PERHAPS CORPORATE Business needS more “Straight Talking” IT Consulting ?

There’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organisation, and at every level, and that’s “straight talking” – business frankness.

It’s business’s biggest dirty little secret that in most organisations, people would tend to hide or spin the truth rather than openly share what things are wrong, thus making it harder for decision makers to understand the true reality of a business situation and as a result, more difficult to fix it.

That’s human nature of course, and we all have an innate instinct that tells us from a young age to prevent awkwardness and avoid hurting people’s feelings. Or possibly we’re afraid of the very real organisational consequences of being candid in a company culture that doesn’t welcome openness.

But, assuming your organisation wants it, getting that frankness right – with your direct reports, your peers, or your management line – is a skill that could make or break a career or even an interim consulting engagement.

“Getting the overall approach ‘right’ as an interim transformation or change consultant is a key part of the no nonsense ‘Straight Talking’ professional approach I need to do on a daily basis.” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe. “Getting the approach wrong can however have profound ramifications, but experience learned over time, helps me to avoid these mistakes. One often has to remind business clients that the interim role is there with no political agenda but to help the business get their Change done”.

The two biggest challenges I come across, especially in interim IT consulting assignments, is the management of political change – for example; a senior executive or head of department looking to make major change will touch many other areas or people within that organisation — this naturally becomes a political ‘hot potato’. Being sensitive to people and listening to feedback is a key element to managing this process.

The other challenge, is being able to professionally but candidly tell the very leaders of the company whom have brought you into their business that their people, structure or operational process are failing the business, and why! Once the issue is discovered one should ensure that the message is sensitively delivered, factually and accurately articulated addressing the issues head on. More than that I find the best resolution in this situation is to come to the table with not only the issue but options or ways to address or fix them.

Non-IT roles now control many of the most interesting and innovative aspects of corporate IT, while the CIO is being saddled with a massive portfolio of “utility” technologies that only generate interest when they fail. In addition the “death” of the CIO role as it was 10 years ago, has long been discussed and predicted, often due to the role disappearing, rather than the decrease in the number of people interested in filling such a role.

There’s now a legitimate need for operationally-focused IT leaders who can manage a squad of staff that “keep the lights on” while also formulating a strategic IT digital change and vision. Where the CIO role is inherently flawed however is that it often expects the same person to be equipped to handle both these diverse disciplines.

At the executive level, companies should consider separating the operational and strategic disciplines, depending on the needs of the company. As cloud services and the ability to outsource many operational or back office functions, there’s an opportunity to accelerate this shifting separation. Even without resorting to external parties, savvy companies can equip CIOs with the appropriate authority and discretion to build effective operational staff, and stop expecting that CIOs should be equal parts strategist and technician.

Essentially, the CIO role becomes an ‘executive level internal consultant’ who charts the future course for corporate IT, and leverages internal and external resources to execute that vision of IT Business make over, while addressing business issues, needs and social agendas with the ‘right’ use of technology either on-premise or in the cloud.

“Countless years exposure with the CIO layer has convinced me that many CIOs even now in the digital twenty twenties need broader business experience than has typically been required in the past – more commercial business acumen than the typical deep technical expertise of the past,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say. “The CIO needs to be a board level business led executive with the acumen to utilise technology to drive revenue growth”.

The no-nonsense “Straight Talking” approach is about quickly understanding the underlying issues the CIO is facing, while being agile and articulate but calling it as it is in order to deliver quick short term change elements that make an immediate difference to the business.

Very often this is quite a different approach to that of the ‘Big 5’ consultancy houses. The Big-5 typically throw a large number of junior graduates at their business client, who typically provide hundreds of pages of ‘nice’ reports, only to predict there will be better operational improvement in future months to come – so long as the client signs up for months of committed engagement – well synically that’s what you would expect.

CCServe is a London based IT & Business Transformation Consultancy helping CIOs and Executive business leaders globally to move their IT into the 2020’s and beyond, quickly and cost effectively. We bring the ‘right’ resource to the table.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe