Let the IT Department handle it?

Introduction

The author of this blog’s organization of employment is a large investment management firm with nearly two trillion in assets and approximately 13,000 employees; the company is also global with operations in Asia, Australia, Canada, Continental Europe, Mexico, South America, and United Kingdom.  His firm offers a breadth of financial products and services, including no-load mutual funds, exchange traded funds, individual retirement accounts, brokerage services, corporate retirement plans, 529 college savings plans, annuities, investment advice, endowments, and foundations.

Turning inward, the author’s job focuses on helping corporate clients motivate their employees save for retirement.  To accomplish client objectives, he leads 12 unique teams and encounters technology on a regular basis.  His personal goal for the course was to nurture his understanding of technology and he thinks he achieved his goal!  First, he reflects upon what he learned.

What the author learned?

At the onset of the Technology and Leadership course, the author had many questions about technology.  For example, he pondered how does a leader predict the next big thing?  Moreover, he tended to take a backseat when it came to understanding technology.  However, through the course material and interactions with the professor and his peers, he answered his questions, feels galvanized about technology, and better understands the role that leadership plays in a digital world.  In sum, he moved from a casual observer to a learner of technology.

To illustrate his growth, he entered the course without ever reading a blog.  Now, he writes his prose through blogging with ease.  Friedman (2007) stated the flat world enabled people across the world to communicate, create, collaborate, and grow.  Springing from Friedman’s (2007) platform, the author saw both opportunities and challenges of technology.  To accentuate the positive, he researched the ability for employees to work remotely and shared best practices with many of his peers.  Through interactions with his classmates, he saw a theme of concern on how to address performance for networked workers.  Based on the varying opinions, he saw a fellow classmate propose that organizations reward high performers with more working remote days compared to low performers who get less days.  As an outcome of the discussions, the author thinks underperformers, at a minimum, should be restricted in the number of days they can work from home.

Friedman (2007) also provided that whatever can be outsourced will be sent to India.  The author felt his view was less relevant today and supplants it with whatever can be outsourced could possibly be done by technology.  To demonstrate his shift in thinking, the author has a friend who is a school psychologist; his friend spends 80 percent of her day typing reports.  Friedman (2007) suggests this function is non-valued added and be outsourced to India.  Taking a step further, the author of this blog thinks dictation technology is better.  This school psychologist example demonstrates the author’s shift to utilizing technology to ease the administration of a job and thereby free the employee to do more value added tasks.  In the case of the school psychologist, she can meet with more students needing help.

The author also learned about new technologies like Prezi and social media from his peer’s research.  Based on his classmate’s blog on LinkedIn, he sees the benefit of the website and plans to setup an account.  Finally, he developed his knowledge management.  To illustrate, Dixon (2009) suggests organizations facing adaptive challenges, which lack a defined solution, bring in outside entities from other disciplines.  Taking inspiration from Dixon (2009), the author will push his organization to consult with outside experts when faced with difficult challenges in the future.

At the same time, Friedman (2007) acknowledged the flattening of the world presented trials.  Similarly, the author saw challenges with the internet and technology such as internet crime and altruism.  In conducting his research, the author was surprised to find the Federal Bureau of Investigation predicts cyber threats will soon rival terrorism as the primary danger facing the United States (Clayton, 2013).  Clearly, the United States has a lot of work to do to combat this threat.  Friedman (2007) provided the unflat world is comprised of people located in developing countries or rural areas of developed countries.  To provide these people a chance, we, as leaders, have an obligation to do what is in our power to continue to level Friedman’s (2007) unflat world!  Next, the author discusses leadership in the digital age.

Role of leadership in the digital age

The role of leadership in the digital age is to leverage technology strategically and keep abreast of the latest technology trends.  To illustrate, the author’s organization shifted customer channels from the phone center to its website and smartphone application to save money.  Furthermore, his organization recently required all investors in the retirement plan business to receive statements online.  The result is reduced paper costs for the organization and green because less trees will be cut down.  To take advantage of such opportunities, leaders must be lifelong learners and continuously develop knowledge of emerging technologies.  By doing so, leaders are in position to analyze the impact of technology trends on their organization.  In turn, leaders identify and execute opportunities to capitalize on emerging technologies.  In the future, if the author has questions about technology trends, should he let the IT Department handle it?  He does not think so!

References

Clayton, M. (2013). FBI as cyber crime sleuth:  Is it any match for computer bad guys? Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/2013/1118/FBI-as-cyber-crime-sleuth-Is-it-any-match-for-computer-bad-guys

Dixon, N. (2009, July 30). Knowledge Management [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nancydixonblog.com/2009/07/where-knowledge-management-has-been-and- where-it-is-going-part-three.html

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

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11 thoughts on “Let the IT Department handle it?

  1. I guess I have led a sheltered life, but my relationship with technology is not nearly as complex as it seems to be with other people. In leadership positions that I’ve had, I’ve never had to micromanage what software at team had to use and that the type of commerce I was engaged in was based on manufacturing where technologies were diverse enough that we did not need the latest “thang”, but rather that we used a software that the team either already knew how to use, or else could easily learn. We never purchased or hired software and software technicians to do a job, but rather, we bought or leased it to get a job done. This is were subject experts–those working within a team–decide what they need and justify new technologies. When I worked at Lexmark, we held on to XP for as long as we could and only after the fact that some key software programs we used dropped support for XP did Lexmark move to a later version of Windows. The problem with upgrading software is that doing so facets all software across a company’s domain.
    So, do you think that the specter of technology and the case that’s built for new software is based primarily on fear? Do the IT mangers argue for upgrades or specific programs as a way to control their futures and the company’s, and do you think your resistance to it in some cases stems from anxieties about control? I believe in JIT and use what I need to rather than what might be imposed on me.
    Good post.

    • Hi Acc07855, Thanks for your great questions. I can speak to my experience with my organization. All upgrades are a joint partnership between our IT department and our business units. I can say, many times these two groups have conflict about what is needed. However, the business wins out because they are the ones funding our technology projects. What is your experience? Regards, Peter

  2. I think that it is neat, Peter, that you feel you have moved from a passive observer to a more active digital learner. Good summary of lessons learned. In some ways, we are all becoming more “Do-It-Yourself” technology learners. YouTube has become my “go-to” tutor for some applications when I am trying to figure out an aspect for which I am unsure. A decade ago, we would put a ticket in to the IT department and then wait. “Waiting” has become both a luxury and an aggravation.

    I appreciate how you were a very active commenter and questioner in this class. For me, much of my learning occurred in the comments…and you helped drive that process. Best of luck in the future, and thanks for your financial / retirement business perspective in this class. I am old enough that I appreciate the service firms like yours provides!

    • Hi Dr. Watwood. I will definitely check out youtube as you suggested. Thank you for leading such a great class! In reflecting, I feel so blessed to be apart of Friedman’s (2007) flat world! Thank you for appreciating my industry. Many times, I wonder if my clients truly do? Regards, Peter

  3. Peter,
    That was a great week when we all researched a new internet tool and shared the findings. What a powerful strategy. Allowing every person to sign up for a topic that interests them yet they don’t know much about and make a recommendation to the rest of the team. I saw much value in that exercise as well.
    Also you make a great point. Leaders need to be life long learners. That will enable them to make better choices for their organization as opposed to relying on technical people to make the recommendations. I have experienced that sometime the technical people make recommendations based on lower budget in mind where leaders with the same knowledge will make their recommendation based on higher quality and bigger spending budget.

    Thank you for your contributions to the discussions in this class. It has been a great learning experience.
    Mo

    • Hi Mo, I agree that leaders and technical people can be at odds. On several technical projects, I witnessed the IT people wanting to build a Ferrari when all we needed was a Honda. In your vast experience, have you witnessed this too? Regards, Peter

  4. Peter, it would have been great to refer to yourself in third person rather than the author. Just like the Seinfeld “Jimmy” episode…….Peter likes to blog. Peter blogs really well. Peter has a lot to say.

    I am interested in your statement about how the leaders of your organization went green by reducing the use of paper. I have read articles that companies going green is a benefit for the world as it reduces the carbon footprint, reduces waste, and saves precious resources for the future. I have also read articles that state that companies go green as a money maker. As a leader, it is essential that we make choices favorable for the organization. If what I have read is true, the leaders at your organization have killed two birds with one stone. They help the environment and make money for the organization. If that is not technological leadership, then I do not know what is. Thanks for your provocative posts. They have been fun to read and help me to reflect on my own thoughts as a leader. Have a Merry Christmas Peter.

    Troy

    • Hi Troy,

      Thank you for your post. I admit I struggle with the third person. In our Policy and Administration, which we were in the same class, provided me feedback that APA style does not involve first person. He helped me craft the author approach and subsequently refer to yourself as he or she. I am open to any suggestions for improvement?

      Yes, we did kill two birds with one stone. However, the catch is that some of our clients pushed back and said they did not agree with our approach. Our management team has stuck to their guns because the change saves our company money. Regards, Peter

  5. Excellent post! Leaders should know how to leverage and keep abreast of the latest technology trends for organizational advancement. Sometime, I recall demonstrating to staff how our organization has changed from the use of floppy disks to now USB ports. I reminded them how it would be very difficult to read and perhaps, record data from old floppy disks today. While everyone got a chuckle from the demonstration, it was also amazing too see how many of the younger generation didn’t even know what I was holding in my hand (i.e., floppy disk). The life expectancy of technology is quickly dying and, thus, we, as leaders, are obligated to keep abreast of new technology entering society all to keep afloat. While we solely looked at the floppy disk, I reminded staff that the level of support to even attempt reading and recording information on such has also diminished. Therefore, it is vital that we continue to embrace, learn, and provide support for the new technology that will help advance our organization. Hanging on to old technology is just not helpful.

    • Kito, a trip down memory lane. My first office computer had an 8″ floppy (the real floppy). My first home “computer” had an external 5″ floppy (again, the real floppy) drive that held 64K of memory and cost hundreds of dollars. I just noticed in Best Buy that I can now get a 2 Terabyte external drive for around $80.

      Mind blowing!

      • Hi Kito and Dr. Watwood, My dad had an Apple 2E and we had plenty of floppy disks! My union client in Atlanta often says that the younger generation that they are hiring are obsessed with Red Bull, Debit Cards, and Iphones. His question is what happened to Coca-Cola, cash, and television? Proof we must always keep up! Regards, Peter

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