One of the most discussed area now-a-days is how to engage (align) IT with business. The root point here is that IT would like to become a partner to business, rather than staying a service provider. Getting there is not easy, but I’d like to share a few ideas how to start the road with you:
The ball in on IT’s side. It is important to realise that it is IT that “would like to” be recognized as partner to business, so it is IT that needs to do the first (and several next) step. Business will not change its opinion about IT out of the blue or because IT wishes so, this paradigm shift needs to come from IT.
Proactivity is the key. Opportunities to show business that IT can a partner and actually get things done will rarely present without IT taking proactive approach. When there is an request for IT to aid / support a business initiative, IT should not tell business how it cannot be done … rather find (even less traditional) ways how to solve businesses’ issue.
Take the extra mile. There are always requests from business that can be fulfilled well enough … or excellent. IT should strive to take the extra mile as often as possible … not only fulfilling requests from business but rather exceed their expectations. When asked to provide an analysis, add some extra statistical charts or add date for a larger period of time than requested. When there is a planned system downtime, makes sure that after it will be back online to check with key users if the system is running correctly.
Listen to business. This is the key to any IT initiative to engage with business. Only rarely business managers will come to IT and tell them what they need. Its IT, impersonalised in the position of IT manager / CIO that has to engage business peers in conversation trying to figure out what is that bothers them. Taking the issue as a starting point, IT should be able to mitigate the issue and prepare a plan how to solve it.
Share with business. There are many decision made by IT that are effecting the entire company – main technology framework, BYOD, outsourcing … .Inviting business managers to join the decision making for such points can bring valuable opinions based on ‘real business’ experience as well as a certain feeling of engagement by those business managers towards tool / technologies they’ve helped to decide about.
Would you guess what is manager’s greatest asset? Is it experience, skills, respect or deep understanding of respective company? I believe that the greatest asset of every manager is his / her team. It is the team that earns the good (and bad) points for the manager and it is the source of his / her greatest strength (and simultaneously weakness).
It is the team that makes most of the work. Whether a project or daily business ops, it is your team that does most of the work. Your work as a manager is not to actually “do” things, but to enable your team to do what is required. Establishing firewall rules is the work of your network specialist, reports are created by your analysts, users are contacting your help desk. You as a manager are there to find and deploy resources for your team to help them to perform their work.
Most of the communication is done by the team. As senior manager, it is you who sits with the C-level big guys, give reports and answer their questions, but it is your Project manager who is dealing daily with communication and coordination with other departments and key users. It is your testers that spend hours with guys from business on your newest app and hear their suggestions and ideas. You as a manager are there clear pathways and forge contacts for a smooth and direct communication.
It is the team that is putting out the fires. When there is an outage of a critical system, it is again your various specialists that take care of the problem. It is your DBA who will sit all night in the office to find the primary key inconsistency or your storage specialist to check your Netapp issues with MACs. You as a manager are there to set priorities and to free s resources to be used for the fire fighting.
The biggest sum of knowledge and experience is not hidden in your knowledge base, but in the brains of your team mates. While you can write down fact and procedures, you will always need your team to execute tasks and daily work. Servers will not work all alone (granted not for long), maintenance of your apps will not be done by automatic tasks – it is again your team with the sum of its experience and knowledge that makes things happen. You as a manager are there to enable increasing of the knowledge and to define a way how to keep and distribute it.
To make a conclusion, it is your greatest privilege as a manager to use your greatest asset for the benefit of your company. A good and motivated team can benefit the company many times better then a mediocre or even a demotivated and low performing one … no matter how excellent or mediocre are you as the manager.
Successfully implementing Contactless / NFC payments into your existing payments infrastructure can both serve your company well and support your reputation in eyes of your peers and even board members. While it is a project like many others, there are several points that makes is unique.
Strong business case – Introducing new technology is nice, having NFC features in your payment solution is great, but spending resources to roll out Contactless / NFC payments without a valid business reason makes no sense. You need to find the answers to a simple question: “What benefits will Contactless / NFC bring to my business?“. When possible, those benefits should be measurable – so you can quantify your costs and profits and supporting your core business.
Sponsorship from the board – as with many IT driven projects, you will face a lot of resistance from various departments. Let’s face it, there are many that do not trust IT and label IT projects as pure technical and non-business ones. Having a board member as sponsor of your project, you will get an advocate on the top level that can make sure that others will listen and cooperate. Furthermore, your sponsor can bring the project to the attention of other board members and with little luck it will attract their attention as well. As many of us know – a project with board’s attraction can receive additional resources (and respect across the company) far more easy then a one without this privilege.
Get the most of the project – knowing your business environment, what portfolio of solutions will you include in your project. Contactless cards? NFC smart phones? Contactless stickers / watches / wristbands? What is the penetration of each of those payment devices in your area? Evaluating the potential and answering those questions will help you to get most of the project while still retaining financial sustainability.
Agile implementation partner – finding an implementation partner that has a strong interest in the success of your project is half-way to victory. Such a partner will react quickly to your requirements and agile to all the adjustments that will come as the project will advance. Reasons why your implementation partner will show strong interest can be various, ranging from desirable reference (when you are the first implementing Contactless / NFC in your industry or country) to a good prepared contract with a considerable success fee.
Dedicated team – here is where you can do your own homework as leader and manager. A smaller team with the right attitude and enthusiasm is better suited than a large group of specialists that have only mediocre interest in the project. Once again, motivation facts will vary – from the possibility to work with the latest technology, through becoming an expert in a “sexy” area, to earning respect from taking part on a board level supported project.
Engage external stakeholders – there are others outside your company that could have interest in your project and its success. Maybe your acquiring bank or credit card issuer might want to join forces with you and use your project for own marketing. They can offer expertise, counselling and even financial resources to support you and your team.
Enthusiasm from sales – while this point looks like not much important, it is in fact crucial. It will not be IT that will work with the new payment solution, it will be sales that will have to work with it day by day. Too many project fail on the point that the (internal) customer does not find any attraction in the provided solution and will use it only partially or none at all. Creating enthusiasm from sales is not easy by far, but there are ways and tool to do it. Communication on all levels and through various channels is needed, presentation and training are important but the key is to find the benefit for the sales guys and “sell” it to them.
Marketing where it matters – like many projects, budget is tight and IT driven projects tend to spend their resources on hard facts like hardware and software. Therefore there is always a lack of money to be spend for marketing. But be smart – use the resources where it makes most sense – at the point of sale. Be it local store or your online shop.
Selling the results – thinking that the project is over when the solution is working and handed over to the customer is a common mistake (especially with IT projects). From a certain perspective it is never over, but when the technical solution is working, your true work as leader has begun. You need to present achieved results on different levels of management. Not once, but two or three times, each time with more and detailed facts. You need to show your business case and if you have reached your expectations. Maybe you will need to prepare a press statement or give an interview or two. In the end, you need to sell your project to all your stakeholders.