Leadership & People

Positive change starts from the top. Great leadership drives teams to succeed, defines a positive culture and inspires the leaders of tomorrow. 

Much is written about what makes a good leader, and no one recipe or formula exists. The challenges facing our current and upcoming leaders vary wildly.

How teams thrive while dealing with internal politics, external ideas and failure are complex challenges every leader must learn to manage. You don’t have to do it alone.

IBRS is comprised of many ex-CIOs with a wealth of knowledge that can provide mentoring and advice to current and aspiring leaders. Our career development, networking and thought leadership resources help leaders solve problems and create workplace cultures geared towards success and satisfaction.

Conclusion: Many organisations are engaged in implementing digital transformation programs to provide enhanced customer services, e. g. with new products or to reduce operating costs, or both. Unfortunately, many programs fail, sometimes repeatedly, until they achieve their set objectives. What is important though is when failure occurs, use the lessons learned to try again.

Delivering a transformed organisation is hard as it is inevitably accompanied by:

  • Redesigning business processes to meet today’s business imperatives
  • Implementing enhanced information systems
  • Encouraging employees to acquire new skills and be innovative
  • Actively minimising the business risks

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Conclusion: Estimating the workdays for an agile- or waterfall-based IT project is not a simple task. However, with effort and a disciplined people-focused approach, it can be turned from an art into, as close as possible, a science.

When the effort is made, management will become more comfortable with the resources needed to complete projects and avoid the unpleasant task of asking for more resources than expected due to flawed estimating.

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Conclusion: Due to the pandemic and economic decline, politically astute IT managers will need all their selling skills to get one-off IT infrastructure proposals approved. Not only is this due to a decline in earned revenue or grants, but also because procurement involves paying cash to vendors.

IT managers may need to ‘walk the talk’ to convince decision makers to support IT infrastructure investment proposals. In an environment where demand exceeds supply, and competition for scarce resources is high, the need to sell the proposal is probably an organisational political necessity.

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Conclusion: Working remotely has become the default option for most companies in the new normal setup. Although this has led to rising demand in technological tools and IT systems, it is unlikely the tech industry will be spared widespread job cuts – already such cuts are being seen in some industry sectors. With the world bracing for recession, companies are cutting down on costs and tightening budgets wherever they can.

Understandably, the current state of job insecurity is creating anxiety in employees who have retained their jobs. IT staff are justifiably feeling insecure and this is likely to affect some employees’ work performance. Such anxiety is a major issue that needs to be recognised and addressed quickly and effectively in order to enable the company to maximise its existing resources both during the economic downturn and as it starts to grow again.

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IBRS advisor Dr. Joseph Sweeney discusses why it falls to individuals to look at improving their work in a post-COVID world. Dr. Sweeney comments on the need to build a culture of innovation that empowers employees to understand where improvement is needed in their job.

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Conclusion: To prepare for the inevitable questioning by senior management of whether an expense line item can be reduced, management must review its breakdown and be prepared to justify it to senior management when asked. Responses must highlight the business risks that will ensue should a selected expense line item in the ICT opex (operating) and capex (capital) expense budgets be reduced. Failing to frame the response in business (risks) terms could delay the review and reflect poorly on ICT management.

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skillsConclusion: Since the rise of personal computing in the 1970s, organisations have focused on acquiring digital tools and, since the late 1990s, on promoting digital skills. While we are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where digital skills are essential, the so-called soft skills of employees also need to be constantly updated and upgraded.

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Conclusion: Scenario planning is a formal approach for developing and exploring possible future situations or marketplace environments. It allows organisations to be more flexible and agile by considering the possibilities for change. It helps organisations – and for the focus of this paper, the ICT teams – identify the environmental uncertainties and allows ICT to prepare proactively instead of reactively.

ICT executives should leverage scenario planning activities to help with post-pandemic planning, preparing advice for the board with the organisation’s readiness to react to possible changes in the market, and also as a morale and team-building activity.

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Conclusion: Creating an environment in which IT and business professionals can adapt to a new and remote (also known as alternate work) environment will test the ingenuity of many senior managers.

To meet the challenge, managers must help their staff avoid being anxious and isolated and enable them to easily access their peers for advice and guidance. Failure to keep contact could lead to a decline in productivity and staff not feeling part of the team. Alternately, not having to travel to work sites and work prescribed hours can be a blessing for others.

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Conclusion: Organisations should tap into their management team (department heads, managers and team leaders) to keep their working-from-home employees committed to the organisation. These organisational leaders have the most direct relationships and therefore are the most qualified to invite engagement from employees and other stakeholders. However, new models for engaging and measuring employees are needed that reflect the shift to virtual teams and virtual management: there is a shift from managing by activity to managing by trust.

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Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is sweeping across the globe and is being felt by every individual and every organisation. By its very nature, the COVID-19 crisis is global in scope, indefinite in its duration and unknown in its long-term impact. Given the reliance of organisations on their ICT services, particularly at this point in time, CIOs have a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution, showcase their leadership capability and enhance the long-term brand of their ICT teams. All too often under the pressure of a crisis, CIOs will focus on tasks as opposed to the softer elements of leadership. The opportunities this crisis presents should not be wasted. Your leadership is on show.

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Conclusion: When cost cutting of IT services is on the executive agenda, due to the impact of COVID-19 virus, will it yield low hanging or sour fruit? One area often regarded as low hanging fruit is the amalgamation of SPOC (single point of contact) activities, viz. help desk, service centre and contact or call centre. Combining them is a compelling proposition and demands an informed response.

Put simply, the logic used by management, seeking to amalgamate and reduce costs, is:

  • Similar skills are required so staff can be co-located
  • Staff can become multi-skilled and resolve incidents or software failures of internal (service desk and help desk) and external clients
  • Office space used now will be reduced and by combining the functions
  • Headcount savings will ensue

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Conclusion: Organisations will typically have employees of different cultural backgrounds. As teams expand and organisations become more global, managers may find themselves managing whole teams based in countries other than their own. A lot of the time, management will by necessity have to be done remotely.

Managers need to be very aware that management cultural diversity needs to be considered, especially in areas such as communication, decision making, coaching, support and dealing with any issues or conflicts. Trust is a key element of successful manager/employee engagement and is critical when managing remote teams who may have significant management cultural differences.

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Conclusion: While there is no perfect approach to restructuring an IT services department, there are fundamental principles (set out below) that must be followed, to get it right first time. If these principles are not followed, staff resistance to the changes proposed could impact staff morale.

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Conclusion: There are many benefits in taking a break during the holidays that go beyond just recharging the batteries. However, along with the seemingly obvious benefits, there are also some traps for the unwary. On the flip side, there are some benefits to working in the office during the quieter periods, so take time to prepare and plan for the holiday period: develop sound strategies for all staff and above all, be authentic with setting expectations.

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Conclusion: A recent Harvard business review article1 reinforced the view that meetings have increased in length and frequency over time from 20 % to nearly 50 % of the working week. This time does not include the planning, reading and preparation of those meeting. Executives such as CIOs or similar should spend some time assessing how effective meetings are in their organisation to return the valuable commodity of time to all and reap the benefits.

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Conclusion: Hiring is costly, time-consuming and fraught with risk. Hiring decisions can impact organisations in either positive or negative ways. A critical step in the hiring process is onboarding. First impressions matter and new hires need to be made to feel welcome, engaged and enabled to ensure they can settle in quickly and are able to start contributing as quickly as possible.

Given that a critical issue in Australia is the availability of highly-sought-after IT skills1, it is particularly important that organisations can attract and retain the IT skills needed to support the business. Of course, successful onboarding is important in all aspects of an organisation.

Onboarding should be a clearly defined process with a checklist of exactly what should be done, and what should be repeated for every new hire. The process starts before the employee’s first day and extends to a period after the employee’s first day, possibly up to six or even 12 months.

Successful onboarding is not just HR’s responsibility but the responsibility of every hiring manager or supervisor, and their colleagues. And success will be judged by the employees in how well the process made them feel welcomed, helped them understand their role and engaged them, and contributed to their productivity. Lower turnover rates should also be a goal of improving onboarding.

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"Emerging HR tech solutions striving to improve hiring outcomes" IBRS, 2019-10-02 01:12:47

"Tech companies tapping into high performing workforce candidates" IBRS, 2018-10-04 13:11:39

"Work for managers that hire you" IBRS, 2019-07-05 01:01:33

Conclusion: Taking the guesswork out of capacity planning by making an informed forecast of demand for computing and support resources for the strategic capacity plan is an ongoing challenge for IT professionals and managers. Reputational damage can ensue when resources are either under or overestimated and there are claims that guesswork was employed.

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Conclusion: Analysts in general are correct to identify the challenges in the industry to develop appropriate skills, meet the demands of digitisation and to counter the security threats. When it is distilled down it is all about the business. The CIO is supporting business outcomes which will need specific technology solutions, which will, in turn, drive ICT strategy. The key to success is defined by how the CIO drives the outcome. The CIO, therefore, must possess soft skills as well as technical knowledge to deliver success.

The key to success for CIOs is mastering four soft skills that allow them to achieve control of the ICT environment. Effective control will allow the CIO to deliver exemplary services in support of business today, whilst gaining support from the executive for the ICT strategy to meet the demands of tomorrow. Sounds simple but as experience has found, it is easier said than done.

The secret lies with good networking within the executive and key stakeholders, situational awareness of the ICT environment, the ability to effectively delegate with clear direction of what is to be achieved, and a communications strategy which allows for engagement by all stakeholders and escalation of issues through both technical and management channels without fear or favour.

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Conclusion: Successfully hiring new employees can bring lots of benefits to an organisation – improved productivity, employee morale or business outcomes, to name just a few. Equally, poor hiring decisions can be extremely costly to an organisation. Having to dismiss someone who was recently hired but proves to not be a good fit for the role can impact the organisation in many ways, and usually at a higher cost than the direct costs associated with the actual recruitment process.

HR tech is a rapidly growing field of software solutions that are designed to help improve the recruitment process, with the ultimate goal of helping organisations improve their hiring outcomes.

Organisations wishing to improve their hiring effectiveness or efficiency should consider the emerging new recruiting solutions and how they may help address any identified problem areas in their current recruitment efforts. But caution needs to be taken, especially for artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that may be built on historical data that results in bias, for example giving preference to particular genders.

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Conclusion: In an age-diverse workforce, it is important that IT managers and professionals understand the different expectations and management styles of stakeholders and accommodate them to gain their support for IT-related initiatives being proposed.

Without understanding the management styles and expectations of age-diverse stakeholders, a level of disconnect may occur and business relationships could slip from being of mutual benefit to transactional and ineffective.

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Conclusion: The apocryphal ‘three envelopes’ story about the executive starting a new role is a cynical view of leadership transition. However, at its core, there are some uncomfortable truths about how people respond to crises early in their leadership. Digging deeper, there are lessons to be learned from these scenarios, suggesting more productive ways to deal with these issues as they arise.

It is critical for transitioning digital leaders to understand that people, culture and politics are the most powerful forces in an organisation. An ability to manage change and form collaborative relationships is a much stronger predictor of success in a digital transformation role than any digital or technical experience.

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Conclusion: Business ethics is not a new topic. It is as old as business itself and many of the issues and questions posed during ethical considerations are just as old. Digital ethics takes a fresh look at many of these issues from a new perspective, that of a technology-enabled society and the business community. Digital capabilities introduce new complexities and challenges to the business environment. Many ethical issues arising from technology advancements cannot be solved simply. However, without addressing these matters, the business community puts itself, its customers and the community at risk. Viewing ethical issues with a technology focus and adherence to ethical principles can mitigate some of these risks.

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Conclusion: Relationships at work between managers and employees are important and can influence the success and effectiveness of individual teams or whole organisations. Both managers and employees need to understand the bias that can occur between a view a manager may take about an employee they have invested in and ‘hired’ or selected, versus an employee that is thrust upon them or that they inherit from another manager; for example, employees that join an organisation as the result of an acquisition.

When managers are ‘invested’ in the selection of employees, a relationship exists that reflects on the managers’ judgement and decision-making skills, having believed that they have made good hiring decisions. No such relationship exists when the managers have no involvement in the selection of the employees but are assigned to managing the employees.

The more that managers understand this, the better they can focus on avoiding viewing employees differently. The more that employees understand this, the better they can recognise potential issues, and work to improve their career prospects by ensuring they work for a manager that has ‘chosen’ them, or at least learnt to understand their abilities and contributions.

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Conclusion: The IT skills shortage is likely to worsen. In addition to technical skills, technology leaders and workers overwhelmingly recognise the value of creativity in the workplace, yet they lament their inability to effectively cultivate creativity. Creativity can unlock innovation in the enterprise, generate high levels of employee satisfaction, and make a significant contribution to corporate profit margins as well as national economies.

Creativity can be taught and strengthened, in individuals and in teams. Studies in neuroplasticity are demystifying the biology behind training the brain, demonstrating that even ‘set in their ways’ workers can improve their creativity – and productivity – using relatively simple techniques. Neuroscience is showing that we can still teach an old dog new tricks.

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Conclusion: Successful businesses need their people to be productive and to perform well. Effective communication may assist i.e.suring they do. Effective communication is about thought leadership, defining a purpose, informing tasking and priorities and, most importantly, listening. Opportunities that impact productivity and the fiscal performance of organisations are often lost or not fully prosecuted due to poor communication. Poor communication will result in less than optimal planning or reduced time to react, causing the need to compromise. This, in turn, results in poor prioritisation, and i.e.erything is urgent, nothing gets the appropriate focus.

To communicate effectively at the personal, work unit and organisational levels requires a level of discipline in adherence to the basic principles of effective communication, which will lay the foundation for success.

Effective communication will improve productivity, reduce risk, reduce costs and reduce time to market. Effective communication will deliver line of sight for your strategic outcomes and in doing so will be a combat multiplier for your business.

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Conclusion: With both the NSW and commonwealth parliaments passing respective Modern Slavery Acts in 20181, there are now real implications and consequences for business leaders and their suppliers who ignore the risks of slavery within their supply chains.

Unlike the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010 which applies to tangible goods offered for sale, Australian firms will need to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chain of both goods and services. This means at least 2,100 public and private firms2 have until 1 July 2019 to ask explicitly of suppliers, whether local or foreign, off-premise Cloud or on-premise device manufacturer: What are you and your organisation doing with respect to modern slavery risks?

For many organisations in Australia this will mean more than just adding new evaluation criteria to be applied to current and potential suppliers. Rather it requires providing an accurate attestation on the issue of modern slavery which will require lifting the hood on all manner of “as-a-Service” offerings. Thereby exposing aspects of service delivery that the majority of firms previously thought they no longer needed to concern themselves with, having “transferred” risks, such as those found in supply chains, to their vendor partners.

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Conclusion: Organisations are structured into business units or divisions to undertake day-to-day business activities. Technology projects are often initiated and executed with a combination of specialist technology partners, contracted specialist staff to augment staff levels and contributions from permanent staff in either a full-time or-part time capacity. Project planning and delivery approaches may take a traditional waterfall or a modern agile method. However, resource management and the effective utilisation of resources continues to be a significant problem for many organisations with critical capacity management approaches severely lacking. The implications are poor performance in terms of meeting project timeframes, significant de-scoping of project, or sprint deliverables or constant friction with business units to access resources to complete project activities. Effective resource capacity management provides an opportunity to understand the true available capacity, how to calculate the utilisation and how to plan and accommodate changes to the capacity requirements.

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Conclusion: Finding superior talent has always been a challenge, even more so now. Traditional attraction and retention strategies still have value in most situations. However, there are novel ways to think about attracting talent in a digital world, including rethinking the need to attract talent at all by rethinking the business problem.

In many cases, technical skills can be taught on the job. What is harder to teach – and is therefore highly sought after – is the triple-crown of critical thinking, creativity in problem solving and curiosity. Consider putting those three characteristics at the top of the talent wish list and adapt existing recruitment practices to identify, attract and retain the right talent.

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Conclusion: The current Business Relationship Managers mostly act as a service desk to manage the implementation of business stakeholders’ service requests. While this is an important business relationship function, the current incumbents are not engaging with business stakeholders’ strategic discussions that require the selection and implementation of new technology that can improve the business presence and performance in the market. As a result, Business Relationship Managers are not earning a “trusted advisor” status. The Business Relationship Manager’s job focus and skills should expand to promote the value of IT services that contribute to business value creation, measurement and communication. This should allow the IT organisation to become the service provider of choice.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: Cognitive bias has the potential to reduce decision-making effectiveness. Although bias can often streamline the process of coming to a decision, the quality of such decisions may suffer. In emerging technology areas such as process and decision automation, as well as in mainstream activities such as procurement and recruiting, unconscious biases can have a significant negative impact on individuals and on business outcomes.

Recognising the most common biases and the tendency for people to exercise these biases will increase the likelihood that sound, defensible decisions will be made. Critical thinking, empathy and actively seeking diversity are all strategies that can be used to manage these risks.

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IBRSiQ is a database of client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

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Conclusion: “C-suite” leaders including CIOs and IT managers must continually adapt and change their mindset to be digitally savvy in order to keep pace and influence the digital revolution at the workplace12. Failure to do so will increase risks to implement initiatives whilst harming their own careers and those under their care.

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 IBRSiQ is a database of Client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our Advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.
 

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Conclusion: Keeping the executive informed on how the ICT function is performing while advising it how to take advantage of changes in business technology is an ongoing challenge for every CIO or ICT manager.

Astute CIOs know that to get traction with the executive (or equivalent) they must deliver services required by stakeholders while contributing to strategy debates on how to use new technologies to meet the challenges of the future. Getting traction starts with presenting the right ICT-related information to the executive at the right time.

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Conclusion: The 2018 CIO survey1 revealed that the CIO’s influence is stalling, with fewer CIOs on executive boards. However, improving business processing is still the #1 operational priority. To address this priority, CIOs and IT managers should use everyday tools such as calendars to better collaborate with their staff by exploiting and promoting the features of the tools at their fingertips.

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Conclusion: Just as one size car does not suit everyone, so one IT management reporting structure will not meet the needs of all firms or agencies. While there is no blueprint for developing an IT management structure, there are guiding principles and workplace change management practices to help get the restructure right the first time.

Due to fluctuating IT investment cycles and business transaction volumes changes, IT management reporting structures are rarely static. Consequently, management must be prepared to change IT management reporting structures quickly in response to business changes or when they are not meeting the purpose for which they were designed.

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"Getting traction at the executive meeting" IBRS, 2012-09-23 00:00:00

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