By Susan Paul
What does it mean to increase a person or an organization’s strategic thinking capability? As an IT strategy consultant, I’ve spent a lot of time with CIOs working on ways to improve their IT organization’s strategic capability with the goal of moving from order taker to business partner. Now, building Pariveda’s Strategy Practice, I’m faced with the same question, only looking internally.
The majority of Pariveda’s revenue comes from technology consulting and custom application development services. Most of our consultants have computer science degrees or programming backgrounds.
Technologists commonly consider the issues they tackle to be more complex than people, process, or cultural concerns.
So with that as my backdrop, I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting several of our offices to discuss how we can use the Strategy Practice capabilities to add value to our clients’ businesses. It is similar to the CIO conversations if you substitute customer with business partner.
First challenge, today our consultants feel they strategically think about solving customer technology problems. I would agree. That said, they often confine their thinking to being strategic about the technology task at hand and give little thought to how the piece fits into a bigger—and then even bigger—picture.
In one discussion, we reviewed an employee career management application that allowed customer IT employees to enter skills into a database that could be used across the IT organization for finding skills, tagging high performers, and providing career development guidance. The look and feel was colorful and well designed. My question to our team was simple; what was the CIO looking to accomplish with the system? The answer was equally straightforward; he wanted to make sure he was assigning IT resources to roles they were best suited for, and providing opportunities to stretch people’s skills.
Talent development is a core competency for consulting companies. Our product is hours and our inventory is people that must have the right skills at the right time. An unscientific estimate would be that collectively, Pariveda spends about 15 to 20 percent of our time developing talent.
My question to our consultants regarding the way our customer’s IT organization was going to use the software we built was serious. It was an area that I felt we had a lot of experience to offer. Yet, as we were thinking and discussing the impending software launch, we realized that we had not spent much time talking with the customer about whether the organization was ready to get the full impact they wanted from their investment. We were focusing on the task at hand, which is what we were being paid for. However, to add value, we need to think bigger and offer a solution that addresses many dimensions.
Examples of the additional dimensions included questions like, how would skills self-rating be used? How would they be normalized among the departments? What would change because this software existed? We decided that the project sponsor and CIO would both be interested in having a conversation about this. It was a chance to see a broader picture and show we could think at that level.
Thinking bigger picture is a piece of thinking strategically. I find that most people need to start close to their comfort zone. Take the dimension you know, likely technology, and think through how an additional dimension will impact your work and the organization. Perhaps the processes required to support your work, then the roles that interact with it. It may seem simplistic, however, experience shows that most people do not challenge themselves to look at something from multiple angles to see how the solution looks from there. SW
Susan Paul is a VP at Pariveda Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm delivering strategic services and technology solutions. Pariveda provides services around developing IT roadmaps and business systems planning. Visit www.parivedasolutions.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-777-4653, for more information.
Oct2014, Software Magazine