Wanted: Visionary IT leaders

The only constant is change, and that is the reality for most organizations and individuals. It used to be that change was an event, but now it’s part of our daily fabric. Change has become part of our definition of “business as usual” — new operating models, innovations, and technologies are disrupting every industry. The work environment is changing faster than ever before, and placing ever-higher expectations on IT to help organizations keep pace and adapt.

According to Phil Buckley, a change management guru, the role of the IT leader is evolving as quickly as our business dynamics, moving from one of systems selection, installation and maintenance, to strategic technology advisor and enabler. IT leaders must help the organization navigate macro trends like digital, data analytics, cloud computing and systems integration, but in a way that maximizes their organization’s potential.

Buckley also states that all this change and continuing evolution in technology and its applications is causing a role shift for IT and the IT leader. IT leaders must not only answer the question, “how can technology help transform our business,” but also, “how can people successfully adopt technology changes in as short a time as possible in order to realize time-bound opportunities and mitigate external risks.” This is where ITs focus needs now to also be on “organizational agility,” which is the ability to quickly and easily implement changes and gain their benefits before changing again.

People’s ability to take on multiple and continual changes is often a limiting factor for agility. IT leaders must act as change agents to build people’s ability to easily and quickly take on new changes that are often replacing ones that have yet to be fully implemented.

IT leaders now have an opportunity to build organizational agility coupled with a new opportunity to look for new optimizing solutions. This involves leveraging the expertise of the IT leader to enable the organization, and with the spirit of disruption in the IT world, to use that learning and thinking to take on technology changes in a faster cycle time. Yet, the ability for people to take on technology changes can impede the benefit of the new, so getting on board in any part of the change can help people to adapt, and to adopt the changes.

The IT Leader must help employees change how they work by changing how they interface with technology. This impacts people’s ability to get greater performance from technology usage by influencing their actions, mindset, behaviours. How we interact with technology is more about the enablement with what we want from technology versus how its been designed. Technology is now an enabler of performance, expanding people’s ability to add value, so it’s key to make it easier to use. An example of this is the ability of people to do online purchasing (i.e. retail).

According to Buckley, IT leaders must now become accountable for the people side of technology change by understanding that its how people work is how they will interface with technology.

Here are four ways that IT leaders can position their changes so that people will quickly take them on:

  1. Demonstrate how the IT change delivers the organization’s strategies. People need to know how the change will help the business before the changes become priorities. This will help to build stakeholder commitment to champion and embrace the change when they realize the long-term benefit.
  2. Demonstrate how the IT change will help people be more effective. What is in it for them? People need to know how the change will benefit them either through improved effectiveness or efficiency.
  3. Demonstrate how leaders are personally committed to the IT change. Employees need to know that the leaders are behind the change and are willing to change first. Like the classic “leading by example,” leaders need to demonstrate faith in new directions, and their commitment to embrace it.
  4. Demonstrate that people have capacity (time, capability and support) to adopt the IT change. People need to know that they can successfully take on the change before they become engaged in doing so. No one wants to be set-up for failure, even if it’s unintentional.

Continual change is a business reality. The IT leader’s role has evolved to meet the challenges of today’s current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment. But now IT leaders must be the strategic navigator and change enablers. Doing so will ensure their business remains relevant through their agility to quickly seize opportunities and mitigate risks.

Its time for organizations to reposition IT from being the traditional purveyors of technology and maintenance, to strategic enablers, holding a navigation role of defining what will be the future. From where I sit at my laptop, that’s very exciting indeed.

Marylka Empey
Marylka Empey
Marylka Empey is management consultant with more than 20 years successful experience in working closely with organizations to address the “A to Z” of HR related opportunities and challenges. Ms. Empey has significant involvement with the HR Association of Ontario, having served on the Provincial Board, on the Chapter Board as President, and on the Provincial Professional Standards Committee where she contributed to establishing the professional benchmarks for the Certified Human Resources Designation (CHRP). A trusted advisor to management, Marylka collaborates to build effective relationships across the client organization, and acts ethically and with integrity. As a corporate executive, Marylka has experience in both the profit and not-for-profit sector, and was a member of the Executive team reporting to the President / CEO, with full responsibility for setting and executing the HR strategic direction in support of corporate business objectives.

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