Developing a Strategy for Putting People First in Transformation Programs

If you are driving a transformation program, motivating and aligning people is a critical success factor

Most leaders now understand how important it is to put people before process and technology when it comes to instrumenting large scale organizational change. That being said, many in technology leadership roles are not versed in methodologies to instrument change and some are not devoting sufficient time and energy to it.

So, it was refreshing to see Chuck Blakeman, author of Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea  speak at KintoneConnect spelling out the differences working with employees versus workers. His key message is that we need employees to think, question, and challenge the status quo and move our organizations forward compared to workers of the industrial age that were given jobs and processes to follow. This is a big difference in expectations since a lot of work today can be automated or offshored and an organization's employees should be playing active roles in evolving the businesses' products and services.

Then I saw Chris Laping speak at Evanta CIO/CISO Montreal about his book, People before Things on the importance in spelling out the “why” before the “what” when aligning teams on vision. We may all want to drive to Maine to vacation, but probably have different expectations on why we’re hitting the road that should factor into what path we take to get there.

What it Means to put People First

Putting people first is harder to do than it sounds. It means getting on planes and having long discussions around strategy. It requires gathering a group of diverse leaders to meet with different customers and have discussions on what they are seeing and hearing as business opportunities and threats. It forces leaders to work with a large, diverse group of employees at different levels in the organization to learn about what drives them and inspire them to take on more challenging roles that align with transformation.

As technologists, we’re often thinkers, analysts, problem solvers, and solution engineers before people leaders. We naturally prefer working with the best, brightest, and fastest before putting ourselves in the midst of working teams and mainstream users. We have a long history of providing substandard service when users request help through the service desk. We have difficulty marketing our strategies and solutions beyond the decision makers that control spending and investment. We find it easier to explain away our issues as “technical glitches” rather than speaking with honesty and simplicity on how we all struggle with providing great service around aging systems.

Aligning 2018 Objectives with People First Objectives

So in 2018, think about what you’re doing to put people first. Are you going to commit to getting on the road visiting customers and translating the experience to your colleagues and teams? Are you going to reach out to millennials in the organization and provide them responsibilities and digital foundations to participate in your transformation programs? Will you spend more time articulating the why versus the what in your programs and challenge your colleagues and staff to do the same?

In my book, Driving Digital, I provide some recipes on how to go about this tactically. When developing new products, I suggest performing market research based on a series of questions that can be used to listen and learn from customers. In agile programs, I recommend defining roles and responsibilities to help new participants better understand how to participate in the program. When trying to become a more data driven organization, I recommend rolling out citizen data science programs so that more people across the organization can get involved in a very hands-on way.

Here's my parting recommendations

This is the first article of a multi-part series on What I Learned about Digital Transformation from Speaking to Hundreds of Leaders. The next post on, We Are Doing Agile, but are not Agile will be published soon. Signup for the Driving Digital Newsletter to get more information on this series.
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What I Learned about Digital Transformation from Speaking to Hundreds of Leaders

You learn a few things when you spend a chunk of the year on the road attending and speaking at conferences targeting CIOs, CTOs, CDOs (Chief Digital and Data Officers), CISOs and some CMOs. I’ve attended and spoken at over twenty events this year to share insights and lessons from my book, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology and presented on several topics around digital transformation, enabling the data driven organization, driving business value with emerging technologies, enabling a culture of transformation and innovation, and creating business and IT collaboration with agile practices.

I recognize that most of you can’t afford to be on the road twice a month, so let me share some insights with you from the presentations I’ve attended, questions I’ve fielded, and discussions I’ve had this year with millennials just entering the job force to CXOs of Fortune 100 companies. I’ll be updating this posts with links to these articles when I publish them. If you’d like to be notified when one of these posts is online, please consider signing up for my newsletter.

Insights from Leaders on their Transformation Challenges

Over my next several posts, I’ll continue this story and cover the following themes

  1. Developing a Strategy for Putting People First in Transformation Programs

  2. We Are Doing Agile, but are not Agile

  3. Financial Practices are outdated for the Transformation Era

  4. We are More Successful Onboarding New Tech Versus Maturing It

  5. If Data is the new Oil, We’re Still Digging Wells

  6. What to do When My CIO Still Doesn’t “Get It”

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Three Factors to Better Understand Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is not just about applying cloud, mobile, and social technologies or experimenting with emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, or IoT. In my book, Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology I begin the discussion on digital transformation by sharing expert opinions on what is digital business.

Here's me talking about digital business and digital transformation at a talk that I gave recently at Kintone Connect.


If you want to read more -

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Getting the CMO Onboard with Agile Marketing Practices

In my last post, I shared 5 Reasons Why Marketing Organizations Must be Driving Digital and in this post, I'm following up on agile marketing.

Agile Marketing
Many of the marketing departments I've worked with are in fact practicing some form of ad hoc agile. In some cases, timelines are fixed, like when the marketing department is hosting an event or when there is a holiday driven promotion. Other times, they are given jobs to do based on organizational needs like updating sales materials, content marketing related work, or updating the website. Other times the work is more recurring like getting the monthly newsletters published or nurturing leads. Finally, there are strategic initiatives such as updating brading, developing go-to-market strategies for new products, or leading market research initiatives.

All of these activities can be managed in a scrum process. IMHO, many marketing teams would welcome this structure and often the main things missing is the endorsement from senior leadership (the CMO) and agile tools for managing their workflow.

Tools can be addressed if the CIO or CTO already practice agile in IT, and this is a good place for CIO and CMO to partner. The question is whether marketers will be open to using the same tools because many agile tools are oriented toward software development. Jira for example uses terms like "releases", "versions" and "components" that can be adopted to marketing needs but require marketers to be open minded. So for example, releases are essentially milestones and components can be marketing assets.

The CMO wants Agile to Drive Better Decisions

But the main barrier for marketing organizations adopting agile may be the CMO. Agile helps teams collaborate and have a voice on what's achievable in a fixed amount of time. In scrum, this is done each sprint and through the commitment meeting. But CMO who have specific quality requirements, timelines, and a fixed idea of what needs to be delivered will have a hard time accepting a marketing team's commitment to something below these expectations.

But I have yet to meet a CMO with such rigid expectations. Most executives want to understand tradeoffs and will make reasonable decisions on priorities when confronted with options. Agile marketing is a practice to get there. Just like in technology, marketing teams can present different solutions with different story point estimates to enable a discussion on options and drive decisions.

If your marketing is practicing agile or wants to, I'm very interested in hearing from you! Contact me @nyike or on linkedin.

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5 Reasons Why Marketing Organizations Must be Driving Digital

Why marketing organizations are transforming their organizations with driving digital practices

Driving Digital Sacolick
Last week I had the privilege of speaking at KintoneConnect on Driving Digital: Key Practices to Lead a Smarter and Faster Transformation. The talk included some key concepts from my book, Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology on why digital impacts most businesses, how agile planning practices drive transformation, and how organizations can increase their digital capabilities with citizen data science and lowcode development programs.

The fun thing about this talk was that it was largely to a non-technical, non-executive audience who were very eager to learn about how to leverage digital practices to drive business transformation. It reminded me of a recent post, 3 questions from employees on digital transformation and how to answer them based on another recent talk on the sacrifices executives and employees need to make to drive a digital transformation.

Applying Driving Digital Practices in Marketing.

Why Marketing? In some ways, the marketing department has undergone similar strategic, practice, technology, and skill transformations as IT departments over the last several years.

  • In technology, many companies are adopting the practices of software development companies in order to compete in a digital world. Similarly, many marketing organizations are developing comparable digital marketing practices to B2C companies including developing digital brands, positioning products and running omnichannel marketing programs.

  • Marketing today is largely driven by a set of experiments aiming to reach prospects and customers with a call to action. Many are adopting agile marketing practices that enable them to develop experiments aligned with strategy, prioritize a backlog, and execute marketing programs similar to how technology organizations leverage agile development practices.

  • Marketing departments must be extremely data driven in order to identify customer segments, align messaging, and optimize channel experiences. 

  • Similar to technology organizations, marketing teams are often one organizational function removed from the direct sales and support of customers. But in today's digital world, both marketing and technology organizations are being given digital charters to drive customer experiences and grow revenue.

  • Also like technology organizations, it's important for marketing organizations to drive efficiencies through automation and to leverage a toolbox of cloud and SaaS tools to enable new capabilities. 

Of course, many marketing organizations have been investing in digital marketing capabilities and marketing automation platforms for some time. In fact,  I called upon CIOs to help CMOs with posts three years ago on helping with marketing automation, on enabling the data driven marketing organization, and on partnering around technology selections.

But like technology organizations, marketing teams have to be driving digital, smarter and faster in order to get their brands and products to market. I'll share some more details on how marketing departments can adopt agile, data, and other driving digital practices over my next few posts.

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Lowcode Platforms are Key to Digital Transformation

Forrester recognizes two lowcode platform types, one targeting business users and the other for application developers.

Java, .Net, PHP, Javascript, Ruby,  and Python along with the very large number of MVC and other frameworks that support these languages are appropriate tools when you need to develop an application that requires complete control.

But for many applications, the MVP can be developed on platforms and with tools that enable rapid development. I've been writing about lowcode, citizen development platforms and feature this in my book, Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology.

Now Forrester has published two Waves, one for lowcode platforms that target business developers (ie, citizen development platforms) and a second for application developers. They place Quick Base, Caspio, and MatsSoft at the top for business users with Kintone, FileMaker, Microsoft and Nintex as contenders. For application developers, Outsystems, Mendix, Appian, Kony, and Salesforce are at the top with ServiceNow, AgilePoint, and K2 as contenders.

What lowcode platforms enable

I myself have developed a good number of applications  on lowcode platforms including enterprise tools for portfolio management, hiring/interviewing, and IT budgeting.

Many of the business platforms aim to enable business users to develop workflows and knowledgebases that work better than spreadsheets and email while providing richer collaborative experiences than messaging applications. They enable the development of web and mobile user interfaces that have both workflow and collaboration capabilities.

The lowcode development platforms often include capabilities to integrate with other enterprise systems, databases, and APIs. They often enable developing an experience that can be optimized for phone, tablet, and web. These lowcode platforms also tend to have application lifecycle capabilities so that applications can be developed and tested outside of production environments.

Why lowcode platforms are needed by most businesses

As I discuss in Driving Digital, these platforms should be part of every CIO's digital transformation agenda. If you're going to enable the workforce to work smarter and faster, then it requires developing digital tools targeted to each department's need. For example. sales, marketing, operations, and financial teams all have different needs when accessing ERP, CRM, and marketing systems. If application development is easy and economical then developing experiences that target the end users' needs likely increases utilization and improves productivity.

In addition, workflows developed by sharing spreadsheets or emailing other office documents is error prone and can be less productive. Many of these lowcode platforms are used to develop applications where ones never existed, or can be used to phase out workflows on old legacy systems.

So if the IT department is overwhelmed, if your organization is inundated with manual or email driven processes, or if you are looking at too many point SaaS solutions for limited-need workflows, then instrumenting a lowcode platform may be a sound investment. 
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How Digital CIOs Manage Their Time

Earlier this year I published the post, What discipline should CIO master to drive transformation, where I highlighted the importance of time management skills CIOs must master when leading digital transformation programs

In this post I expand the analysis to show two other operating scenarios and illustrate each priority based on its impact on growth versus running the business.

The CIO Leading Transformation

The scenario I highlighted in the original post is shown below and provides more detail. While running transformation programs, CIOs get more involved in engaging customers, developing products, application development, aligning senior leadership, and data and analytics programs.

Digital CIO Time Management Leading Transformation

The CIO During Strategic Planning

During the budget season and strategic planning periods, many CIO shift gears and priorities. They are more likely to be working with the C-Suite and general managers on business plans, preparing for Board presentations, engaging sales and marketing on their needs, and working with their analytics teams to ensure decisions are data driven. They are also likely to be working with their PMOs and technology leads to plan out the next year's initiatives and investments.

The CIO in Crisis Management

When there is a major business issue or crisis, the CIO is more likely to be working with their Operational and Security teams, followed by the non-tech and tech staff that are tied to the issue. They will engage the C-Suite to keep them informed on the issue and current status. They will also work with Sales and Marketing leads to make sure the appropriate communications are sent to customers.

Digital CIO Time Management Crisis Management

CIOs and Their Leadership Staff

Unfortunately the real world is more complicated as different businesses have conflicting needs. A CIO might be working with one business unit to plan a major growth initiative while at the same time be fighting a crisis for a second unit.

This is where a CIOs have to communicate with their lieutenants. They should be clear on their focus and where they need their lieutenants to step in and take ownership. Sometimes that means delegating strategic work to lieutenants and other times, having a lieutenant fully manage a crisis.

And that's how CIOs get more done - and how lieutenants learn to become CIOs.

Feel free to review the full CIO Time Management Dashboard.

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