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Identify the best IT “style” that leads to high-performance IT

In today’s ever-changing business environment, technology leaders must be flexible like Fred Astaire, decisive like Amelia Earhart, and strong like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition, they must know which skills to use, when, for how long, and in what proportions. Today’s dynamic business strategies require technology leaders to constantly adapt their investment and operating styles to consistently maximize the value and performance their business partners need.

To do this, technology leaders must bring together people, processes and technologies in a complex team structure that strives toward shared goals aligned with business outcomes. Achieving this requires a careful balance of skills – both human and technological – within and across teams. If there is too much of one and too little of the other, the right balance at the wrong time, the desired results will not be achieved.

An IT “style” is part ability, part boasting and a lot of intent

To meet the needs of the business, your IT organization must leverage the four IT styles—Enable, Co-create, Amplify, and Transform—in the right balance. A style has unique characteristics beyond its capabilities that are aligned with each team’s intent. Some teams will be tasked with “enable” business success by providing rock-solid resilience, stability, and security; other teams will “co-create” products and services that open new markets for business partners. Business transformations may require teams to “transform” their operations using new technologies. Teams looking to maximize the potential of their technologies and processes may seek to “amplify” the performance of their operations using automation and data analytics.

The combination of these styles and associated IT skills ultimately expresses what the organization or leader wants to be known for while meeting their business needs and expectations. This is how high-performing IT organizations can best align for positive business outcomes. The technical leader must help achieve business goals, articulate which style best represents IT’s long-term goal, and then ensure that all teams across the IT and business ecosystem are working toward the same outcomes.

SEE: Forrester’s 2024 technology leadership predictions for AI, HR, budget and manufacturing

There is no stationary state, only a current state with a vision for the future

Steady state can manifest and demonstrate itself in many ways. Never adopting a new technology or adopting a new technology every time a new one is introduced are mindsets that leaders and teams can get stuck in. An IT organization that stays at the same level actually falls behind its competitors; however, if it moves too quickly, IT investments are made that may never deliver value to business partners who can’t keep up.

IT’s operating style must have a specific purpose. Technology leaders must continually evaluate their current performance against business objectives and then rebalance the weighting of the four styles accordingly to ensure:

  • Activate Efforts focus on capabilities that efficiently stabilize, operate and protect the business and then consistently deliver on their promises, building trust. In addition, enabling capabilities can foster adaptability, which lays the foundation for future growth.
  • Co-creation leverages technology partnerships to acquire new skills. Teams must collaborate on product and experience delivery, focusing on skills such as agile development, DevSecOps, and product management.
  • Strengthen Actions optimize business outcomes at scale. Advances in automation, AI and analytics must be leveraged to streamline processes, deliver insights and optimize business outcomes such as revenue, inventory costs and customer experiences.
  • transformation Initiatives fuel technology-led companies. Technology-led innovations and emerging technologies such as chatbots and generative AI accelerate business in new directions. Tight organizational alignment and a deep understanding of customer needs are critical to being adaptable and quickly shifting capital, people and technology to stay ahead of the changing market.

Technology Leader: Let your intentions determine your IT style

Technology leaders can maintain their confidence and stay true to what they want to be known for by employing the right mix of styles that drive strategic intent. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your organization’s desired outcomes. Strategic goals will dictate the mix of IT capabilities you need to prioritize in light of associated costs, investments, and performance constraints. Consider the following tips for technology leaders.

You cannot grow on unstable foundations.

If your business has problems with stability or resilience, you won’t be able to grow and your business partners won’t trust you. Invest in the IT ecosystem to enable growth while reducing costs. Provide technology visibility across the business to enable proactive measures and improved operations.

The more the merrier – work together to increase benefits.

Reduce friction between teams and increase work momentum with agile development, design thinking, and product management. Extend developer reach and motivate other teams to improve both employee and customer experience.

Make the most of your existing investments.

There are many ways to improve existing best practices. Use automation features to remove mundane, redundant tasks from resource queues. Analyze operational data to encourage proactive problem solving.

The future is happening today. You had to be prepared for it yesterday.

New technologies are released every day. Implementing and leveraging the right new technologies gives business leaders the ability to change direction and speed up or slow down at will and without notice. Companies rely on their IT teams to implement transformative technologies to respond to dramatic market shifts and changes in business strategy.

Challenges are opportunities for technology leaders

Every day brings new challenges for companies to overcome. These challenges are often new opportunities for technology leaders to move the company in a new or better direction that advances your goals ahead of the competition. Each new challenge must be met with an evaluation and possible adjustment of your operating style.

But with all these changes, you must always maintain the right balance between styles to ensure you deliver high-performing IT and continuously improve your business results.

Profile photo of Carlos Casanova.
Carlos Casanova. Image: Forrester Research

This article was written by Carlos Casanova, a principal analyst at Forrester who serves technology managers and technology architecture and delivery professionals. His research includes artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps), observability, digital experience monitoring (DEM), application performance monitoring (APM), infrastructure monitoring, cloud monitoring, and the use of OpenTelemetry in these areas. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

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