• IT

    The IT Unicorn and the BOX

    I recently had the privilege of speaking at a TEC Group on a topic that I’m rather passionate about: Supercharging a Business Using IT.  It was a great experience – I love helping executives see beyond IT being a bunch of computers or applications and understanding ways to harness them to create value for their business.

    Over the course of nearly four hours, we talked about how to develop IT from being a cost center to being a strategic value creator.  The group had great questions and clearly were engaged in the topic.

    Possibly the most important conversation didn’t come in the session though, it came afterwards.

    You see, there was a guest in the session.  He wasn’t a CEO or business leader like the rest.  He was the IT guy for one of the businesses in the group.

    My presentation was designed to help business leaders move beyond servers and networking and applications, and look strategically at the tools.  It discussed how through the evolution of a company’s IT investment, the IT team has to evolve.

    The IT person/team has to change:

    • First, it’s like a cowboy rushing around to solve problems by putting duct-tape over them.
    • Next, it’s about stability. You need someone to make IT BORING.  Not reacting, but responding intelligently with long-term solutions.
    • Then it’s about productivity. IT needs to start being more engaged in the business and delivering solutions that make it more productive.
    • Finally, IT can be truly strategic. The IT person is actually a business leader whose tools happen to include technology.


    The IT person had a breakthrough.

    He’s been a “cowboy” all his career, but he had now grown out of that role and didn’t know what to do next.  Like so many growing IT people, he didn’t have a mentor or a community around him to show him what could be.

    The challenge for many IT people as they grow is that they find themselves stuck in the box.  The “IT person” box, to be exact.  The IT box is a fabulous place for the cowboy, as that’s the role that has defined the box, but it’s extremely hard to get out of.

    When I broke out of the box, I did it by redefining myself.  I was already self-employed, so I didn’t have the challenge of what others in my companies saw me as.  For the IT person inside a company, the process can be harder.

    One of the most strategic IT investments a business can make is in its people.  When you find the IT unicorn, the IT person who can communicate, has the right cultural fit for your business and has the potential to be a strategic thinker, invest in that person.

    Help them break out of the box, one step at a time.  Get them out of the server room.  Help them understand the business.  Mentor them in non-technology areas.  Engage them in business analysis projects.  Teach them to run projects and manage change.  Involve them in strategic planning.

    With nurturing, you’ll be amazed the value IT provides when your unicorn is involved in the business beyond IT.

    Mike Knapp is an IT Project Superhero and Cyber-Security Simplifier with the goals of helping business be more successful and reducing the risk of cyber-attacks. He is a partner with Incrementa Consulting and the founder of Simple Security.

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