It may feel like middle age torture, but a successful IT Executive does need to be “drawn” and “quartered”.  They cannot focus simply on the today or this year or the future or the budget.  Spending too much time on any one will be at the detriment of the others.  Success requires spending just the right amount of time in each. 

1) Today is thinking all about what your customers and businesses are experiencing right now.  Are they getting outstanding service from the support desk?  Is the deskside technician smiling, being attentive, and truly listening to their customer’s needs?  Are the business applications up, running, and being responsive?  If you cannot say yes to all of these then your customers will not be a net promoter of you and IT. 

The successful IT Executive is walking about to see how their customers are feeling right now…today.  They are also always looking at the SLA and KPI’s, not just the internal measures that say they are meeting the SLA’s, but also the more important ones that tell them if their customers are satisfied and promoting IT as a valued partner. 

2) This year is all about meeting the needs of the business this fiscal year.  The businesses all have objectives they need to accomplish to achieve this year’s business targets.  IT must help them meet these.  If the IT Executive is not overtly helping the businesses meet their objectives, then the IT executive becomes a non-enabler that will be forgotten and circumvented. 

The successful IT Executive must know the business, know their objectives and align the IT teams to deliver the required IT services on-time, on budget, and with top quality.   They also must not wait until the end of the project to get feedback on the delivery.  If they do, it will be too late to adjust and correct.  They need to check in with the business on a very regular basis to hear the feedback and adjust the delivery where needed:  Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust, and Repeat. 

3) The future is all about predicting what will be needed in three to five years. It takes a long time to select and implement new technology.  If an IT Executive waits until the current fiscal year they are guaranteed to be late…way late.  They need to be partnering with the business to set the long-term IT vision for the company, they need to be meeting with vendors to see what game changing technology is being envisioned, and they need to be observing what their company’s competition is doing to disrupt the marketplace.  If they are not doing this, they are guaranteed that IT will under-deliver in the years to come. 

The successful IT Executive helps the businesses shape the future so the right technology is available when the businesses need it, not after they ask for it.  Success means being a supportive visionary partner, not an order taker.  Success means making the right bets on what game changing technology looks like rather than just selecting something that is lipstick on outdated technology. 

4) The budget must always be reckoned with.  The reality is IT can be viewed as being very expensive.  The IT Executive will not only be expected to meet their budget but will often be expected to reduce their budget even when the business is growing.  If they are not able to meet this expectation, they will almost always be a target for cost reduction. 

A successful IT Executive understands the fully burdened unit cost of every one of their IT services.  They know the cost of a gigabyte of Tier 1 storage, of a small VM and the total cost of operating each business application.  In addition, they know what the demand for these services is.  Knowing both the cost and the demand allows them to share with the company’s leadership how budget variances are being driven by changes in demand, unit cost and/or capacity.  Also, knowing their unit costs allows the IT Executive to benchmark their services against outside providers to determine where to partner, where to renegotiate contracts and which technologies need to be replaced. 

In the end, how much time the IT Executive spends in each of the four areas will depend on the company.  A company in growth could have different needs than a company that is stable or in decline.  An IT Executive is a gymnast juggling these four areas.  A successful IT Executive elegantly keeps these four areas in control while keeping their employees engaged!  Watch out to not let one of them fall. 



Written by Andy Smith,, Practice Leader – Global IT Operations Excellence Consulting at Penon Partners

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