of engagement and business-immersion, it can take years to turn the ship – it requires changing the culture of the IT team so that every technology staff member sees his or her work in the context of the business.  AND it means earning the trust of business leaders and establishing work patterns that foster collaboration and co-design.

The second set of behaviors is a vicious cycle caused by the CIO, the technology team, and the business not understanding each other.  While it’s generally accepted that IT professionals need to understand the business they’re serving and communicate in their peers’ language, I believe it’s a two-way street.

CIO’s are ultimately involved in all facets of the business.  Is it too much to ask that the other areas of the organization expend some time and effort  to understand technology? Or are business colleagues too fatigued from the nonsensical alignment conversation and have simply given up on the CIO?

What do you think?