How to increase credibility with executives through greater transparency
- 10 December, 2019 09:58
David Banger: Be open and be prepared to talk about everything – what’s gone well and not so well.
The intersect of traditional technologies and new ‘digital’ solutions presents perhaps the most significant opportunity for mainstream tech chiefs and their teams than ever.
How can a CIO or equivalent gain confidence from their executive peer group to play a vital role or even lead this frontier? Through initially through focusing on the fundamentals, establishing and maintaining the basics with regular communication that offers clarity without the complexity.
When budgets are often broken down by department and service, the numbers become blurred. Set out to rank these from the most expensive through to the least (1 to 10 or 1 to 20) and include commentary when this item was last reviewed or is to be evaluated (i.e. through an activity like a vendor negotiation).
Include total labour as a separate line item. Be prepared to discuss labour; the technology industry is undergoing unprecedented change, the expertise for the future will be different from today. The resources for a regular technology function are expected to reduce as automation opportunities increase. Avoid shying away from this; if it’s not planned to be shared, it soon will be asked by somebody so be prepared.
What are the number and percentage of people working within each technical domain? What was the last year and what will be next year? Those working in the field of “infrastructure” (data centres, servers, etc.) should be declining, and those areas in emerging domains (i.e. data science) should increase. Percentages are essential for areas with few people, use both numbers and percentages.
What are the resource bottlenecks? What was addressed, and what will be? How is the talent within the traditional technology areas transitioning into the emerging capability required? Many people within technology organisations align culturally to their organisation and are intellectually capable; however, they are not mentored. Proper mentoring offers someone insight and opportunity into how they could make a more significant contribution.
Provide leaders with mentoring training. Enable and encourage them to have regular, meaningful conversations with talented people across the technology function. Once these conversations occur, people generally think more and make more meaningful choices about what they would like to learn and do next. Somebody’s decision is an excellent motivator for learning and applying the acquired skill.
What is the list of initiatives (i.e. change), beyond services the technology team delivers (i.e. run)? Some executives prefer alternatives to the terms run and change, what is the language most suitable for your organisation? What are the business priorities, and how can the technology team contribute? These priorities may not be projects; they could be items added to an Agile team’s backlog.
Avoid immediately committing to undertaking these priorities as they arise. Stack rank them based on a range of criteria and make this process visible. This list will be dynamic, and it will need to be maintained, this responsibility should fall to a single person or a small group. The risk in this process is that things may slow down to ultimately go faster, potentially stopping some activities. Before stopping anything, consider:
Accelerating items that are two-thirds complete; adopt and an approach of an air traffic controller clearing the skies.
Integrate initiatives; often, there is a similar request from different areas. For items that need to be stopped, openly communicate the assessment process and the list of the more critical initiatives.
Transparency builds trust and then empathy. CIOs avoid seeking understanding and empathy when there is no transparency as this could be a credibility killer! What is currently being made visible by your technology team to the broader organisation?
Is this information six font line items in an excel spreadsheet showing availability? Is there any commentary offered? Is this information easily accessible? How regularly is it shared? Does this information reconcile with other functions, such as Finance and Human Resources? Are you reporting by exception?
Beyond the operational metrics generally available within a technology function, start regularly sharing information on cost, capability and criticality with commentary. Be open and be prepared to talk about everything – what’s gone well and not so well. By taking the time to offer commentary on the numbers, actions underway and expected results, there is transparency and the opportunity for understanding.
David Banger is an adjunct professor, digital advisor and founder of CHANGE lead | Practical Digital. David works with organisations, their executive and technology teams to realise their digital potential. He is the author of DIGITAL IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS | A guide to transition ($38.88). For more information about how David can help you visit www.davidbanger.com.