Writer, classic rock lover, dog rescuer, company founder, software exec, and now independent management consultant--I speak, blog, and pester my friends about these topics. My current focus is getting IT and business organizations to collaborate more effectively and not kill each other. I also talk and write about big data, why analytics is fundamentally strategic, how to pitch business execs on IT projects, and why not to buy a dog from a pet store.

I’ve lived in London, Paris, and Sydney, but call L.A. home. #weatherwimp. I cultivate an organic vegetable garden and friends with issues. I’ve written three books, co-authored a fourth, and contributed to a bunch more. (I have another one in my head waiting to come out, but it’s crowded in there right now.) I prefer Def Leppard to Bon Jovi, mashed potatoes to brown rice, fly fishing to golf, Pinot Noir to Zinfandel, and nice people to assholes. I have a tattoo. I’m not telling you where. I feel guilty that I go hot and cold on social media, that I don’t spend enough face time with my friends, that my French is rusty, and that I ate that whole bag of Kirkland peanut butter cups in less than a week. I have to live with those things.

Sometimes It IS Brain Surgery: the CIO as Change Agent

Sometimes It IS Brain Surgery: the CIO as Change Agent

In which Jill shares what works for change agents in the new IT.

It’s a discussion in meeting rooms, boardrooms, hotel conference rooms, and post-conference cocktail parties: Why isn’t IT working? Ask anyone in a corporate or government job and you’ll get an earful. As I was writing this book, I’d occasionally throw the question out to friends, clients, and beleaguered airplane seatmates.

The responses come fast and furious. They don’t speak our language. They’re too focused on resume-building and tinkering, not on driving business value. We don’t understand what they’re saying when they talk. They play favorites with vendors. The CIO hides in his office. They’re always “in the weeds.”

-- The New IT: How Technology Leaders Are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age (McGraw-Hill, 2015), page 5.

As I spoke to executives both inside and outside of IT for my latest book I was reminded more than once of Tolstoy’s quote about happy families all being alike, but unhappy families each unhappy in their own way. Complaints about IT run the gamut, with lack of agility, insufficient vision, and tone-deafness merely three in a long list of perceived dysfunctions.

What’s a CIO to do? Many, sensing the creeping disaffection of their constituents, restructure their organizations. Such change, the thinking goes, should be disruptive enough to get attention, yet not so disruptive that the best employees start updating their LinkedIn profiles. The act of moving boxes and lines around an org chart gives the leader the (usually misleading) sense that action is being taken and progress is being made.

But too often organizational change is nothing more than a feeble attempt at goodwill. The CIOs who are profiled in The New IT have all succeeded at disruptive change by first looking at entrenched behaviors. By deconstructing their own department’s weaknesses—sometimes re-crafting their own roles—these leaders have been able to define fresh success measurements and rules of engagement with business units, often leaving their organizational structures intact.

“You can’t lead from your office,” said H. James Dallas, CIO Emeritus of heath care device giant Medtronic. “Medtronic’s mission was to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. So I went and watched some surgeries. I saw heart surgeries, deep brain surgeries...I actually saw a man’s skull on the operating table!”

Dallas, profiled on page 78 of The New IT, personifies the new leadership style: operationally-savvy but digitally-aware. Tactically-skilled but strategically-focused. Leading from both in front and behind. Politically-astute but not politics-driven.

In researching the book I spoke to over 30 business and IT leaders about how corporate IT must evolve to stay relevant. Those who are making IT work, re-designing it as a broker of services and a hub of innovation, understand that this may mean not only adopting new organizational frameworks, but also doing things differently.

Editor's note: Jill's fourth book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age, was recently published by McGraw-Hill.

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