Well, hello 2021: are you going to be good to me? In conversations with family, friends and coworkers, most are cautiously optimistic that with vaccines being rolled out things will start to return to some semblance of normalcy in a few months. Meanwhile, there is much work to be done. Enterprise IT managers and leaders always have big mandates and in 2020, those expectations exploded. Technology, after all, has been everyone’s lifeline during the pandemic. Below are some ideas to ground yourself in this new year, when so much is at stake.
- Pace yourself. If you enjoy moving from one fire drill to the next, go for it. For the rest of us, a stressful and isolated 2020 has worn down the reserves. We’ve all become tense and reactionary. Take time to evaluate your job role, research the competition, study learnings from last year, chat with colleagues and reflect on how to best invest your energies in the coming months. I am a doer, from a long and overbearing maternal line of doers, and relish in checking items off the list. But sometimes it's more powerful to do…nothing. Allow the mind some space to fill in with ideas and reflections before jumping into a new agenda and long task list.
- Understand and fill critical gaps. Part of this reflection process entails taking a hard look at what’s missing in your organization:
- Security: The SUNBURST breach discovered in December, and still being analyzed, affected hundreds of government agencies. As of yet, we don’t know the impact on national security much less private citizens. Cyber-security expertise has become the most in-demand skill set, especially in the cloud and data security space, according to a 2020 survey by Harvey Nash and KPMG. Security technologies powered by AI or machine learning are set to grow, from 30% of IT leaders saying they had implemented or planned implementation in 2019, to 38% next year, according to Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks Ziff Davis, as quoted in CIO Dive.
- Automation: IT and process automation is another key area, but it's a broad category and interpretations will vary. RPA is gaining steam. Nine in 10 large organizations will deploy some form of robotic process automation, according to Gartner.
- Skills: Hiring (or developing) the right team members is a related area of focus. A survey our company conducted in October indicated strong interest in IT finance experts, senior IT execs and cloud operations engineers.
- Give empathy. Leaders with empathy are more popular and respected. Empathy drives loyalty: everyone wants to feel appreciated and supported. “Organizations have to be better at being supportive of their staff,” according to SurveyMonkey CIO Eric Johnson in CIO.com. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of it before, but this year forced me to re-evaluate how to manage and build a culture people could talk about it.”
OpsRamp’s CEO Varma Kunaparaju discussed culture and humanity in an article from late last year: “All-hands meetings are empowering, but so are smaller forums where teams can share information and concerns casually or collaborate effectively in remote working sessions. My company instituted wellness holidays during the summer to give employees an opportunity to relax and get off the grid. Another popular idea that we instituted is virtual open office hours, where people can drop in to share ideas and updates across departments.” The Harvey Nash/KPMG survey found that 84 percent of technology leaders report they are concerned about their team’s mental health and 58 percent have programs put in place to support mental well-being.[Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey 2020]
- Take a stand. Leaders aren’t always popular, even when they demonstrate empathy. But to gain traction and respect, they must make decisions that support business and customer needs and stick to them. Fortunately, 2020 was a year in which IT leaders gained newfound respect:
- 61% of the 4,219 CIOs responding to the Harvey Nash/KPMG survey said they agree or strongly agree that the pandemic increased their influence.
- Don’t be afraid to push back against popular sentiments or the wishes of the boss. “When we talked about whether there were IT projects to cancel or delay or suspend, we determined that all of them were critical enough that we couldn’t stop anything,” remarked Niel Nickolaisen, CIO at O.C. Tanner, as quoted in CIO.com.
- The best decision may be to delay change to get the right strategy in place. This CIO Dive article discusses how some IT organizations made a quick shift to the cloud last year but didn’t always approach those migrations thoughtfully, leading to needless complexity and the high cost of rapid “lift and shift” migrations. "A common mistake I see is this idea of let's just get it there and we'll take care of it later," said John Pisano, who leads digital cloud solutions capability at Booz Allen Hamilton.
- Be the best at one thing. Being a leader means you have multiple competencies which have been developed over time and through varied experiences. But you cannot be the very best at all of them, much less several. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions – but I do like to set goals for self-improvement. What area of work are you compassionate about and can improve over the next 12 months? Pick one, just one, and give the ultimate focus to its achievement. By the way, this could also be something outside of work – such as losing weight, repairing a family rift, excelling in your favorite team sport, or indulging in a hobby. Those personal activities make for a more well-rounded individual who can inspire others to set goals and achieve them in a reasonable timeframe.
- IT Operations Predictions for 2021
- Year in Review at OpsRamp
- Survey: What Leaders are Doing to Get Ahead