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Internal CXO Relationships

Internal CXO Relationships
Does decision making take longer in a remote or hybrid working environment?

Top Answer: We’re remote and decision making is prolonged, as is the number of meetings it takes to resolve something. It's almost like people just accept that they can always put another meeting on the calendar if they can't get to a decision. To drive closure on some things I’ve started to begin meetings by saying, “We're exiting this meeting with a decision and we have 30 minutes,” because nobody's coming in with the mindset of trying to get to an outcome. They're just seeing it as another conversation that they're having in their day. I've realized I need to start setting those specific objectives because otherwise nothing gets accomplished. There doesn't seem to be a value tied to the time that you're spending in those conversations and the actual output as a result of that. It's almost like there’s this false assumption that we have an infinite runway of meetings and that's become frustrating.

How does insufficient communication impact a transformation initiative?

Top Answer: A business transformation is a complex and challenging endeavor with many moving parts. They require a lot of coordination and orchestration between multiple teams to ensure that the improved products or processes converge to value streams that drive identified business outcomes. That’s why it’s imperative to have a consistent, succinct and powerful purpose when communicating key milestones and achievements to the organization. It helps to communicate via several channels as the repetition will reduce distortion of the messaging.

Does the business support your IT strategy?

Top Answer: This is backwards, the IT Strategy should support/enhance the business.

Has your organization ever been quick to capitalize on an emerging technology? Which ones was it late to adopt?

Top Answer: When I was at Vassar college, we jumped into virtual worlds and Second Life very early on. We had some faculty who were interested in it, but not in the social aspects; we were interested in using it as a place to model things that you couldn't readily build in the real world. One member of my team recreated the entire Sistine Chapel in Second Life to scale, which got a lot of recognition. We had school kids from all over the U.S. and around the world visit it. Their teachers happened to be into virtual worlds, so they’d bring their kids and show them how to zoom in to see all the images up-close. But he also found that there are tapestries by Rafael that they display in the Sistine chapel very rarely because they're sensitive to light. He was able to find those and put them into the same space so that you'd be able to view them. I don't think it did much to our organization; it's not like Vassar needed name recognition to attract students or anything, but it did allow us to have some interesting conversations with other higher education institutions about the role of immersive virtual technologies. We discussed what experiences they could offer that schools couldn't provide in the real world. There were psychology faculty who did experiments, and there were other interesting ideas that never quite caught on, but remnants of them moved forward. It was an expensive time sink to do something clever that had a half-life of about three or four years, but it was something we looked at. 

What technology were you able to get the business to buy into when it was still new?

Top Answer: We implemented our internal social media platform to drive engagement and it has been a game changer. We use Workplace by Facebook, and while I’m not a big fan of Facebook from a security perspective, the platform does work. The idea was to give everyone a voice that could be heard, whether they were on the frontline or in the C-Suite, and that has made a huge difference in the way that we drive engagement. It has also proven to the business that IT are not just the people who fix the printers and repair your laptop. HR gave the most pushback because they thought that if you give everyone the ability to say what they think, it would lead to a lawsuit because they might say something they shouldn't. So the US was the last area to implement this because of that concern. But it's been transformational, especially for our younger staff, because it's mobile-first and mobile-friendly. We now have people who install it on their personal mobile phones and engage with their colleagues outside of work, so it gives them that flexibility.

What is the CDO-CIO relationship like?

Top Answer: I've played both roles; I was the CIO for a nationwide insurance company. From that perspective, the CIO is responsible for all things IT but they can't be everywhere at once and be an expert in everything. They need to be able to trust the subject matter expertise of the people they work with to make sure that we're protecting the organization and making the right decisions. The Chief Data Officer (CDO) is the person who needs to understand and protect the rules of the road in regards to customer data. The CIO should know that the CDO understands what we can and cannot do with customer data.  The CDO needs to be a conduit with other key departments within the organization. As a CDO, I’m the conduit between legal, compliance risk, InfoSec operations and the business. For marketing in particular, the CDO educates to ensure those departments understand what they can and can’t do. That includes making sure we have the appropriate controls in place, because data flows across all aspects of the organization. So it’s critical to make sure that people understand, and we have consistent behavior in how we manage customer data in that regard. A CIO also needs the CDO to handle data architecture, so that it can scale. You want to avoid data duplication and replication. I use the concept of “source once, consume many” so that you have multiple processes consuming the same version of truth. That’s so you don't have discrepancies where a system shows one version of data that's different from the others. And it needs to be able to think through the concept of online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP). In many cases, application development is structured on the processing of data, systems and applications, but we don't always think through the aspects and the downstream impacts of OLAP, which is the analytics reporting and model building. Those things need to be as in sync as possible in the way that they're viewing and consuming data. Those are the things that the CIO relies on the CDO for.

What are the common mistakes IT executives make when it comes to business alignment?

Top Answer: Getting stakeholder alignment before kicking off your initiatives is critical; having their alignment throughout the journey is what will make them successful. The most common mistake IT executives make is not bringing the business stakeholders along with them on that journey through each step of this process. The CPQ journey was my first project and we made sure our business stakeholders were alongside us: They were on board and we worked closely on the requirements. But when we defined our goal in terms of what we would accomplish after the project went live, there was a discrepancy between what the business expected and what we were trying to deliver for executives to make us ready for the IPO Journey.  The goal for us and our executives was to put CPQ in place; we wanted to standardize the systems so they would run the way any public company would run them and then book the deals. But our Deal Desk (DD) teams expected all of their current processes would be automated after this project, which is a little different than what we were aiming for. So we ran into some challenges after go-live with the revenue operations team. We automated a significant part of the DD teams’ process, but they also had to make some adjustments to align with industry standards. That part was missed; even though we were 70% aligned, that remaining 30% was a big miss. When we went live, they were panicking and saying, "CPQ is not working. I don’t think this is going to help us. This is only going to slow down our deal processing." We took their feedback in a positive way and decided to help onboard them to this new CPQ process by hand holding them through resolving their challenges. For one month we had to go into hypercare mode by hiring more resources. I had to bring in a staff augmentation team, do a lot more hand holding in the deal processing, and fix a lot of issues. In one quarter’s time, their confidence level went up; I sat with them and explained that we were trying to roll out these standard processes, and educated them about the benefits they will get with this new process. But it was important to work with them and help them understand that it was a change they had to make because we are now operating as a public company. That taught me a key lesson: when we are embarking on a project, we have to first define a goal and then make sure the business stakeholders clearly understand the outcome in detail and what will come out of it when we go live with this project, which will in turn help us on this IPO journey. We had to get everything done quickly because we were preparing to IPO, so we took all the lessons we learnt from CPQ projects and quickly got alignment between all the business stakeholders on the projects that we did over the next four to five months, in which we were 100% successful. The finance and sales teams knew what was coming out of those, so there were no surprises. Quickly incorporating the lessons we learn about what we can do on the technology side to make the stakeholders happy will take IT leaders and their teams a long way.

What are the key issues with enterprise architecture (EA) as a function?

Top Answer: After seeing so many organizations that haven't done a good job of bringing it together, I’d say enterprise architecture (EA) is dead. And I've seen just as many companies that have gone way over the top with EA to the point that it's a constraining mechanism for the organization — people can't get things done because of the way that EA constructs things. It gets to a point where it's just bureaucracy more than anything. But it should be an opportunity to create that connective tissue or framework in which others can operate and innovate.

Are there functions that tend to be more difficult to work with than others?

Top Answer: Previous experience has shown that there are more difficulties in collaborations than in functions per se. But at Tide, one of our core values is that we are “one team”. We try not to have internal politics, or clashes between teams. That’s not to say that there isn’t occasional friction, but we purposefully try to avoid it and work together towards one goal. With that said, in every company there can be certain individuals who can become roadblocks. Especially as you scale up, it's impossible not to come across such people. The key is to identify these roadblocks and figure out how to avoid them. And there isn’t a trick to it, you just learn how to work with those people.