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The Challenge of Technology is Not Technology

 
 

Next Gen Insights | Helena Nimmo |
23 March 2021

In a recent webinar, MediaCom CTO Nadine Thomson, Endava CDO Justin Marcucci and I talked about Digital Transformation challenges, and we all focused more on the very human aspect of change than we did on technology. There have been many articles written about the changing role of IT leadership, often with a focus on the most senior roles, challenging us to be business leaders first and technologists second. However, none of us can be truly successful in the team sport of IT and change by focusing on one single role.

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ARE AN ASSET

Technology can raise strong emotions. The Apple tribe is one of the most recognised examples, with photos showing people queuing and camping out overnight for the latest phone release. This phenomenon has extended into the area of gaming consoles, too. In IT, the choice between Agile vs Waterfall delivery methodology causes fierce debates. Also, differences between Development and on-going Operations have given birth to DevOps, but they have yet to find true harmony.

So, how can we as technologists step out of our comfort zone and understand the pain points of our colleagues outside of IT? As this is a team sport, I turned to my IT leadership team for their views. The answer they gave me boiled down to two words: diversity and respect – something they experience within our team and are able to take into the conversations with their colleagues outside of IT to create successful change.

To be able to put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes and to successfully lead change, you need to start with your immediate team. Create shared values that promote trust and openness. Taking the time to listen to and digest a view different from yours shows respect and enables others to share their opinions, too. When adding members to a team, look to add individuals who bring a different skill set or perspective. Granted, this is easier said than done, as a lot of teams self-select based on individuals’ personalities and experiences. Therefore, you should challenge yourself on why you are drawn to a certain person.

THE HUMAN FACTOR IN DIGITAL NECESSITY

Having a team that is diverse in experiences and specialisms holds a mirror up to everyone in that team, which is particularly important when delivering Digital Necessity. Here’s why: Digital Necessity is about connecting the technology pieces that support a business process from end to end, for example, minimising manual hand-offs from a digital platform or system to a back-office processing system. With this, the process, data and technology challenges have multiplied. It means having to acknowledge that you may not have all the answers – as individuals and as a collective. Sharing this vulnerability can become destructive without respect. As a team, we aim to avoid this pitfall by respecting each other’s views and by being willing to listen and adapt.

With the strength of openness and trust in your back pocket, you can build teams that are able to focus on a distinct deliverable more quickly. Understanding the end-to-end needs as a team allows you to work on the solution from two or more angles, adopt Agile if possible and deliver value faster. Understanding the end-to-end requirements will also help you deal with the inevitable mutterings of “IT doesn’t understand the process” and “technically, it is rather complicated”. Having the skill to listen and respect different views enables you to resolve conflicts more quickly.

MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING SUPPORTS GROWTH

There is also a very important professional growth aspect that we cannot ignore. With the push for technologists to become more business-orientated, there is also a responsibility to increase the awareness of technology amongst all other business functions. Those of us in IT need to ensure that technology is not seen as an impenetrable fortress, but instead we should encourage our colleagues to take an interest in it. At the same time, we need to take the time to understand the processes we are looking to systematise – not by staring at a flow chart but by understanding the value of the work itself.

Finally, being able to evolve a team is vital. Re-evaluating the make-up of your team as well as bringing in different skills and questions when needed is a sign of a confident team which is able to focus on delivering the benefits while recognising and adapting to the constantly changing landscape of your organisation.

Helena Nimmo

Chief Information Officer

Helena is a technologist with over 20 years of experience in change and organisational design through product development, data management and technology transformation. Prior to joining Endava, Helena has worked in multiple sectors and started her technology career with Nokia. She is also a keen mountain biker and enjoys spending time with her husband, their 5 children and their first grandchild.

 

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