Who is leading who in technology?

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This post is a long time coming. In the past few weeks, it has come to a point.

Since the start of the year, I have taken part in a number of conversations with fellow CIOs, vendors and those in the technology ecosystem. Let me not bury the lead: Technology leadership is a mess. I do not mean the people here. I mean how we strategically plan, develop and use technology.

At a time when technology is more critical than ever, we need clear leadership that drives forward progress for our companies, customers and stakeholders. Our customers and stakeholders are not just asking for it…they really need it! Based on conversations in the past three weeks, there is a huge disconnect between what is needed, what is being discussed and delivered. While there are some rough gems, unfortunately, much of it is a consternated mess.

It seems that in the absence of leadership, everyone with a voice is stepping up and voicing their opinion without basis or context. Vendors are heading down paths without much thought as to how it will play out. I have said it before, and I will say it again: Opinion does not replace experience.

Falling back on incremental change is not going to cut it. We need technology leadership that can focus on what really matters…and why. Too many times, I respond to a statement with the question ‘why?’ And typically, it trips people up. That is a problem. If we do not understand why we are doing something, why are we doing it? Common culprits are pet projects, inertia, uncertainty and a myriad of other reasons.

We need change. We need leadership. We need a clear vision that is not a warmed-over leftover from a decade ago. In one case recently, someone was making the case for a decision made two decades ago. News flash: That is in the past and the world has changed. So has your business and customers. And, in turn, so must your technology.

Experimentation is good. Failing fast is good. However, it clearly needs to be rooted in context. Ask yourself the question why. There are plenty of books written on the importance of asking yourself ‘why’. Bottom line: It provides clarity and context to convey importance to your decision and direction.

In addition to asking ‘why’, have a vision and clear focus. Where are you headed and why? How does this play out? I have seen a few presentations in the past week or two where these questions would take the presentation to task.

This is why we need technology leadership. We need a vision that provides a clear path and addresses the important issues facing customers, companies, vendors and stakeholders. We need to challenge the statements with the question ‘why?’. Without it, we are just waxing philosophical and having yet another academic conversation. That is not a productive way to use our time to solve these challenges that face us today and into the future.

As technology leaders, there is so much opportunity in front of us today and into the future. We need to take steps today to ensure we do not squander it for those that need it most.

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