Written by
Peter Shand
Chief Technology Officer, Americas

Technology Leadership

Any discussion that involves the word “leadership” can take many directions and lead down many different rabbit holes. This is typically due to the influence of leadership spanning all aspects of our lives. People may lead at home, in social circles or in business, some may lead in all of the above areas or some may lead in none, but in every case our lives are affected by leaders. Technology is almost as ubiquitous and is interacted with at work, at play or at home. Putting both together can thus lead to much complexity. However, this article focuses only on business leadership and “homes in” on a very specific aspect of leading in technology; that is, leading the process of finding, developing, researching, evaluating and ultimately selecting technology solutions that solve business challenges.

Who are technology leaders?

CIOs, CTOs, IT Directors, IT Managers, Team Leaders, Enterprise Architects or all of the above plus more.

These leaders are tasked with managing teams or organizations where guiding people through defining departmental or organizational culture is critical. It is also important for leaders to help to define and implement processes that govern IT operations. These processes, although sometimes undocumented and seem ad-hoc, ensure that IT meets the needs of the business.

Defining a Framework

Frameworks are very useful for helping to manage processes. Most technology leaders have interacted with technology providers that have well known frameworks. Microsoft has the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) has the Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF). These frameworks guide how solutions are presented or deployed but can also guide how solutions are evaluated. Some entities outsource some parts of decision making to contract management and RFP management solution providers. In many cases, these providers provide a framework that is leveraged to grade and evaluate submissions from different providers. Many IT teams are still expected to drive the decision-making process internally and it may be helpful to develop an internal customized process/framework for managing the selection of technology solutions. It may seem like a “tall order” to find the time to develop a framework when many teams are overwhelmed with operational issues compounded by several ongoing projects. However, investing the time may help to improve the decision-making process by making it somewhat repeatable and thus more efficient.

Building Blocks

Technology frameworks typically have core areas of focus which map to critical business or technology outcomes. A good example is “security.” Almost all frameworks have a category that addresses the cybersecurity implications of taking a certain action. Businesses that host critical or sensitive data will have areas of focus that take data privacy and protection into consideration, whereas, businesses that are based on a consumer facing service for entertainment (e.g. gaming) may emphasize availability and reliability. The total cost of ownership should be represented in some way as well. The framework should evolve as business and technology goals evolve. For example, if a business is deciding to transition to greater cloud utilization or managed services, as opposed to FTEs, the framework should reflect that strategic shift.

It could be structured to achieve any or all of the following objectives:

  • Provides a basis for “checking boxes” based on feature requirements within focus areas
  • Provides a basis for evaluating pros and cons of competing solutions within the focus areas
  • Can be used as the foundation to scorecard competing solutions within the focus areas

If a certain provider is strategic, then basing the internal process on a strategic vendor’s defined framework is advisable. Customizing an existing industry framework may also be prudent as there is no point in “reinventing the wheel.”

Final Thoughts

Making decisions can be difficult especially with a crowded technology marketplace with so many providers claiming to be the best. The process can sometimes be even harder if IT leadership takes a collaborative approach and team members are deeply involved with the research and evaluation phases of making these decisions. A collaborative process means more opinions and personal preferences that need to be taken into consideration, however, a defined framework can channel all that input into a structured evaluation process. This can help to improve outcomes and provides some amount validation into why a particular solution is chosen versus others. The emotional aspect of the process is important and should never be underestimated, but adding a repeatable well defined process can yield improvements, especially when paired with other helpful tools such as proof of concepts or value exercises.