Businesses that engage in alternating leadership gain deeper understanding of the power and potential of technology for meeting business objectives by providing non-technologists with direct exposure to technology in a non-conventional construct. Through this exchange of responsibilities, business managers often learn how technology is more of a strategic instrument rather than a tactical tool. Likewise, technology managers obtain a multifaceted awareness for the business goals that drive the strategies they are responsible for supporting.
Such alternating responsibilities mean that the application of technology and the responsibility for its role in meeting business objectives is no longer someone else’s problem. The changes required to get a company in fighting shape are the responsibility of every leader, no matter what his or her function or level may be.
What’s really needed is the breaking down of silos that isolate technology and business management perspectives and decision-making. Technologists need to learn to drop the jargon and forego the flashy features of their gadgets and software. They need to speak of technology in business terms—efficiencies created, benefits in meeting business objectives, and maximum potential return on investment. This does not absolve business managers of their responsibility to study technology in order to understand its potential and limitations. Just as technologists are expected to speak intelligently about business, business managers must also speak at least on a foundational level about technology they wish to use. In other words, both management structures must cross their respective chasms so they can have meaningful dialogue that results in real progress.
Unifying the management of business and technology will sooner or later involve everyone in an organization, from the chairman of the board of directors to the newest hire on the project team. It is not a temporary activity assigned to a committee; it is a new way of doing business. Convergence requires not only new roles and responsibilities but also a new mindset and new skills.
In converged companies, business-unit and technology leaders operate almost interchangeably: every manager is accountable for some business-related aspect of technology—whether it’s product design, operations, or customer service. Next generation leaders have mastered the skills needed to articulate their business objectives and then use technology to achieve those objectives.
One sign of a converged company is that the people making decisions on business and technology are the same – they are conversant in both. They have an understanding of the business mission and an appreciation for the technologies that enable it.
Step back for a moment from your particular duties and look at your organization as an information gathering and disseminating organism. Do you have the right stuff for convergence management? What is the right stuff? You already have certain tools available to you – information and employee incentives, for example. And you have in place some of the necessities like decision-making processes and collaborative groups. So, although these will change and assume new roles and responsibilities, you are not starting from zero. The path has been marked ahead of you.
It is imperative that the following steps are taken:
- Make sure that your upper management values the impact technology has on your business, and that you have true upper management support for the initiative.
- Work from a roadmap. Be thorough and thoughtful. Let your management know how you wish to proceed, how long it will take, and what it will feel like at each milestone.
- Focus initially on the acknowledged point of greatest pain – whether it be governance and investment management, or strategy execution, or any other area – and work to show value as soon as possible in terms that business professionals will appreciate. You will need – in particular in the beginning – to continue to make your supporters happy they have backed you; and you will need to have ready answers for your critics.
- Find ways of doing things that are within the boundaries of your business model. Don’t discard and replace everything that makes your company what it is; rather, improve and sharpen what is in place and extend your strengths to become and remain a leader in your industry.
- Your focus must broaden to all areas within the management of business and technology to ensure that they all will arrive at the same location at the same time. Converged behaviors become a way of life in converged enterprises.
These are the characteristics of a converged organization. By applying their lessons and interpreting them through the lens of your own business, your organization as well can realize the benefits of being a converged enterprise. As an effective business technology leader, your direction can lead to such transformation.
Maturing in convergence management is a big job, and it takes time. However, that payback can begin almost immediately, given the huge disconnect in so many firms.
Doing nothing is not an option. The only way to win is to get out ahead of these changes, to manage them in your favor. You can’t do that today unless your business and technology are united as one.
The responsibility to make this happen will fall on someone. Why not be the one to lead the journey?
Faisal Hoque is the founder and CEO of BTM Corporation. A former senior executive at GE and other multi-nationals, Faisal is an internationally known entrepreneur and thought leader. He has written five management books, established a non-profit research think tank, The BTM Institute, and become a leading authority on the issue of effective interaction between business and technology. His next book, The Power of Convergence, will be available in May 2011. © 2011 Faisal Hoque