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Un-Relishing Digital Potential During Covid-19
Mark Parr, Global Director of IT, HFW
Without doubt, for those of us responsible for delivering technology aligned to business priorities, it has been an incredibly testing period but it has been incredibly exhilarating in equal measure. Reshaping our own business at pace, accelerating elements in our digital transformation plans whilst decelerating others (I have taken to using the term ‘soft pedalling’) has kept us busy.
But this story isn’t unique, as every CIO will be using the pandemic as a springboard, or a handbrake, as much as the next. Digital leaders will be providing vision, understanding, clarity, and agility in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. However, for me, there are additional elements that will continue to be challenging, but I will need to be alive to them if I am to capitalize on the opportunity we have. My former life in the military taught me to be adept at adjusting plans as the situation changes, and never has that been more applicable than today.
In order to ensure that I am focussed on the future I have had five key objectives to use as a handrail.
Run IT like a business
Whilst I extol the virtues of technology and the tools that will amplify the power of my colleagues, I remain focussed on smarter spending, prioritising investments whilst balancing costs, value, and risk. Much has been said about supply chains and I feel that is more acute than ever before, so I have rationalised my vendor map so that I am able to leverage the power of strategic partnerships resulting from having fewer suppliers. I am acutely aware that I am a cost to the business, so I have to demonstrate through KPIs and metrics, how I am bringing value to the firm, and this starts with budget forecasting, understanding when to use OpEx vs. CapEx and how to profile spend to minimize the impact on the firm.
Plan & Execute Technology
Strategy My Technology strategy has seen reprioritization, my budget profile has been manipulated to support agility, and I am supporting a dispersed, global workforce, but how do I design a transformation roadmap looking ‘up and out’ when we are still uncertain on how we may operate in the future? How do I forecast technology spend when I don’t know how we are going to occupy our office spaces, or whether I need to provision for the ‘home shoring’ of my colleagues? And this opens the debate about the reach of my remit–demonstrated by user guides on how to consider contention on your home broadband provision.
Whilst I extol the virtues of technology and the tools that will amplify the power of my colleagues, I remain focussed on smarter spending, prioritising investments whilst balancing costs, value, and risk
That said, my focus remains on cloud technologies, ‘as a service’ provision, and providing global connectivity that meets the needs of a dispersed workforce. This starts with understanding that one size does not fit all.
Impact Business Priorities
One area that I find particularly exciting is how technology can be seen as a differentiator. It gives HFW the opportunity to draw closer to our clients, evolving customer relationships, and experiences. Collaboration has been a watch word throughout the pandemic, and that has led to a focus on business products and processes. I am focussed on building technology into the fabric of the firm, connecting the entire business to enable better collaboration. As my colleagues change their ways of working, they are creating a relationship with technology, that means I must ensure that future tech initiatives must meet emerging trends, so it is key that I am able to embrace innovation and disruption.
The relationship of people and technology has changed, with colleagues gaining greater confidence and competence in the technology. They want to communicate, collaborate and deliver their outputs in a way that is asking more of the technology than ever before. I have maintained that technology should be invisible, that it should be intrinsic to your everyday life but I have to balance securing and protecting the firm with the needs to deliver legal services. The next step is to understand the data, exploit it through analytics and prepare the business for Artificial Intelligence.
As a technologist, it is easy to focus on the tech and neglect the people who enable that tech. The people leadership element of my role is, by far the most rewarding. I acknowledge how I need to flex my approach to meet the needs of my team, to empower them, develop their capability and leadership skills, and trust them to deliver to our customers. I enable talent through a competency framework that supports a technology workforce (in our case, we’ve adopted the SFIA framework, and I consider my team to be high performing, but talent management is an ongoing journey. I need to be alive to the benefits that can be realized through a more diverse workforce whilst I tackle the evolution of the digital workspace. By focusing on workforce planning, effective performance management, development, and succession planning, and the advances in technology, I will ensure I have a diverse team of talented individuals. In my experience, diverse teams are more resilient, responsive, and innovative.
Being a digital leader is undoubtedly incredibly challenging, but I find it is equally rewarding and energizing. My focus initially was one percentage improvement daily, but I see in my team a desire to be more ambitious, to deliver more than that 1 percentage. Enabling the business with technology that adds value, delivered by a team that is innovative, imaginative, and adventurous will ensure that my next few years at HFW will be incredibly exciting. Bring IT on!!