I was having a discussion the other day about organizations and efforts in piloting their way effectively into the future.
Some organizations struggle their way forward and others do it with relative aplomb. The latter not only see to the horizon (with a fair measure of accuracy), they see just beyond the scroll of the horizon: They have people willing to survey the future in harboring a vision… and in making business use of that vision.
Regardless, it is challenging for all; challenge is good and this particular challenge (futures planning) should bring out, and be matched by, our best. No organization should blink in the harsh glare of an impending unfriendly future, due to lack of foresight, planning, and activity – but many do.
Consider high-profile examples: How did MySpace lose dominance in the social media environment to the “upstart” Facebook? How did AOL totally miss the boat regarding the modern social media revolution? (AOL’s largest block of revenue still comes from dial-up subscribers. Oops. Not exactly a plan for longevity).
We’ve discussed BIT before: a team comprising individual business stakeholders who are qualified to discuss the stakes both by virtue of their standing in the organization, and by virtue of their interest and willingness to pedal fast enough to discuss IT on a business basis. Those business folks are matched by IT counterparts who bring common dialog to the table; they lose the junk terms, arcane language, acronyms the business audience doesn’t know – and thus they engage effectively.
In leveraging BIT, however, it is possible to debut important concepts and agree to a “dictionary of terms” for purpose of efficient engagement and discussion. A great example is “RFE.”
RFE is Responsible Forward Edge. Organizations sometimes ask me, “Should we be on a leading edge? Bleeding edge? A prudent lagging edge, to see what works for others?” They want to know when to invest; when to assess new systems; when and what to procure; when to implement enhancements, and so on – and how best to make qualified judgments, with resultant prudent activity, for best business.
I tell them to find their RFE, specifically tuned to:
1) Their budget.
2) Their market challenges:
a. Obligation in serving clients, customers…
b. Pressure from competitors.
c. Overall expectations, given the general level of society’s advance…
3) The capacity of their employees to handle change.
4) The capacity of the senior executive class (and boards, oversight, etc.) to handle change…
a. They must have a measure of understanding technical change and reasons for it.
b. They must sponsor change.
c. They must then support it through the inevitable challenges.
5) Detail some of your own – specific to your organization.
Branding and making powerful shorthand of RFE creates very efficient discussion in the BIT group. And that is but one example. I’ve detailed BIT and what it can do for the organization in I.T. Wars – but you’ll have your own ideas.
Remember: BIT is not a rolling close-steer of specific projects (although BIT should touch those). BIT is a high-level piloting of the organization’s direction in view of evolving, best, technical supports; BIT anticipates and tracks the inevitable “what’s coming next.”
BIT opens the view to the possibilities, and hands off assessments to specific leaders who make the ongoing selection of products; those who engage the vendors and value-added-remarketers (VARs), in sustaining the organization through implementations and enablements – whether that’s a new mission-critical core business system, or a flock of new printers.
Some orgs decry “yet another meeting!” Make BIT annual, or semi-annual, or quarterly… see what happens and where it goes – judge its tune, size, and effectiveness. Also, look for a regularized meeting you can eliminate to free some time. I’ve seen “glad-handing” stuff on the calendar that, while important, can definitely go in making space for something as important as BIT.
And, you can glad-hand at the end of each meeting as you pilot your way into a future that the organization determines:
Define your future – before the future defines you.
NP: Van Cliburn, Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3, Kiril Kondrashin conducting (Carnegie Hall, May 19, 1958). Original Red Seal RCA Victor LP, LM-2355.