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IT Leaders as Advocates for Continual Change

While IT leaders have their finger on the pulse of tech advances, it’s crucial to work closely with business leaders ensuring strategy is aligned with business outcomes.

Nathan Eddy

April 4, 2023

5 Min Read
individual jet breaking through a group of airplane smoke as a metaphor for leadership.
Brain light via Alamy Stock

Successful IT leaders have always embraced the changes required to adapt and be agile in the face of evolving business needs and new technology opportunities.

In fact, agility and adaptability are key guiding words for IT leaders in 2023 and in the years to come, as the digital workplace demands a more flexible infrastructure and environment.

Solutions are emerging much faster than they have previously, and the needs of today’s customers are evolving rapidly.

Having infrastructure that is both adaptable and enables agility is critical for businesses to be able to meet customers where they are, so they can address their ever-changing needs. 

Dave Gruver, field CTO, modern end-user support strategies at SHI International, says strong IT leaders understand embracing change must be valued and protected in every business climate and forecast.

“That especially means when business is good,” he says. “Anyone can embrace change during a downturn but making bold decisions to ensure your current success is your continued success is the sign of a great leader.”

Change as a Constant

Robert Hormuth, corporate vice president of architecture and strategy at AMD, points out change is a constant in the IT world.

“If you aren’t open, you are potentially dismissing new ideas and concepts that could help you build an evolutionary technical change,” he says. “Keeping an open mindset enables IT leaders to absorb change and support a number of immediate and residual benefits for organizations.”

He adds it’s ultimately incumbent on IT leaders to be the facilitator for change, so their teams are set up to notice, evaluate, and adopt those changes to gain a competitive advantage.

“All IT leaders should keep the concept of constant change top of mind, as it is essential for driving innovation, staying ahead of the curve, and responding quickly to new challenges and opportunities,” he says.

Dennis Monner, chief commercial officer at Aryaka, explains businesses are coming to realize that digital transformation is a never-ending process. “As environments change and are on the verge of more change, IT leaders want to be well-prepared and be able to adapt,” he says.

This means they need to be continuously evaluating their businesses, as well as different models of operation that may facilitate transformation more smoothly.

“IT leaders must recognize when a particular approach may not be working as expected and when a pivot may be necessary,” he says. “Keeping an open mind to continual change means a business is putting the needs of its customers first, rather than forcing customers to adapt and settle for less than they deserve.”

If a product or service isn’t resonating with customers, business leaders need to be willing to shake things up, as opposed to continuing down a path that will not yield results.

Identifying the Right Solutions

Monner says CIOs must identify the solutions that are working for the business and work to course correct if a particular platform or solution is not the right fit. “Many organizations look to the CIO to set the agenda on technology and its evolution across the business,” he points out.

From Monner's perspective, listening to employees’ needs and how their experience can be improved is a critical tool for establishing a supportive governance structure. “Treating employees with care and respect will help businesses in the long run, and it will help deliver excellent products and services to customers, as well as support an environment of continuous change,” he says.

He adds maintaining headcount will also help IT leaders become more adaptable. “Shifting direction on a product or area of the business requires people to get it done,” he notes. “The more employees that leaders can retain, the more agile their business can be.”

Aligning Strategic Priorities with Business Goals

Cynthia Stoddard, senior vice president and CIO at Adobe, explains IT departments and technology teams are most effective when their strategic priorities align with the broader business goals.

“Instead of trying to boil the ocean, IT leaders should think through the top initiatives that will solve the most pressing issues and deliver ROI,” she says. “The first step for any organization is delivering reliable solutions or services.”

From there, teams can invest in innovation through experimentation, strategic business partnerships, and incorporating cutting-edge technologies into their platforms and offerings.

Stoddard says IT leaders can encourage continuous change by taking a holistic and human-centric approach to technology.

“This means understanding your employees’ needs, motivations, concerns, and desire to create value for the enterprise and building your strategy and technology offerings around those factors,” she notes. “Then, as your workforce evolves, so too can your offerings and priorities.”

Advocates for Change in the C-Suite

From Gruver’s perspective, governing change is “almost impossible” without a recognized advocate for transformation holding a CIO or CTO role in an organization -- with a permanent voice at the biggest table.

“In recent years, technology C-suite roles have been filled not by IT pros who rose through the back-office ranks, but by leaders experienced in managing digital product development or innovation,” he says.

With a top-level commitment to transformation, governance is much more likely to be designed to ensure that enough continuous change is happening, is well aligned with business objectives, and not just ensuring the business is “maintaining” an outdated compliance model.    

“Communicating consistently about IT initiatives in clear language and how they are woven together to deliver a harmonized solution of improved, secure, and lower friction IT solutions goes a long way to maintaining a sense of stability,” Gruver adds.

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About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

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