Don’t Let A Plan Delay Results: 3 Tips for IT Leaders to Stay Ahead

May 23, 2024

We all know that IT leaders are under constant pressure to keep up with the demand for innovation. But with the widespread adoption of Generative AI and the rate of change of cloud solutions, traditional organizational planning paradigms are starting to break down. This blog aims to remind IT leaders to refocus on the basics of delivering value to their organizations.

I spend a lot of my time talking with CIOs and other technology leaders, specifically about data delivery capabilities. Here are some of the most common attempts to accelerate the rate of change within IT:

  • Offload cutting-edge technology development to an innovation center function.
  • Roll out self-service capabilities to business users.
  • “Shift Left” data quality initiatives and data product development to application teams.
  • Plan numerous use cases for using Generative AI.
  • Create large-scale modernization roadmaps.
Figure 1: A “shift-left” strategy encourages applications to produce enterprise quality data products for data it owns. This is difficult to enable - most application teams are not well enough connected with data consumer groups.

These (and the numerous other planning mechanisms) are needed. And, many organizations have seen amazing success with these programs. But I have also seen many of these efforts play out over 3+ years and take tens of millions of dollars to implement. That’s not a timeframe most of us can afford. 

Instead, I’d like to propose getting back to the basics of what we all set out to do in IT, which is to deliver results.

Tip #1: Don’t Sell Your Roadmap

One of my past customers was a very passionate IT leader, and we had put together a great plan for a modern data platform to empower the business: self-service, configurable KPIs for executives, lower operating costs, all the good stuff. Furthermore, there was a data-driven directive from the new CEO. On paper it was a slam dunk to make the plan a reality. 

But that’s not what happened. The business partners kept providing the same feedback, which was some version of: “I don’t care about these capabilities,” or “I can’t <insert business critical need.” My personal favorite was, “I can’t tell my customers when their orders will be delivered.”  

There was a clear lack of interest in the future. They wanted to run their business now!

Luckily, we were able to pivot the messaging of the roadmap into a backlog of seven critical business functions, and unsurprisingly were able to get started shortly thereafter. It’s important to keep your roadmap as a longer-term guide for building capabilities, but your outward facing delivery should address tactical needs.

Tip #2: Don’t Overload Your Team

Once you gain alignment on the solutions, you had better be able to DELIVER.

One of the best successes I’ve seen recently was at a large company whose IT department could not deliver. A new data leader came into the organization, and within his first 10 months, the entire organization began to view IT in a positive light. He implemented the following changes.

  1. After an upfront investment to stabilize, he reduced his support team capacity by 75%.
  2. He worked closely with business leaders to catalog, document and review the incoming demands on his team, and helped align priorities across the organization.
  3. He set realistic expectations and frameworks for intaking new work into his organization, including significantly reducing the amount of capacity his team took on.

On paper, these may sound aggressive and/or scary (although I would suggest that measuring and categorizing current workloads will probably give you similar directional ideas). But these changes were overwhelmingly positive. His business partners were:

  • Pleased when they started experiencing successful delivery.
  • Able to plan appropriately for initiatives that couldn’t be supported.

Tip #3: Build Right-Sized Solutions

At Compoze Labs, we advise all of our customers not to overinvest in technology at the beginning of a modernization journey. That doesn’t mean skimping on critical functions like security, governance, cost management and failover. But it does mean limiting a release to only critical componentry for success. Building a fully-featured technical foundation upfront requires a large investment without much return.

Figure 2: A traditional data warehousing solution with highlighting to represent an example first use case that partially builds the necessary functionality.

With modern cloud technology, and even pay-as-you-go-pricing for many popular technology vendors, the ability to get started with only what you need is easy and safe, especially if you partner with Compoze Labs, who does these projects day in and day out.

To Sum It Up…

By being careful about what you take on in the beginning, starting small, and focusing on delivering tangible value, you can start to bridge the gap between IT and business outcomes. The best way to stay relevant as a leader is to positively impact the organization's bottom line. Embrace this approach, and you'll be well on your way to securing the support and resources necessary for driving technological transformation.  

And if you need help to solve real challenges, give us a call!