(179) How to IT Strategy

On this week’s show we are joined by Richard Sage to explore the murky world of IT strategy.

You can subscribe to Richard’s newsletter at https://resage.substack.com/

And there is more about his IT Strategy course here: https://howtoitstrategy.com/


This week’s show transcript:

Intro

Matt: [00:00:00] So once again, we find ourselves on the precipice of another show. It’s been a week. How was it?

[00:00:09] Chris: [00:00:09] Hi, it’s been a, an interesting week. Lots of going on. Again, I, me pretty much, like I say, every week, actually new customers to talk to and getting ready for what’s coming this year in terms of our events and things like that.

[00:00:23] I think one thing that I’ve noticed this week is that if I wanted to a meeting’s postponed and I think more, the story of this month is that it’s taken people a bit longer to get up to speed and to hit their straps than maybe they had considered. I think the the impact of, of lockdown, the reality, and everybody could go away for Christmas and, and and pretend it was, it was.

[00:00:47] No, everything was normal. And then just the impact of coming back and starting uni a year in a very different way to last year, like the events that we’re doing now, obviously our, our, our virtual, which is which we’ve been doing that for a long time, but this time last year, they weren’t. And the fact that is that, that we’re, we’re still doing this round differently.

[00:01:10] And I think everybody’s a little bit.  Discombobulated and not deciding, not just us, but everybody. I talk to you. So yeah, I’d say it’s been a slow staff for everybody that I’ve, unless they’ve been there a hundred, some insane deadline, which some people are unfortunate to have to do, but yeah, it’s been a, it’s been a funny putting, wondering how about yourself?

[00:01:30] Matt: [00:01:30] Yeah, I, I think it, I can relate to that. It feels like people are just exhausted and nobody’s really willing to say. No, well, you know, year or this knackered and people need to start saying that, I think because otherwise people are going to seriously burnout. So yeah, it’s I think, yeah, it’s, it’s been a weird, so although on the same token with is week four of 2021, and it feels like about month four, but you know, that’s the way it goes.

[00:01:59]My week has been How’s my weight been. I’ve been doing some discussions and writing a little bit about the difference between people who think in terms of maps and people who think in terms of lists, which is kind of shaping, it’s sort of thinking out loud, working out loud around how I go about influence within my organization and a realization that whilst I like to work mostly in a.

[00:02:22] Two dimensional realm with space and diagrams and watery maps and all that jazz. Quite a lot of my colleagues and quite a lot of my senior colleagues are very list driven. I also realize that my wife is as well she’s program manager. That’s what they do. And I, I’m starting to perceive this world where there is a difference between people who perceive things in terms of relationships on two dimensions and those that see them in.

[00:02:50] A list form, maybe a bit more, one dimensional, but very much more sort of task and forward focused. And the challenges there are in being able to allow both of those groups to better communicate with each other and come to agreement on things. So that’s been interesting. I also learned how to make Ginza.

[00:03:07] Which is very exciting. A birthday present that I got bought by difference breached and Caroline was to Yuki’s kitchen. She did yesterday evening went to the the Asian supermarket in Kingston on Saturdays, prayer. It’s great fun. You go through shelves. You’ve got no idea what most of the things are and learn how to make those little Japanese dumplings Goza which is surprisingly easy and delicious.

[00:03:33] And it’s one of those things where like the, the, the, the The covering for a geezer, which is sort of a noodley type thing. It’s not like a dumpling, like our kids spend these aren’t dumplings, dumplings are things he put on Stu, but it’s one of those things where it’s been like, it’s very much like pastor actually, but until you know how to make it, it feels like magic and voodoo because it’s so unlike anything that I’ve normally cooked before, and then you learn how to do it.

[00:03:57] Oh, that’s clever. And I feel empowered. So I’ll be making more  and Yuki’s kitchen. If you want to do something of an evening cookery class is doing things like sushi and Goza and ramen and all sorts of stuff. And it’s a really nice way to spend 90 minutes in your kitchen, but with a group of people, all learning has to do something new, which is It’s fab.

[00:04:20] So there you go. Anyway, this week as well, joining us at Richard Sage, how’s your last seven days been?

[00:04:25]Richard: [00:04:25] Hi yeah. Interesting. I’ve sort of a lot of what Chris was saying was sort of resonating with me in terms of I’ve had a lot of conversations. In the last seven days about people feeling like they’re not making any progress, I’m like, Oh, bloody house, nearly February.

[00:04:44]And I don’t know. It almost makes me think that, especially in the company I work out, you know, January is the start of the new financial year as well. I guess this is full of other organizations, but it’s almost like this is a period of aligning the iron filings. Like, so, you know, a lot of my colleagues are like, Oh, I’ve just seemed to have spent loads of time talking to people about stuff that we want to do and not doing the stuff that we want to do.

[00:05:07] And I think my reflection that is actually that’s, I think the natural ebb and flow of the months of the year, and it’s quite natural to sort of have a bit of a reset post-Christmas. And. And take some time to maybe agree what we’re doing for the rest of the year. So yeah, lots of, lots of conversations.

[00:05:25] And I think the other point Brown, the sort of fatigue I think is definitely there. I sort of had quite long break over Christmas, but actually you know, I still feel fatigue.

[00:05:37] Matt: [00:05:37] A business you work in is in the, in the the holiday world.  Is this normally a very busy time as well? Yeah, as you’re basically selling.

[00:05:46] Richard: [00:05:46] Yeah. Basically it normally goes boxing day through to pretty much the end. The affair is peak booking period. And then obviously summertime is your peak staying period. And you know People seem to be reasonably optimistic. So bookings are okay because I guess people are thinking, okay, we’re all going to be faxing up the wazoo soon.

[00:06:06] And then it’s partly time and holiday time in quarter two and onwards. And you know, who knows that might be true. Here’s hoping.

[00:06:15] Matt: [00:06:15] Yeah, very much. Yep. Good. Well you’re joining this for the show this week and we’re going to be talking about themes around strategy and technology strategy and digital strategy and, and business strategy.

[00:06:27] So I think we should probably get on with that.

Main Interview

Chris: [00:00:00] So this week, as we said, we’ve got Richard Sage with us. And I’m really looking forward to this because I’ve been reading Richard’s newsletters for awhile because which is your doing it strategy. Right. And you’re, you’re, you’re, it’s something you’re obviously passionate about and you’ve been publishing.

[00:00:20] Kind of interesting snippets and thoughts on how to build it strategy for a while. It’s something that I do you know, kind of professionally, it is working with organizations to figure out often how they’re going to form an it strategy or what, what they’re going to put into it. And therefore I have read a lot in, but just a few weeks ago, late last year I did another research piece where I read loads and loads of it.

[00:00:44] Strategies now is. Amazed at how little common ground there was really in sort of that kind of sections they had or what they thought was important. So it’s an interesting subject for me. And I wonder given that you’ve been doing this for a while, how long have you been doing it? And I, Richard, what’s your, how long have you, how many emails, newsletters have you published?

[00:01:05] So

[00:01:05] Richard: [00:01:05] I started in in my that was the, the first sort of newsletter. And you had been doing roughly about three a month on average since then. So yeah, I mean, so. I mean what my background was, obviously, as a, as a CTO at the moment, I’m responsible for the, for the it strategy previous to that, I was a consultant doing it strategy as well.

[00:01:31] And then previous to that, I was in organizations helping create it strategy as well. So it’s a, yeah, it’s an area of interest. I find it really interesting thinking about strategy and thinking about long-term owl. It can, you know, No challenge and enable businesses. So I figured it would be a useful area to sort of, to delve into I had a bit of a wreck recognition that I’ve got some knowledge and experience in that area.

[00:01:59] And so maybe, you know, and, and I’ve also made some mistakes in that area. And so maybe some of that learning might be, might be useful to people. And and I’ve also sort of recognize that it’s a. Bit of a learning exercise myself, you know, by writing stuff, I’m sort of reconfiguring how I think about things and challenging myself.

[00:02:18]So that actually, it helps me be more effective in my role when I do, you know, formulate or refresh strategies as well. And my other sort of thinking around. Why are doing suffer and it stretches a bit of a serendipity engine, I guess. I can’t remember who used that term, but have that at somewhere in terms of putting something out there, creating something and then good things happening off the back of it, such as coming on this podcast to talk about it strategy.

[00:02:44]And then the, I guess the final sort of reason behind One is to talk about like strategy as a purely mercenary. One of, you know putting this newsletter out, hopefully it provides some value. I’m also in parallel creating a course. Hopefully some people will find that valuable and pay for that and that will get some money in the kitty.

[00:03:03] Chris: [00:03:03] Okay. Well that makes a lot of sense. So so when you, when you started and what made you want to do a blog, what made you want, want to. Was there, was there a particular thing that you said, right, I’m going to do this, or was it maybe the end goal of creating a course? Did that come first and think about, well, how am I going to get there?

[00:03:21] What was the, what, what prompted you to actually start? Yeah,

[00:03:24] Richard: [00:03:24] I mean, I’m, I’m sort of interested in in just thinking about, you know, my career and, and and Joe, where I’m always sort of thinking ahead of where, where am I going? What am I doing? So in terms of, you know, Doing a blog to help cement. My knowledge is just beneficial to me right now, but also potentially in the future.

[00:03:43]And also thinking about other potential revenue streams. So I’ve got other, you know, once I’ve completed the course and hopefully sell it, if that works well, then I’ve got some other ideas. Which might provide which I might build on, on that which might provide, you know, another revenue stream at some point in the future alongside my my job.

[00:04:04] Okay.

[00:04:04] Chris: [00:04:04] So one of the things that’s always interested me about about a strategy is how many times especially in, well, I say larger organizations, but I think it can happen in many organizations when somebody is asked to write a strategy, It’s almost as a kind of maybe it’s a to trust you. So we feel comfortable that you’ve got a plan, but once it’s done, it’s kind of a, it’s about a theater and then it can be put to one side or if it’s you know, KPMG or something like that.

[00:04:34] It’s a, it’s an enormous piece of you know, lots of, lots of pages that get put in a drawer. And it’s just there to show that you’ve got one. When the auditors come round, what is the. What’s your feeling on that? You know, how many it strategies are really valid or useful documents and what can we do about the ones that are,

[00:04:53] Richard: [00:04:53] yeah, I mean, I’ve, I’ve definitely, you know, hands up, been involved in creating lighting strategies that probably fall into that quite sort of I don’t want to be negatively or sort of cynical view of what an IOT strategy is.

[00:05:07]You know, and I guess those are. Ones where it might just be a reaction of Oh organization, doesn’t have a strategy border asking where it is going often, you know, probably because they’re unhappy with where it is going. And certainly when, when I was a consultant that was often the story you know, the consultants, including myself, were brought in to help.

[00:05:32] The incumbent create an it strategy because the board weren’t comfortable that they were getting the value from it that they wanted. And that’s never, that that scenario is never a particularly positive one. Certainly often for the, for the incumbent, so involved for that. So that’s certainly a scenario for me like the, the value.

[00:05:51] Yeah. Where it strategies are valuable is around your polyps about influencing but also being able to influence, influencing near the board or investors and about clearing a path. So by setting a direction, you’re, you’re, you’re saying what you are going to do, and obviously very either implication or explicitly what you’re not going to do.

[00:06:14] It can unlock investment as well. And it gives you a guidance to be able to say no to stuff, which I think is really important. And from a, an it team perspective provides a direction for the team. So I don’t quite know how you would provide direction for a team without having a clear strategy or something masquerading as an it strategy.

[00:06:34] Matt: [00:06:34] There’s something quite interesting about that. That point about where you get people in to do strategy about whether it’s done in house. And I’ve never really made this link before, but I’ve always found it a bit odd that senior leaders don’t create their own strategies because surely if senior leadership is about anything, it’s about being able to define, set and execute strategy.

[00:06:56] But actually is something that you do for a bit. And then it’s the definition and the creation of it is one part, the selling of it is another. And then the execution of it is the bit that usually takes the time. And actually those are quite different sets of skills. So I can see actually, maybe. Externally delivered strategy is not as daft as an idea as I’ve maybe thought it has been.

[00:07:19] Richard: [00:07:19] This is just the one I actually, one of my first newsletters was about, you know, do you need a consultant to to create an it strategy? And my great answer in summary was it depends. So, you know, if so, if, if you’re an incumbent it leader in an organization and actually the reason why you’ve got a consultant in is because the boat don’t have confidence in youth and you’ve got bigger problems.

[00:07:41]And you’re probably going to be gone within a very short period of time. If however, your an incumbent it leader in an organization and and your proactively going, actually I need some expertise bringing in and controlling that expertise to help you craft a better it strategy to help challenge your thinking.

[00:08:00] Then that’s a really positive and more likely to have a positive outcome approach. Yeah. So, yeah, I guess that’s sort of two simplistic distinctions of, I guess, you know, that there’s one where actually outside help probably is a sticking plaster over a more fundamental issue about the relationship of the it leader with the stakeholders.

[00:08:24]And then there is one where a surgical use of experienced people. Controlled by that incumbent leader. So it’s not, you don’t just end up with a load of you know, big four slideware. That’s just recycled from company to company. That can be a really positive thing.

[00:08:45]Matt: [00:08:45] Probably a useful point at this let’s define strategy because I think it’s a term that has many.

[00:08:53] Interpretations for you? What, what’s the core elements of a good strategy it or otherwise?

[00:09:01] Richard: [00:09:01] Yeah, I guess it’s funny. I was literally quoting this stuff to someone today in terms of there’s a I can’t remember the name of the book. Something like how to play bass by Lafley and Martin. And it talks about a.

[00:09:13] Cascade of five connectors and reinforcing choices. So it talks about w w what’s our winning aspiration. So you might call that the strategic vision you know, where will we play? How will we win, what capabilities need to be in place for us to win. And then fifthly, I think it’s what management systems are required in in the broadest sense of systems and measures.

[00:09:37]So that you can monitor the, the capabilities of delivering what they need. I think that’s quite a nice, succinct way of thinking about it. Yeah. And then I guess there’s the sort of remote sort of strategies coherent has coordinating actions and policies and resources. As you know, is another good way of thinking about it so that when, when people say strategies to me, that’s immediately where my, my mind goes.

[00:10:01] Chris: [00:10:01] There’s something along those lines that just before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about how you about business strategy and IC strategy, and often what you do when you go into an organization, you find that. They wanted it strategy, but they don’t really have a business strategy or not something that you can work with.

[00:10:20] So then as a consultant, you end up essentially drawing out that business strategy in order that you can then provide a technology strategy that supports it. And my, one of my questions has always been. People always say that they’ve got, you can always get some kind of group run the idea, whether it be we’re going to grow this business, you know, everybody wants to grow their business.

[00:10:42] Okay. So that’s a, that’s a nice, simple one. Or we’re going to be more profitable or, you know, we’re going to diet, we’re going to get, we, we currently do this. We’re going to add this and this and this to our portfolio of services, whatever it might be. But then I say, you’re going to grow right.

[00:11:00] Generally speaking, I’d just say, okay, fair enough. So you’re going to grow. And the market is the market growing particularly well, no market. Yeah. Unless you’re in a very unusual place. Your market’s probably about the same as this year as it was last year. So if you’re going to grow, you are going to have to take business from somebody else.

[00:11:16] And that’s how that’s, that’s a, that’s a truth. So what are you going to do? What are you going to say to their customers so that they give you money instead of them? What is it? And when you get down to that and people say, Oh, well we’re cheaper or faster, or where we’re, you know, we’re cleaner or we’re nicer, or, you know, whatever they’re going to say to say, well, why should that guy give you his money rather than him just carrying on using the last guy?

[00:11:46] Makes a big difference. Just, just that simple question.

[00:11:49] Richard: [00:11:49] Yeah. And that’s where often you. If people haven’t thought enough about it, you get the sort of the party stewards of, Oh, well, we’re, you know, we’ve, we’ll have the best people and, you know we’ll we’ll understand the customer and Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting because there’s that point isn’t aware of sort of, you know, it’s important to have aspirations, but they need to end up with being coherent and being actionable, you know?

[00:12:14]You had the, I can’t remember who said it, but if your strategy is making statements where the opposite of the statement, isn’t also a really good idea, then you’re maybe not making a decision. I don’t know whether that makes sense.

[00:12:29] Chris: [00:12:29] Yeah, that’s a bit like this. You know, if, if somebody says something and the, and your response is waltz or duh, you know, or that’s not really something, yeah.

[00:12:42] Richard: [00:12:42] We’re going to deliver great customer service really. Oh, right. So the alternative that is a valid, valid strategic option is that you’re going to deliver really shit. So attended with three alerts where what’s on your podcast, but yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s yeah. It’s yeah, it’s delivering a really bad customer service, a strategic decision that you want to make tonight.

[00:13:04] Yeah.

[00:13:05] Matt: [00:13:05] Yeah. I suppose there’s Maybe not at that extreme, but for some organizations that there are those choices to be made. It’s the worst is when the platitudes take over. And they’re all saying, they’re doing one thing, but the reality is another. So if you take, I don’t know train operators, for example, I remember my old mate of mine.

[00:13:23] Dan is worked in the train industry for all his career and yeah. I think it was the Welsh railways and the they’d got to the state where the customer service was being talked to wear it as a thing. But the reality was that the trains were being held up mostly by customers because customers would do nasty things like hold the doors when the train was about to leave, which was meaning that the train would get delayed, which means that they all get penalized because of the fact that they then had fines to pay because they weren’t meeting.

[00:13:52] Occasions as a franchise operator. And it was a despised ruling circle of despair where the, the, you know, the, the staff thought that the biggest single problem where the passengers and the passengers thought that the staff bloody awful, because they’d been treated by. Them terribly because they were viewed in that way.

[00:14:12] And so, but all of that came about because I’m sure there was somebody, some somebody for the wealth rowers were say, we pride ourselves in our passenger service, but they weren’t actually doing anything about it. And at that platitudinous statements, if you just got there aspirational thing without any, any real indication about how you will execute it, it actually can become very self-destructive.

[00:14:36] Chris: [00:14:36] Yeah, I’ve got a client at the moment. And we were talking about the fact that they’ve got they need to make some changes to their it structure and the way they deliver. And partly it’s because I think they’re doing too good, a job. Everybody gets their problem fixed in no time at all, but it costs too much.

[00:14:51] So how do they degrade it in a way that can save them money, but is also manageable from a

[00:14:59] Richard: [00:14:59] that’s pretty, pretty interesting is the, is the CFO like responsible for it?

[00:15:04]Chris: [00:15:04] No, it’s, it’s a bit more complicated than that in this organization. But yes, I, I know where you’re coming from.

[00:15:11] Richard: [00:15:11] Yeah. Is it just, just that it it’s just a cost center, is it?

[00:15:14] Yeah, it’s not it’s not revenue generator or, you know, that, that sounds like that’s the sort of narrative that seems to be at play

[00:15:22] Chris: [00:15:22] that. Yeah. I mean often when you get a CFO’s in charge of it, that that’s, as you say, it’s so much of how, why should I pay for this? You know, w w tell me, tell me what this is costing me and why?

[00:15:34]I think often the question they’re asking that question, and you’re trying to do those things. Part of the question you’ve got to ask yourself is what is the value of getting this stuff done in, within, you know, an hour and what is the cost of not doing it? And then, you know, in some businesses. So if you’re the NHS, for example, you might be, you might have all been, we’re gonna drop the call time from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.

[00:16:02] But if somebody can’t see patients in that time can have a serious effect. So you’ve got, you know, it’s a, you’ve got to think of the value in the ho in the round, rather than, rather than just in the, you know, we have to employ two more. First line staff or whatever, it’s not, you know, these things, but then again, when a business is, is under pressure and it’s under pressure, right.

[00:16:23] It can’t afford for the money to go out the door. So something has to give

[00:16:29] Matt: [00:16:29] there’s sometimes also though I. I’m sure I’ve spoken about this on the show before, but I see it as context of Trump cards that get played in organizations that can also be good indicator of the, the underlying tacit strategy.

[00:16:45] Maybe you should think about this, like culture or other things. You’ve got an explicit strategy and a tacit. Yeah. Strategy and where the Trump cards are played. So I’ve seen and worked in organizations where the shareholder is the Trump card. And if somebody says that we need to do this because the shareholder value, that means just do it.

[00:17:04] There’s no real debate to be had about this. I’ve seen it in privately held companies where the, the chairman the design agency I worked for for a few years, the, the chairman there, if, if Gary said something. Not if Gary actually said, but if it was said that Gary had said something, then Gary, the chairman that, that flow, if Gary said the client Wanted something then that really, that was a double chump I need to really actually have, should have already done it twice.

[00:17:32] You know, it shouldn’t be waiting around, hanging around for anything to happen. And I wonder how many times actually, in organizations, people we use the Trump card of one of the key strategic imperatives for my experience tends to be much more actually Trump cards are people and people with power.

[00:17:51] Then they are, we have to do this because of profitability and actually being played in that kind of way. It’s interesting as to whether the, the explicit strategy really is what’s going on implicitly in day to day operation.

[00:18:05] Richard: [00:18:05] That’s interesting in terms of, because I’ve definitely seen scenarios where the, you know, the Trump card has been a person.

[00:18:12]But also when the Trump card has been like the concept of a person, like, you know, when you’re like, Oh, well the business wants this to happen. Like I’d always imagined, like there’s some sort of Jabba the hut, like creature. There’s called the business that exists. Then it’s just our and you know, dictating things.

[00:18:33]But equally, equally, I think sometimes organizations can fool themselves into, you know, what we’re really customer centric. We do loads of research. And then that becomes the sort of dictatorial voice of like, whoever owns that relationship with your, you know, your, your use of your researchers or whatever, then owns the the new Trump card which.

[00:18:56] You know, maybe it’s slightly less problematic. If it, if it’s grounded in, you know, in good ethical research but maybe it can also be used. I guess what we’re talking about is about power. Isn’t it. And, and that can be held in wielded in various different ways.

[00:19:15] Chris: [00:19:15] So, okay. Let’s just think about them a little bit about.

[00:19:19] Formats and how who’s going to read it and why it’s right. So I, when I was doing my research last year, and, and this plays a little bit into Matt, Cohen’s early on about list people and map people. When I did my research, I looked, I saw all sorts of things in it, strategies, some of which, some of which were more common than others.

[00:19:42] And what I started to think of. Okay. Who’s the audience for this document? So it might be shareholders. It might be the managing director or the board. It might be the customers might be interested up to a point. It might be the supply chain would be interested because they want to know how we know how you’re going to evolve your tech so that they can interact with you more efficiently and do their service.

[00:20:06]Your it team would, should be interested in it because they should be, they should be involved and interested in, you know, even if they’re not involved in creating it, they should be in it directly. They should indirect, indirectly informative and they should be interested to know what on earth is they’re heading towards right now, because you’ve got all these different.

[00:20:29] Audience is they need to be spoken to in different ways and they need to be spoken to it with, with different words and different styles. But often we just write one document and that’s it, that’s the it strategy got on with it. And is that the right thing to do? And how do we, how do we break this up and make it?

[00:20:45] So it’s actually relevant to lots of different people with lots of different, you know, some people are just interested in that bit and some people are interested in this bit and some people are interested in the same bit as those people, but they want to see it in a different way. So how do we deal with that?

[00:21:01] Richard: [00:21:01] Yeah, that’s it, as soon as possible, I think. Right. In terms of those, those sort of stakeholder groups that you talked about, I guess there’s, you know, simplistically, there’s the up ones, whether that’s board or shareholders, there’s the internal ones as in like your team, whereas your it team going, I guess, you know, suppliers potentially as well.

[00:21:20]And yeah, and across, in terms of those, you know, What am I doing for my marketing team? What am I doing for my, you know, for like HR team? What am I doing for my finance team? And I guess for me, like you do need to be able to boil down something into a, into a single document that at the very least addresses the needs of those stakeholders to a greater or lesser extent, like I’m going to be more interested in pleasing, you know, my board than I probably am.

[00:21:51] My opposite number in, I know the team, you know, I still need to cause, you know, cause that might undermine something that I want to achieve, but but there’s a, I guess a priority order there. The approach I’ve taken is previously is if there is one strategy document, but then there, there is engagement that is absolutely tailored to, you know, to draw out and summarize.

[00:22:16] That you know, Hey marketing guy, I have addressed your needs and you th this is how this is how I’m going to address them. So I guess there’s, yeah, once I guess it’s I was going to make some sort of really bad biblical analogy of like, there’s, there’s one Bible, but maybe various different additions.

[00:22:32]I’ll stop there before I plus feed.

[00:22:36] Chris: [00:22:36] Yeah. W we’re going to have the church on a bucket for not getting the truth and various yes.

[00:22:48] I think it’s a, I think it’s a struggle because you know, you think about it is digital strategy and whatever that is and it strategy and business strategy and they’re, so they’re becoming so merged now. You can’t make a decision in business anymore. Once upon a time, we used to say, you know, You’d have the, the great and the good say, well, you must have your it director on the board and never all it directors them were banging on the door saying, I must be on the board because you can’t possibly take a business decision without understanding the technology implications.

[00:23:20] But that now is not just about the technology implications of a business decision, but it’s also. Why should you make this decision? Because these are the options you have because, because technology right now, some of that technology, maybe isn’t, or even shouldn’t be owned by the it department and the CIO, maybe, you know, maybe some of it should be in the marketing team and somebody, it should, some of it should be in the procurement team or whatever, and therefore, Maybe the it strategy just has to get, it has to be boiled down to a much smaller thing and everybody else has their own technology, part of their own strategy.

[00:24:00] Who knows? I don’t know the answer, but we’ve got to be a bit more aware that this isn’t, this isn’t like 10 years ago when it’s not even like five years ago, this has got to evolve really quickly. 10,

[00:24:13] Matt: [00:24:13] 10 up. Technology works. I think a number of different levels now that isn’t it, because you’ve got the traditions, which has been like machinery, the kind of plant, the capital investment that you make for stuff to be able to produce things.

[00:24:27] And it used to be the most of that production was about the back office. So it was about producing numbers of finance or the payroll, or document. But increasingly the last 20 years, it’s been starting to become machines to be able to deliver. The front service that the, the actual things that the customers use in some cases it is what the customer consumes in many cases is mediated through, but then there’s also a whole sway the technology.

[00:24:56] And I think this has been really brought home in the last year that there’s, there’s the machinery stuff. And then there’s the, the technology, that’s more like language. That is there purely as an enabler to enable people to communicate with one another. And that, that, I don’t think they actually, traditional I-Team models are very good at managing any of that stuff because that isn’t, it doesn’t fit with type process.

[00:25:21] It doesn’t fit with the machine model of the organization. It’s much more about the organism of the organization and it would be like saying, well, we need a centralized team to be able to control language. Which of course, any comms team where they’d put their hand up and go that’s us and go, no, no, no, no, no, no normal language.

[00:25:39] And the, you know, the, the different modes of what we do, I think too much, actually we thought that the, the two modes of therapy, the bi-modal stuff, but gardener. Pumped out that was all about, you know, old fashioned technology and new fashion technologies or framed in technology, not in the use of it, but I think there’s, there’s definitely distinctions between technology that is used to be able to manage and control process, which could be old or new.

[00:26:03] And that, that is used to manage the communication and the collaboration between people, which is again, old or new from email all the way up to whatever the latest plug into Microsoft teams is. And. So actually the breadth of what we need to do within a technology strategy, if technology strategy itself is separate from the organization, strategy is massive because it’s not just like it was, which was put servers into server room, turn servers on keep servers.

[00:26:35] Cool.

[00:26:37] Richard: [00:26:37] Yeah. And I think the thing for me is, is it’s going to. The crap analogy coming up again, you know, the, you know, for every organization is, is a jigsaw puzzle, the actual demarcation of, you know, where the, where the it strategy, a jigsaw puzzle ends and the digital one begins. And the business one begins, I think is different depending on the organization.

[00:26:59] So someone’s asking you the other day. Oh yeah. My organization I’ve got digital strategy. How does my it strategy fit in? I’m like, well, I can’t answer that question. Like generically I’d need to understand, you know, what is the scope of your digital strategy? You know, what is the landscape of your organization to be able to really answer that?

[00:27:20]Cause it, it may be, it may be different. And because the breadth and depth of, of what it is now does touch so many areas y’all can think of areas of. Yeah, the organization I work in where actually it’s a, it’s a customer service team that own a particular bit of technology. And what I need to do is be cognizant of where I add the most value.

[00:27:41] So is that working for people? Is it working for the, you know, for, for my colleagues and their customers now? Yes. Great. That can, that can continue. I’ll focus my air, my tensions on other priority areas. And I will keep, keep an eye on that area. And if it’s not working because something changes strategically or or we, you know, I’m thinking, you know, there’s a, there’s a channel management bit of software in my organization.

[00:28:07] That’s primarily owned by customer services. Actually, if our strategy changes and we need to, you know, Do something new with channels, then actually that’s going to be a new area of focus. So yeah, I go, yeah, I’m answering a question really about by saying, you know, it depends,

[00:28:26] Matt: [00:28:26] but in that actually, maybe there is also one of the big challenges that the industry has, which is because of its, its tradition in engineering.

[00:28:36] Do we have people who can think ambiguously enough and cope with the ambiguity of all of this complexity. When, if you look at the tradition, it’s all been about best practice models and that certainty of follow the process and the way in which, you know, the whole agile movement over the last 20 years, which supposed to be about being able to cope with complexity and ambiguity has been railroaded into, if you just follow this method, everything will turn out.

[00:29:06] Right. Which we all know is nonsense. And so there’s something there about actually. And in comparison to other support services where, you know, finances w with putting aside that, you know, the black art of of management accounting, And if you just look at the basics of it all, it’s, you know, it’s fairly, you know, what’s going on.

[00:29:28] It’s fairly routine. It’s all about following Lauren, you know, process with HR very much. Similarly, I think for it to a great extent, we’ve got this thing that is so ambiguous.

[00:29:42] Richard: [00:29:42] But I think that that’s where actually, you know, you can bring some Ang you know, some, you can try and bring some clarity to the ambiguity from lighting strategy perspective by, you know, you know, I’m just thinking about your previous strategy.

[00:29:56] I wrote, I talked about it needing to be a competitive weapon and that was you know, it’s a potentially a meaningless phrase, but what it meant was. We are going to focus on areas where we can help the business compete. We’re not going to focus on areas where there isn’t, you know, the, the machinery stuff, the, that you mentioned, actually, we can get someone else to do.

[00:30:16] We’re not going to sell more by doing that ourselves. And then it helps yeah. Making some mistakes. I think some distinctions like that help simplify the decisions that you’ve got to make, I guess in some way, I don’t know whether that makes sense. I think

[00:30:30] Chris: [00:30:30] so that what you said earlier about, it depends by some of the top of the organization you are, but made me think a little bit about technology companies.

[00:30:37] So maybe even software companies where you’ve got you’re producing an ERP system or, or, or whatever it might be. And in that, for instance, if you think about some of the people now, and I’ve met some of the people who are CEOs at big technology companies, and you think they’re going to be like the greatest CIO that ever lived and actually.

[00:30:59] That their, their role is quite limited, right there, computers on desks. Are they working? If the software that’d be, people need to do their jobs, working, all the, all the cool stuff is, is what the business is. Right? So in your it strategy, in that role, you would be talking about keeping people working, and you’re the person that gets called when the broadband doesn’t work or the.

[00:31:25] Or the phones don’t work or whatever. And maybe that’s where, where a lot of it is heading because actually the, the technology is just now out there. And it’s not a, it’s not the responsibility of a CIO or an it director anymore because it’s necessarily owned elsewhere. And maybe we’re seeing that kind of.

[00:31:47] Well in some industries and maybe, maybe a growing trend that will be for the, it remit to sort of go back down to the basics and just keep everybody working.

[00:31:58] Richard: [00:31:58] Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah. I mean, I think, yeah, there’s a, there’s also an argument for actually yeah. That CIO role to be the, the architect of, of an ecosystem that might, you know, that some parts of that ecosystem might be being owned in different areas.

[00:32:15] But you’re the one with the holistic view, making sure that actually, how, if, if there’s an investment here in a certain system that it feeds the, you know, the feet of the data flows that need to be over here for the other system. So I think that that role of you know, architects, but equally at the same time, it could just be that CIO role is a you know, is just a procurement and contracts manager.

[00:32:37]You know, which is thought that. Fills me with dread.

[00:32:43] Chris: [00:32:43] I think for a lot of people, it would, but for a lot of it directors that I’ve known of, but that would be perfect.

[00:32:51] Matt: [00:32:51] And for a lot of organizations today, actually, maybe that’s what they need. But again, as you say, it’s much more about context.

Outro

Matt: [00:00:00] So we are at the end of episode, 179, which of course, apart from the inevitable Sid Waddell impersonations for next week’s show, which I know Chris you’re particularly looking forward to. , what occurs for you now between this point in that?

[00:00:21] Chris: [00:00:21] Well, I’ve got an event that’s coming up, so. And as I said, at the top of the program, we were talking about being different this year, from last year.

[00:00:29] So that last year I was doing this event in in. Well, we did Kevin Hagan one day and we did start her in the next day. And that was, yeah, it’s always nice to visit those places today, tomorrow. No, rather Wednesday I’m doing an event, which is ostensibly in the Nordics, but also in the Benelux looks at the same time.

[00:00:46] So this is covering, you know, Belgium and Holland, as well as Sweden and Denmark and all those places. But of course, I’m doing it from the comfort of my little room here, so everything has changed, but we can. We can not cover them more places from, with one event, which I guess is which I guess is progressive assault.

[00:01:04] So that’s what I’m doing this week amongst other things. What about your

[00:01:09] Matt: [00:01:09] email? So I’m bringing actually some data consults people in, into the organization over the course of the next week or so to do some work, to be able to as just through, you know, the form filling stuff of new suppliers, very exciting.

[00:01:23] And a Thursday and Friday this week is Paul Armstrong’s TBD event. Which I’m hoping my diary won’t be completely cut out. This is the problem with these online event. Things, is that because you’re exactly the same place as you would be as if you were doing work in the virtual office, you find that buckers keep putting meetings in, but a hope to it make some of the TBD event.

[00:01:49] I can’t remember what the B stands for, but it’s technology and the D is disruption and he has a remarkable. Wide range of speakers. I think Rory Sutherland is speaking. I think he’s got people from all of the big social networks there and various other bits and bobs as well. So I’m looking forward to being able to make as much of that as I can.

[00:02:11]And Richard, what’s your week ahead looking like,

[00:02:13]Richard: [00:02:13] So it’s interesting. You mentioned data consultants cause that’s a conversation I’m having as well. I think, yeah, there’s some opportunities to get some expertise. Into help us with, with some of our identify other opportunities for, for our data and doing some work around some more investment.

[00:02:32]And we’re doing some interesting work around obviously as with everyone last year was And opportunity for learning. And we’re, we’re sort of taking some steps to sort of cement some of that stuff, whether that’s around, how, how we’re helping people remote work or or how we’re taking some of the learnings where we’ve challenged some assumptions about how we can operate our business.

[00:02:54] And we’re, we’re making some changes off of that. So I’m trying to frame the last year in as positive way as possible, but yeah. Yeah, that’s sort of my week.

[00:03:04] Matt: [00:03:04] Excellent. Well, thank you again for joining us. This is a great conversation out this very confusing world of of technology strategy and yeah.

[00:03:13] So help me, which is good. So I thank you, Dan, Chris, you and I will see each other again next week. I believe, I guess next week is Roland Harward. He, of Liminal. Which should be very good. So between now and then thank you for joining us. And we will see you next week.

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