Technology Leadership: More Than Just Technology

By Gary Coggins

You’ve heard it before: As technology professionals, we owe our superiors due diligence, proficiency and excellence in the realm of technology and how we apply that technology in making our employers’ ambitions more efficient and profitable. As leaders, we must also strive tirelessly to bring those endeavors to fruition, in the most effective way possible: without excessive cost, with the utmost quality, and within the timeline promised to our stakeholders.

Business books and job postings alike have done a great job of repeating these words, and yet, far too often, technology projects do not deliver. Why is that? Development teams are loyal, super-intelligent and usually very insightful. Most technology professionals I know could be called autodidacts or polymaths – fancy words for people who are so smart that they can pretty much teach themselves anything and do it well. So where does the problem lie? Where is the disconnect between technology teams and the successful delivery of technology initiatives? Could it be that technology teams too often place too much reliance on technology, and not enough stock in team leadership, business expertise and the cumulative experience of team leaders?

In an example from my own work in a previous position, I was on a team asked to revive a CRM project that had gone awry. The CEO asked his team to help improve sales coordination and control over sales efforts and campaigns. Somewhere along the way, the manager charged with deploying the software lost the initiative. The CEO believed the software would solve these problems – without connecting the software to the problem, and designing the solution around the people who would benefit from the improved efficiencies. The technology team was more than happy to follow the CEO down that path, unwilling to disrupt the cycle that circumvented the necessary critical analysis and configuration of the application. In other words, the technology had become the solution. With our help, we were able to reframe the effort toward their business goals, and get the project headed in the right direction.

As in the experience recounted above, as well as several others that will remain safely anonymous here, my own experiences and observations point to a natural tendency for technology leaders to start projects with the right motives and objectives – increase profit, reduce cost, improve efficiencies, etc. Later on, the project inconspicuously takes a turn. The team charged with building the software to deliver on these objectives inadvertently begins to build a solution that becomes homage to a new technology or an exercise in what Abraham Kaplan called “The Law of the Instrument” – to take the hammer you possess and treat everything like a nail. You are probably already thinking of an example where this has happened in your organization. This phenomenon underscores the reason why we must empower our technology teams to look beyond the technology. Expertise in leadership is the key. For over 30 years, ISI has delivered strategic solutions helping Fortune 500 and high growth companies be successful in their technology initiatives. Our clients know that credibility and trust come from experience and vision that technology alone cannot provide.

Let us show you how we can help you achieve greater performance, success and ROI from your teams, as well as your technology. Connect with ISI for an off the clock IT Strategy session and let’s solve a problem.