COO Q&A: How to thrive in today’s evolving tech world

Ever wanted to know how IT teams can evidence their value? Here, in the first of 2 articles, Paul Albone, tmgroup’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), answers pivotal questions on everything from integration to how smaller firms can make the most of their existing IT resources to keep pace with the competition. Be sure to keep an eye out for part 2!

Q. How do firms with a small in-house IT resource keep up with their larger counterparts?

Play to your strengths and be agile.

Small in-house IT teams are able to rapidly respond to the firms ever changing needs, whilst larger IT counterparts certainly have the scale, but the proportional increase in potential challenges and communication breakdown, bureaucracy and system complexity can slow down responsiveness and agility.

Q. How can IT teams evidence the value they bring to a firm?  

IT teams should consider what they are able to do for a firm over other alternatives. Being in tune with the firm’s needs and delivering repeatedly and consistently are crucial to demonstrating value.

Furthermore, IT teams should assess what key performance indicators exist between IT and the business. Having clear expectations set between the firm and the IT team is important to ensure IT stays focused on what is important to the firm.

Q. How do firms effectively integrate new platforms with legacy systems that may have been in place for many years?

Firms must assess risk before changing any element of their legacy systems. High risk approaches involve legacy systems being changed in-situ to integrate with new platforms and invariably lead to unnecessary complexity and instability of legacy systems.

Instead, adopt an approach whereby a “wrapper” is built around the legacy system, usually in the form of an API or web service, so that the new platform and legacy system can interact with each other without affecting the underlying functionality of the legacy system.

Q. How can firms effectively evaluate the systems that are on offer to work out which ones are right for them?

Whether it’s a new case management system, CRM or any other system, firms can fall into the trap of focusing on “what” the system can do, rather than what the firm “needs” the system to do.

When choosing a system, always work from the outset of what the firm is trying to achieve as a successful outcome. Involvement and buy-in from all representatives of the firm is paramount to ensure all needs are considered. This will help define clear goals and the success criteria the system must meet.

Also consider requirements such as system performance and availability needs, multi-firm access, support for smartphones or tablets, API availability and data integration. Then look at the systems on offer and always set up a trial with the supplier – with success measures agreed upfront.

Q. How should a Chief Information Officer (CIO) cultivate a partnership between IT and the rest of the business?

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have traditionally been seen as an internal facing leader of IT. Instead, businesses now need their CIOs to act as consultants to the business, able to seamlessly work across the business, their clients and internal teams to translate the business goals into delivery across a firm’s products and data. They should also consider the ever-present aspects of risk, compliance and security. To make the partnership effective, CIOs must make their plans clear and understandable to all.

Q. How can IT teams communicate effectively with their colleagues in other departments to manage change effectively?

Managing change effectively requires keeping messages clear at all times – whether this is to communicate the direction taken, or update the team on progress and challenges faced.

Visual tools such as roadmaps, project plans and progress trackers with a simple Green, Amber or Red status are highly effective for communicating with colleagues in other departments.

Aim to keep visuals at a high-level, so that messages can be understood easily at all times. Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams or Trello are extremely effective for providing real-time information to colleagues in a collaborative environment.

COO Q&A: How to thrive in today’s evolving tech world - Part 2

The Technology Blog - Wearable Tech with Stuart McWhinnie