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IT lessons from 2016 pave way for 2017 resolutions

A clever new way to manage IT projects, a vital new approach to leadership, a brand new technology to try: A CTO looks back at 2016's IT lessons and makes some 2017 resolutions.

Where did the year go? I am pretty sure that the combination of my advanced age and the rapid pace of technology and business change makes it seem as if I lost several months during 2016. I don't remember much of March or September, but there's no doubt we got something done during those two months. In fact, we got a lot done during the year.

But, did we do enough? And, did we do the right things?

As we leave behind 2016 for 2017, it is a time to reflect on the IT lessons we learned in the past year and to map that onto our 2017 resolutions for the new year. With that, I hereby resolve I will:

  • Focus my time and the time of my team on what is essential: Too often we take on too much. In order to make sure we are doing all that needs to be done, we end up not doing enough on the things that matter the most. At our peak in 2016, we had nearly 70 "A" priority projects. That is nuts. In order to keep that many "A" projects staffed, I had to spread my staff too thin. Just suppose I had a team of two working on my latest mobile app. Then, something happened with the legacy mobile app and one (or possibly both) of the engineers needed to drop work on the new app to rescue the legacy app. This would delay the "A" mobile app project. 

    Instead, what if, for 2017, I keep my "A" priorities but break those into two or more waves. The first wave is the A projects that we will focus on and get done first. In the second wave, we then work on the "A" projects that can be completed second. That way, I can staff the new mobile app with a team of three to four people rather than just two and, if something happens to the legacy app, work on the new app can continue. Now, there is certainly some "mythical man-month" math at work here, but I like the idea of having both a greater sense of urgency and more focus as a way to stop being spread too thin. I resolve to break my portfolio of "A" projects into waves.
In a time of digital transformation, I need my authority to extend well beyond my position in my org chart -- I need to influence how the entire enterprise thinks and operates.
  • Change my approach to leadership so that I am more influential: In 2016 I started pondering the difference between positional authority and influential authority. I have authority just because of where I sit in our org chart. But, in a time of digital transformation, I need my authority to extend well beyond my position in my org chart -- I need to influence how the entire enterprise thinks and operates. Thus, I need to improve my ability to articulate a believable vision, to convince and cajole, present a compelling business case and have high credibility. I need to spend more time understanding the dynamics of the organization and the marketplace so I know how, where and when technology will make a significant difference. I need to get out of my office and make strong connections outside of my team. I resolve to exert influential authority.
  • To experiment with one early-stage technology that I think will pay off in the next two to three years: Over the past few years, I sort of made fun of the bitcoin crowd. The bitcoiners I know are quite zealous about how bitcoin will revolutionize everything, and I am just too skeptical to believe that about anything. But, there is something underneath bitcoin that is pretty interesting -- blockchain. In 2017 I want to learn a lot more about blockchain so that I can figure out how I might use it. Can blockchain address some of my information security/data privacy needs? Can blockchain simplify administration of accounts? I am not sure what is there, but my gut feeling is that I should do some investigating. Your worthwhile experiment might not be blockchain, but there is likely some nascent technology that deserves your attention. I resolve to experiment with blockchain.
  • To take more time off: I will end the year losing lots of sick and vacation days. It was a crazy busy year and I am feeling the strain. I have a great team. Our processes are solid. I need to stop thinking that I am so essential that the place will crumble without me and take the time to clear my head.

I am sure you have your own IT lessons from 2016 to apply to 2017. My only remaining advice for the coming year is to make sure that you focus on those few things that are truly essential. This will increase your likelihood of success. 

Next Steps

More IT lessons from Nickolaisen:

De-customizing ERP projects

Developing a risk-based IT security strategy 

Two approaches to developing mobile apps

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