June 16, 2020
How to Become a Future-Minded IT Leader in Your Organization
To OST’s Rob Kellner, the COVID-19 global pandemic has served as the “great reset” for businesses. “It’s the opportune time for we as a society to talk about, as a country to talk about a set of new ideals that we might want to all rally around,” said OST Principal Consultant Rob Kellner. “And technology IT leaders would be at the forefront of a number of those things. Whether it is access to information and medical services, a lot of these different things can have IT and technology’s fingerprints all over them.” Kellner’s background is in application development and data analytics. He has been at OST for more than eight years, supporting organizations such as Stryker and Steelcase in their connected products needs. Kellner has been in the consulting space for almost 30 years. We talked to Kellner about how to be a future-minded IT leader in your organization.
“Certain clients are seizing this as an opportunity to invest in a deeper manner, and are willing to engage with us in a more proactive and direct way,” Kellner said. In contrast, he is also seeing a handful of customers going the opposite way and pulling back. However, he has not been able to find a correlation by market or industry. “It feels like companies that were better off from a cash rich position are taking advantage of that situation.” Companies that were more cash strapped had to move to furloughs and job reductions. Companies that have a rainy-day fund and can leverage cash have been able to take advantage of cheaper resources. They have been able continue work and avoid halting projects.
Being a future-minded IT leader
When the pandemic began and entire work locations emptied as employees began working remotely, businesses discovered that elements of their digital transformation they planned to gradually undergo were happening instantly. The future takes on a whole new point of view for all leaders at this particular point. “What we’re trying to get in front of: a whole new set of problems have moved from the back of the recesses of our minds to the epicenter where we have to take them into account,” Kellner said. The first step of being a futuristic IT leader is acknowledging that it’s always about questions you’re trying to answer or the problems you’re trying to solve.
“To be a futurist in IT, you must always be challenging the status quo but be willing to erase the mental blackboard and ask a new set of questions,” he said.
A disruption of this nature and seismic level demands that you step out of the context and structures that you have already put in place. Future minded IT leaders should look at the greater context. All of a sudden, there is a new window of time and space to look at our habits. What habits can you abandon that you’ve practiced simply because “That’s how it’s always been done?” The pandemic has provided opportunities to create new ways to communicate with customers. Business leaders may discover they didn’t even know they’d fallen into a rut.
“The jarring motion allows you to reset,” Kellner said.
Organizational structure impacts innovation success
IT leaders have to keep the need for innovation at the forefront of conversations, despite economic uncertainties. The biggest challenge, and it will be different on a company to company basis, is based on how the senior executives in the company organize themselves. Kellner predicted that successful companies will have their CIO or CTO directly aligned with the operating officers and executive officers. The companies that have traditionally had those IT resources under the CFO will struggle more on the innovation scale. If the voices advocating for innovation don’t have the equal ability to debate the future, to the executive officer, you’re going to see a lot of those ideas never make it out of committee, Kellner said. That’s where governance structure, and their attitudes toward technology, will be a deciding factor in the company’s long-term success.
Collaboration is key
As consultants, we work hard to breed a collaborative mindset, Kellner said. It’s exciting to see when clients get into a collaborative mindset moving forward. “It opens up all kinds of new business opportunities,” he said. “If done correctly, whether it’s human capital, or management and expansion, or financial service delivery, a lot of these former silos could become assets to hyper-increase the value of traditional products and services.” Getting customers to this level can be a challenge, but that collaborative spirit becomes organic.
With data and definitive results, IT leaders can continue critical conversations about the importance of collaboration and its impact on digital transformation.
We’re going to come out of this. When we emerge from this crisis, we will have the most available labor force that we’ve had in the last decade. With energy and oil, there will be an unprecedented bubble of low-cost access to energy. This is an all-in time for companies with the right idea for digital transformation. “If I had the opportunity to guide a potential client, and I know that they’re in a strong financial position this is not even a double down time, this is a 10X down time for digital transformation,” Kellner said. “It’s a great time for different companies to explore new business problems and new solutions to those business problems.” If your priorities shifted and what you had planned to do in a few years is now an imperative project today, let’s talk.” We can help. Contact OST to start the conversation.