Eduard de Vries Sands
Chief Information Officer at Axia Women’s Health
As we come out of the pandemic, businesses have had to shift the way they do business to adapt to changing consumer behavior and the new digital landscape.
Before COVID-19 struck, CIOs and other technology leaders enjoyed steady budget increases. Hiring was fast and furious as they built out their teams to accommodate the growth. In 2021-2022, IT spending started to level out as companies transitioned into reactive mode.
But watch out for the comeback story.
Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.5 trillion in 2023, an increase of 2.4 percent from 2022, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc. And this happens against a backdrop of economic insecurity with overall shrinking corporate budgets. The value of technology is being seen!
As funding goes back up, we as CIOs have to make sure we consistently deliver customer value as we predicted when the investments were approved. Being able to maximize the impact of your 2023 tech investments takes a strategic approach to find the right opportunity and align the enterprise on the right opportunities. It also takes predictable leaders setting clear, consistent expectations for your company and workforce to realize the value.
Let’s unpack how to be predictable and maximize value from technology efforts.
BACK TO BASICS
Even the largest of enterprises can benefit from a back-to-the-basics approach. Have you ever seen a professional sports team win a championship with poor fundamentals? It doesn’t happen. In the business world, the starting point is a full review of your company strategy to understand where your business creates value, and how technology can accelerate this value creation. It also allows you to identify your key competitive advantages you are exploiting, and the additional levers that technology offers to extend these advantages.
Not sure how to pull this off? Here are some ideas:
Step 1: If you’ve found success as a business, ask yourself why you were successful, and what it takes to sustain and extend this competitive advantage. Look into ancillary markets in which you could deploy these capabilities to gain market share. Figure this out as a foundational part of your overall strategy.
Step 2: Compare your current business capabilities to what is necessary to extend and grow your competitive advantages. This will surely show capability gaps, which will need to be filled with capabilities you either develop further or build from scratch.
Step 3: Work with your executive team peers and make sure they agree with your conclusions. This will enable them to actively support your efforts to address the capability gaps. When the C-suite knows you fully understand the levers for customer value creation, they will fully buy-in, which increases your chance of success exponentially.
Now that you have alignment on the investment with your executive peers, what’s next? Your team has to be on board to execute the strategy.
ASK QUESTIONS – THE RIGHT ONES TO ALIGN YOUR TEAM
As a leader, it’s up to us to empower our people to solve the right problem. We have defined the right problem with the executive team above, how do you make this happen?
This is like a road trip. The strategy and CIO with the executive team set the destination, however the team gets to define the path to get there. The CIO defines we want to get to Albuquerque, NM, and the team defines whether it should take freeways, which roads, and so on.
So how do we empower our team to do this?
As solutions are brought to the table by your teams, it’s your job as a leader to go as deep as possible. Question the assumptions and the business problem being addressed, every single time. Over time your teams will do a lot more of the early discernment on their own once you show them what you and the organization expect from them.
And they know you will question the ideas to make them better. This helps your IT teams become more strategic, focus on what truly moves the needle, and make the teams much more valuable for your organization.
A good leader is predictable. Team members come to understand how you’re going to react to certain situations. Our people at Axia know that as CIO, I’m not going to say yes or no when they bring a solution to the table. I’m going to say, ‘why?’ Why are we trying to solve this specific business problem? Is this going to solve a problem for our customers? How will our customers value having this problem solved? Is this the most valuable area to add customer value?
Building this kind of culture takes time and trust. It also requires you and your leaders to go into the field to interact with customers. How can you ask the right questions of your team if you don’t truly understand how your business creates value for your customers, the voice of your customers? How can your team answer the questions from a customer perspective without having had their feet in the mud?
Technology will be a commodity in the near future, the differentiation is in how you adapt and adopt it within your company. Having a deep partnership with those in your business ecosystem will give you more ideas and options you can leverage to keep your operation from becoming obsolete. Put on a pair of jeans and visit with your stakeholders every once in a while. I learn the most when I am in the field, talking with our front-desk workers over a cup of coffee.
There is much to learn in the wild. Go dive in. And you will be positively surprised how many opportunities you will see for new customer value!
Ultimately, maximizing the impact of technology investments is the new normal. IT teams and thus businesses need to be strategic, agile, and customer-focused. By investing in the right technologies in the right way, businesses can gain a competitive edge and thrive in the post-pandemic world.
Eduard is the Chief Information Officer at Axia Women’s Health. He brings over 20 years of global IT experience across various industries including diagnostics, pharmaceutical services, consultancy organization and large healthcare systems. He is also a longtime mentor and champion of Technology Partners’ leadership program TechLX, a leadership development program that empowers, equips, and champions high-potential IT professionals as they grow into the next generation of CIOs and technology leadership of St. Louis.