CIO Playbook: Practical Advice for Managing Change

Chief Information Officers today face a variety of complex strategic challenges that go far beyond technology into managing business disruption and change. On this episode of CXOTalk, industry analyst, Michael Krigsman, speaks with a three-time CIO and author to explore essential topics that are important for every CIO to consider.


Apr 27, 2018

Chief Information Officers today face a variety of complex strategic challenges that go far beyond technology into managing business disruption and change. On this episode of CXOTalk, industry analyst, Michael Krigsman, speaks with a three-time CIO and author to explore essential topics that are important for every CIO to consider.

Isaac Sacolick is a successful CIO who has led digital transformation, product development, innovation, agile management, and data science programs in multiple organizations. He has transformed underperforming businesses by delivering new digital products, investing in strategic technologies, enabling agile practices, outsourcing commodity services and establishing performance metrics. Isaac has been recognized as a top 100 social CIO, blogger, and industry speaker.

He was most recently the Global CIO and a Managing Director at Greenwich Associates, a leading provider of global market intelligence and advisory services to the financial services industry. Previously, he held CIO roles at McGraw Hill Construction and BusinessWeek and was a founding CTO at media and social networking startups.

Isaac has been recognized as an industry leading, agile, innovative CIO. In 2015 he was interviewed by Forbes on 5 Things to do When Leading a Digital Transformation, was listed on their Top 20 Social CIOs and was recognized as a Top 100 CIO in STEM. In 2016, 2015 and 2014, he was listed on Huffington Post’s Top Social CIOs. He is an industry speaker on many business enabling topics including innovation, enterprise agile, and big data analytics. Isaac has been writing a blog, Social Agile and Transformation for over ten years with 300+ posts covering topics on CIO leadership, digital transformation, agile execution, big data, innovation, and digital marketing.

Isaac is an entrepreneur and specialist in agile management practices, big data, citizen developer programs, data science, data warehousing, NoSQL XML search technologies, CMS content management systems, media and publishing technologies, social networking, CRM, Digital Marketing solutions, web analytics, digital advertising, and enterprise collaboration practices.

Isaac holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Binghamton University, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona.


Michael Krigsman: Chief information officers are an important part of the CxOTalk community, and that's why we have a special show today. We are speaking about change and offering practical advice for CIOs on how to manage change. I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. I'm so happy to welcome, for Episode #287, Isaac Sacolick, who is known as StarCIO. He advises CIOs and he's written a book called Driving Digital. Buy Driving Digital.

I want to remind you that at this moment there is a tweet chat happening. Go to Twitter using the hashtag #CxOTalk, and you can participate, add your thoughts, and ask questions for Isaac.

Now, before I say, "Hi," to Isaac, tell a friend. Ask your friends to come. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell your coworkers, for sure, and please, please subscribe on YouTube. That helps us out a lot, so subscribe on YouTube.

Without further ado, I'm really happy to welcome back to CxOTalk, Isaac Sacolick. Hey, Isaac. How are you? Thank you for being here.

Isaac Sacolick: Thanks, Michael. I'm really happy to be back. We just did a show a few weeks ago, and I'm really excited to dive into the topic of change management and change that the CIO has to manage through.

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, tell us about your book Driving Digital. What's the focus?

Isaac Sacolick: The book is really aimed at CIOs, their direct reports, chief digital officers, really anybody who is leading change and technology in their organizations. My background, I've done ten years of being a startup CTO, so that's really in my DNA of how to run fast-moving organizations. Then I did another ten years of being a transformational CIO in data and content-oriented businesses. I've been blogging. I've been speaking alongside those. I felt I had built a number of key practices that were very practical and easy to apply. They were really the instruments of what I used to do change and to transform and build up technology practices in the organizations that I work with and really helped the businesses go from their legacy businesses into modernized ones.

Michael Krigsman: Right.

Isaac Sacolick: I felt I needed to write the book. I had a great time doing that. It came out in August. It's doing phenomenally well. I hope you guys all pick it up. We'll talk about some topics from the book during the show.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, congratulations on the book. Isaac, when you talk about transformation, transformation by its nature means change. Let's begin with the notion.  Maybe this is an obvious question, but why should CIOs care so profoundly about change? It's a dumb question, but let's begin with maybe what's obvious, and maybe there are some things that are not so obvious about that.

Isaac Sacolick: Well, yeah. Maybe it's not so obvious to start out with. I mean so much of our history was just keeping the lights on, keeping applications running, and keeping things secure, reporting on SLAs, uptime, and servicing tickets. I mean that was the heartbeat of your typical IT organization until the last 10 or 20 years when the Internet came out, mobile came out, and then, later, cloud came out.

Yeah, we're sort of used to technology change. But now, we're at a point, over the last five years in particular, when the availability of technology is easy to access to most organizations. The talent may not be there, but the technology is there. A lot of these technologies can have a huge impact in terms of how we service customers, how our organizations work with data and analytics, how we build customer experiences out, how we make our salespeople smarter about what prospects to go after, how we market our services.

Technology is the underpinning of how all of our businesses are operating, and so, now we're not just running things. We are part of a team that is bringing technology and practices in a very collaborative way across our organization to help us compete better, to help us think through what our new products and services are going to look like at we digitize them, whether it's using artificial intelligence, putting blockchain in, or building mobile applications. All of those things are factored. The CIO's role, in the last five years, in particular, has transformed from one of back office - keep the lights on, to an enabler, to one that's running collaborative programs to get more people in the organization involved.

Michael Krigsman: Right.

Isaac Sacolick: That's the nature of our business today.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Is this conversation a technology conversation or a business conversation? What are we talking about?

Isaac Sacolick: We're actually talking about a people conversation first. Right? To get any kind of transformation program running, it involves working with people, giving them a sense of what the new mission is, and giving them a voice in what that new mission is. It's getting their participation in terms of how to execute and how to actually implement something.

Really, transformation starts with people. Strategy helps align where we're going and why we're doing certain things. The why is really important because, once you have a good definition of why certain markets are attractive, why certain experiences have to be improved on, or why certain types of customers are the ones we have to focus on, then you can rely on people to use their innovation, use their expertise, collaborate as a team, and come up with what are the goals, what are the methodologies that we have to go after.

Then, lastly, it's a technology question. We used to think technology first, but it's really about getting the people aligned and then finding the right applicable technologies and then scaling them.

Michael Krigsman: Frankly, what does all of this have to do with CIOs? Why should CIOs care about this stuff?

Isaac Sacolick: Well, the CIOs, first of all, have always had a vantage point of how the entire organization operates: What are the underlying processes; what are all the underlying systems? They have a pretty good starting point in terms of getting a sense of what the current state of the operation is. That's the first part.

The second part is, we used to live in a world where requirements were done separate from the implementation, and so a business team could go and figure out some things that they wanted to do. Maybe it was a new reporting solution. Maybe it was an upgrade to the ERP. Maybe it was a new mobile application.

Then they'd come back to IT or maybe even a third party with requirements to go implement. We know that that's not a good recipe for success. It leads to project failures. It leads to poor customer experiences. And so, it needs to be done collaboratively.

It turns out that one of the most effective processes to be able to do this has come out of the technology world. It started in software companies. Many enterprises have adopted it. It's basic agile practices. The reason why that's so important in transformation programs is it brings business and IT people working together as a team. It brings the ability to prioritize every sprint, every two to four weeks, whatever your sprint length is based on feedback, and that feedback can come from teams. It can come from markets. It can come from key customers, so you're always prioritizing.

It allows the team to communicate where their struggles are. They do that in the forms of blocks and standups where they discuss these things.

The last thing is, and this is probably the most important thing, they do demos at the end of a sprint. They get the entire organization involved looking at and championing what the team has accomplished. That's a way of getting more people involved in the program. What is this group doing? Well, come to the demo and see what we're doing. Then let's talk afterward and see if we can get you onboard in helping us out because your knowledge is so key to what we're trying to accomplish.

That's why CIOs need to be involved and care. We really do have a lot of the fundamental practices that can help an organization change.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like you have fallen on agile as a kind of key method or key approach for aligning the CIO to the needs and the interests of the business partners inside the company.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. I mean it's chapter two of my book for a reason. It's the first practice I brought in as a CIO when I was doing CIO work. It's the first thing I look at when I work with clients today running my own business called StarCIO.

The reason is it is the vehicle for implementing change. It is the vehicle for developing collaborative teams with different skillsets. It has mechanisms for teams to focus on the short term. I'm committing what I can do in the next two weeks. I can tell you with some certainty what the outcome is going to look like.

It has mechanisms for prioritizing, which is really important when you want to factor in risk and feedback into the process. It has a way of championing the demos, as I discussed, to get more people involved. It's really got all the ingredients to bring teams together to think through hard problems, but also to think through and execute on small, bite-sized chunks that ultimately lead up to a full program that delivers business value.

Michael Krigsman: I want to remind everybody that we're speaking with Isaac Sacolick, who is the author of Driving Digital, which is really a manual for chief information officers. Right now, there is a tweet chat taking place using the hashtag #CxOTalk. Please join in. Don't forget; just tell your friends; tell your family. Let's get people watching and joining us on Twitter.

We have a comment from Arsalan Khan on Twitter who talks about digital transformation. He says that it's such a vague term because going digital and transformation means different things to different people inside the same organization. Maybe talk about digital transformation, how is that different, and the implications for chief information officers, for the CIO.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. You have to put a number of elements together to really understand why digital is a little bit different than other transformation eras that we've lived through as CIOs. First and foremost, what really woke people up to, "Something is different here," is that the business models are changing. We have companies that are driving revenue through subscription-oriented businesses. We have highly asset-light businesses that can connect marketplaces or buyers and sellers without owning any of the underlying assets. These have become hugely disruptive in things like travel and hospitality and other places.

We have technology that can replace entire businesses. In the book, I talk about how the iPhone coming out with GPS basically replaced all of Garmin's chief business of putting GPSs in your cars. So, there is enormous change that's happening. Some of it is technology driven. Some of it is business model driven. But, we can all relate to a couple aspects of it.

One is that customers, consumers have lots of choices today. You, as a CIO, have choice about whether you go to Azure or whether you go to AWS or whether you to go to BlueMix. You have choices about whether you want to develop in JavaScript or PHP or Java. Those are choices, and the switching costs for some of these things aren't as expensive as they used to be.

Then you have complete alternatives, right? You can go build technology today on no SQL or SQL platforms. You can use low-code platforms and avoid development entirely. You can do it outsourced or insource. When you look at your supply chain, and you look at what your customers can buy from you, they have enormous options today. That's why the customer experience becomes so important because you know that when it's easy, when it's fun, when it's informative, when it's convenient, and when it's price sensitive, those are things that you're going to gravitate to as a consumer/buyer. The same thing is true for a business buyer when you have a reputable servicer that you can connect to, when they're reliable, when they're constantly updating their service with new features and new capabilities, when they're secure, you're more likely to stay with those groups. If not, you're going to look for alternatives. That's the nature of how businesses are operated today.

Michael Krigsman: Mm-hmm.

Isaac Sacolick: Then throw in analytics and data as a competitive advantage. How do you become faster, smarter than your competitors? Throw in any number of emerging technologies that can be huge game-changers. I think about, in the automotive industry, autonomous vehicles. If you're in that industry and you're not thinking about what the impact is going to be when those technologies start becoming mainstream, you're going to be left behind because that's a three-, five-, ten-year horizon to build out a new set of services that revolve around that. That's the nature of digital. The nature of transformation is thinking through what your business needs to look like in three-, five-, seven-year horizons and plotting out a strategy that is not a fixed endpoint, but a cloudy endpoint, one that can take feedback and learn how to adapt your organization to that future.

Michael Krigsman: Clearly, there is a great deal of change that's going on from the point of view of the CIO. The CIO is in this position of seeing across the organization, as you described earlier. The CIO, when we talk about data and analytics, clearly, we're talking about technology. But, the questions become: How can the CIO plug into the opportunities that are created by these factors, these forces? Where is it appropriate for the CIO to plug in and take ownership? Where is it appropriate for the CIO for it to live outside of IT? What are the implications of that, of technology living outside IT in some cases? What are the implications for the CIO and for IT?

Isaac Sacolick: Let's talk about this in a couple of examples. If you want to understand what the implications are, get outside of the walls of IT, go do a sales call with a bunch of salespeople, and see how your customers are using the product. Or, go learn and feel how your marketing organization is operating, see what their KPIs are and what they're trying to accomplish, and see the tools that they are using to achieve their goals.

Now, I'm starting with sales and marketing because one of the things that's so different about digital transformation than in other things is that we're trying to impact customers. We're trying to impact growth and revenue potential. There's no better place to start if you're going to learn that side of the business than go, sit with your sales and marketing groups, and see how they're operating today.

You're going to see a lot of different things when you do that. You're going to see maybe some broken IT functions in terms of what devices they're using. Maybe you're going to see a lot of email and spreadsheets moving around. You're going to see marketing departments using dozens of different tools. There's a guy out there of ChiefMartec who puts out a dashboard of thousands. I think it's up to 6,000 different marketing technologies out there.

Michael Krigsman: Oh, yeah. It's my old buddy Scott Brinker--

Isaac Sacolick: That's right.

Michael Krigsman: --who has been on this show at least a couple of times, actually.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah, so Scott just put it out, I think it's almost 7,000 companies and products that are on his dashboard now. Think about that from the world of the CMO who has access to go buy all this technology but no capability to integrate it and is being asked to go put out information back to the executive board in terms of how their marketing campaigns are performing. Or, the sales group who needs to balance activities that they're doing inside and outside of the walls of the office in terms of being able to talk to prospects and engage customers.

These are things that you're going to see if you go out and work with them. It's going to change your perspective in terms of what technologies can do for them, what integration is required, [and] how to think through what the implications are of security. The more you're pushing data and analytics to the edge, the more you have to think about the security and locking down that data.

You mentioned about the different types of technology. It's very difficult for an internal IT team to have a complete perspective of what they can do and what they can build for their sales and marketing teams. A lot of what the technology has changed to over the last few years is empowering people outside the IT organization to do things technically that they can't easily do inside, so build dashboards with a technology like “TypeLoad”, do data prep work so that they can bring new data sources in from their different marketing programs, or provide lighter weight mobile devices that are open to using different solutions so that a salesperson could be a little bit more effective using the solutions that they know.

This is about the democratizing the technology that you're using, finding the right practices that make it effective, [and] finding ways to integrate data. That's what I talk to IT organizations about today is how to partner with the business in terms of the right technology selections and the right practices to make that effective.

Michael Krigsman: What are the challenges that CIOs face in trying to accomplish this? Can we say unification with the business?

Isaac Sacolick: Well, IT staff is also learning. Some of them are programmers. Some of them have been doing service desk. We've spent years building up the practices and the technologies to make them effective and efficient at it.

Go to a programmer and tell them, "We want you to be more solution-oriented, to go work with the business, and find and work with some low-code platforms to enable building mobile applications." Maybe that developer has been coding in Java their whole career and likes coding in Java. Now you're telling them to go work with a higher-level language.

Go to an engineer who has been operating in the data center configuring networks and finding out why the SAN hasn't been performing well. Now you're going to go to them and say, "Not only are we moving to the cloud, but our role in moving to the cloud is automation and scripting, monitoring, and being able to respond to a new set of security issues we never had to deal with before." These are completely new skillsets, new capabilities for most people who have been in IT for a few years. They're expected to learn them on their own, and that's why becoming a learning organization is so important.

They don't really necessarily have all the vantage point of what they're doing and how that impacts the business. There's a lot of cross-collaboration that needs to happen to make that work. The smartest CIOs are going to take some of their IT people, put them in the business, and learn the business functions. They're also going to take some businesspeople and put them in the IT function. Let them learn how long it takes to go operate something or what level of specificity it needs to be at to write a requirement. That's part of getting a new collaborative organization running.

Michael Krigsman: We have a comment or question from Twitter. Chris Petersen asks -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- "Is there any organization out there that's not starting to pay attention to this stuff?"

Isaac Sacolick: Oh, gosh. [Laughter] When you're out in the field a little bit, I don't think it's binary, black and white. I think about it as, are you going fast enough? Are you going to beat the disruption curve that's happening in your industry, and are you going to do it in a way that leaves a sustainable IT and technology practice and business practice when you're done, or are you going to leave a new set of legacy behind that the next generation of technologists have to deal with?

Let's talk about both of those for a second. Not moving fast enough is what happened to the newspaper industry. I was a part of that. I did a SAS company that operated in that space. A very much a print-oriented product became a very digital product became an advertising product that was generating less revenue, which forced the newsrooms to accommodate and run at a lower cost. It required a completely different engagement model with subscribers and advertisers, and it brought in a whole new set of competitors that were digital competitors.

That process started in 1999. I think the battle was more or less lost by 2002 or '03, and they're still trying to find a way to make news profitable again and to build up subscribers again. This happened in media very quickly.

I think it's going to happen in our generation in this decade with banks. You hear about bank closures because they can't figure out why are people going to go to the physical bank when you can do everything mobile. You know when you can do everything mobile, it's pretty ubiquitous. It's a commodity in terms of the user experience. Banks really need to figure out how they're going to deliver competitive edges to their end users.

I think a lot of it is not, who is not doing it? I think it's, are you doing it fast enough so that you can stay ahead of the disruptive curve?

The other side of it is, are you building things that are truly sustainable? It's not as if we never built technology or new practices before. But, the ecosystem that we build things in is much more open. We're doing things with APIs that cross our domains from our technology to somebody else's technology. We're configuring things in SaaS products. We're putting things in multiple clouds.

The question is, are you doing it with sustainable practices? Are you putting automated testing in when you build a new application? If you don't put automated testing in, three years from now how are you going to know whether a change that you want to do isn't going to break something? If you invest in automated testing as part of your development today, you at least have a set of test cases that tell you, "Hey, you built something that's broken."

When you move to the cloud and you put a new application on the cloud, are you following what you used to do and have 20-, 30-, 40-point checklists to be able to deploy that application into the environment, or are you building a continuous integration, continuous delivery pipeline, a CICD pipeline that automates this? Are you putting in your infrastructure and scripting it with code so that the entire environment is scriptable, [and] it's portable if you're using containers? All these things are designed so that the IT operation of the future can support the applications that you're building today. I think that's another big piece that CIOs have to think about as they invest more.

Michael Krigsman: They need to be thinking about the technology of efficiency and agility inside IT so that IT can be responsive very quickly to business needs, along with the talent, the culture, and the business transformation aspects.

We have a question from Twitter. Pablo Pinto asks, "What about shadow IT? Should CIOs let it happen, be concerned about it, or just simply accept the fact that IT and the dev team is not always available to build product for non-technical business units and essentially outsource this to the folks on the ground?" I guess maybe bring in the whole low-code discussion because that seems quite relevant here at the same time.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. Yeah, so the first thing I would tell organizations that are worried about shadow IT is, look at it as a missed opportunity. That organization needed technology, decided to go shopping on their own and buying on their own, and decided not to partner with IT in terms of what is a best practice in terms of what to look for. It is a missed opportunity. It requires starting with building relationships, so understanding what that group needs [and] understanding what their deficiencies are. That's an investment CIOs have to make. That doesn't come for free.

I used to work with my team and really do a mapping and say, "This person is going to build a relationship with this executive," or maybe not even the executive. Maybe it's somebody that reports to the executive, " help them understand what their opportunities are and what their needs are and go out and build a pipeline of activities for those business sponsors." I think the very first thing that a CIO has to think about is how to build those relationships up. As you do that, there are many, many options today for how to service an organization without investing a lot in new technology and new IT.

Michael mentioned low-code. This is something that I've been writing about and using for about 20 years. I've said that this is probably the most important technology that a CIO needs to look at. The reason is that we are being asked to do more technology and, in particular, more application development than we've ever done before. We're doing more customer facing. We have to automate more things. Automation is code. We're being asked to deliver new workflows and collaboration tools with our organization. We need to connect new data sources.

Quite frankly, if you try to do that in native platforms and knowing, if you follow what Gartner says, our budgets maybe increase 3% every year on average, you're going to run out of runway, financial runway or talent runway, to do these things natively. You need to find ways to do things more efficiently, and sometimes that can be done with low-code platforms. Sometimes that can be done with citizen data science programs. Sometimes you go back to the business and say, "Let's not reinvent a new process here. Let's look at some best practices that are built into the platforms, whether it's a content management system that has a very easy process for approving content or a CRM that has a standard way to manage a sales pipeline.

Your role as a CIO is to educate. Here is what the systems are designed to do out of the box. They're built on best practices. See how to fit a process into that rather than building one on your own. That's another tool that CIOs have to think about in terms of educating their organizations. Now, as you do that, and you get better at it, What I have found over the course of time is that you end up with further instances where people are looking for their own solutions.

To close off maybe the last 10%, 15%, you really need to partner with the CFO. Let them know what the issues are with shadow IT. Demonstrate it in cost. Demonstrate it in your willingness to partner with your colleagues and other businesses. Elicit a governance process so that when somebody goes out and procures their own technology, they're less likely to get an approval for something like that.

Michael Krigsman: Talk to us more about the CIO partnering with the chief financial officer. I think that is an overlooked part of the equation.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. Look. CFOs historically have had a similar role as CIOs, sitting on the periphery in terms of how the business is operating, reporting on things, controlling things when you have a better sense of and practice working with your colleagues. So much more now is about investment, change, and transformation. CFOs want to be a part of that.

They're the ones who can find money when there's investment needed. They're the ones that you have to convince as a CIO that when you make an investment, when you're going to pilot a new process or technology, or partner with someone. The CFO's inclination is, "Tell me what the ROI is. Tell me when the project is done." Historically, CIOs have a hard time answering that.

We don't know when the project is done. It's an ongoing, agile process. We don't know when the ROI is going to materialize. So many other factors outside of the CIO's control factor in on how fast their business units adopt it or whether or not customers are going to have success with the platform that you're putting out. By partnering with them and making them a part of the process to see how you're building things, the timeline it takes to do that, how you're learning and evolving the operation as you're getting smarter with it, what are some of the early indicators that what you're investing in is working, what are some of the speed bumps that you're having, that's part of building that relationship so that they're not surprised, so that they understand the short-term impacts of what's being built out.

Just like today, there's a new breed of CIOs looking to partner with the business. Look at your CFO the same way. They have a new vantage point. They understand. Many of them understand that their existing business is not going to be what they can rely on over the next three to five years, and they're looking for solutions around it as well.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. We have a couple of really, really good questions from Twitter right now. We're going to run out of time, so I'll ask you to answer these relatively quickly. Arsalan Khan, talking about the CFO, I totally get what you're saying that the CFO is an overlooked source of support, moral support, transformational support, the all-important budgetary support.

Isaac Sacolick: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. But, Arsalan Khan wants to know -- and I'm reading from Twitter, and I'm paraphrasing -- "When the CIO reports to a CFO who is nontechnical and who views IT as a cost center and, basically, you know what happens then." You tell us. What happens then, and what do we do about that? It's a good question.

Isaac Sacolick: Okay, well, yeah. Look; there are going to be detractors in your organization that are going to make it difficult for you to execute a transformation program. It is particularly difficult if one of those people is your boss and one of those people is looking at dollars and cents and cost-cutting as the only vehicle for your organization to support a transformation program. Your objective as a CIO is to build relationships outside of your boss, outside of your CFO, and let them start understanding what your capabilities are and demanding that you are part of the program to change things.

Go meet your CMO and find out what you can do to service them. Put in the extra five to ten hours a week to build a partnership there. Go meet your head of sales and find out what you can do for them that provides more information about how they're performing. Go to your GMs. GMs need to understand how the business is operating as well. Build relationships outside of your CFO who are going to create demand for your services. Make sure those other stakeholders have a vantage point about what you can deliver for them, and then go with them to the CFO about what types of things that you want to do. That's the first thing that you've got to do to get out of that situation.

Then, as you are becoming smarter about how the business operates and you're building new partnership up, that's really your launching ground to start building a direct relationship with the CEO. Let them realize that you need a seat at the table and that the reporting relationship needs to change over time. But, you've got to start small with that.

Michael Krigsman: That's really, really good advice. Essentially, what you're saying is the solution to the problem of your boss or the CFO blocking your initiatives is to take the time earlier to establish those relationships and really invest. That's basically what you're saying.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. Look, "Invest in relationships," might sound like big, scary words. Sometimes it's a lot simpler than that. Find out the three or four things that are really slowing them down and fix it. Find somebody to go fix those things for them. Start with some small stuff. Start with who in those organizations you can partner with outside of the CMO or outside of the GM, who are the ones who are really going to impact change in those organizations and make them successful. Then start looking at the longer-term things.

Michael Krigsman: Essentially, conduct your own influencer marketing campaign.

Isaac Sacolick: There you go. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah, another big word. Yes. That's essentially what we're talking about. Yeah, I mean the way you get it is, start at the bottoms up. Look at how people are operating in those departments. I guarantee you're going to find places where practice in technology can be impactful.

If you look at a typical marketing organization, they have a funnel of work coming in. If you understand Kanban, it's going to look a lot like a Kanban process. Help them use your agile tools to run a Kanban process for them. They are equally as overwhelmed in terms of how many different requests are coming to them, and they probably have fewer tools than you do to go manage those things.

The more you learn about how they're operating, you're going to get the feeling where technology can help. It's going to force you to go shopping and think smarter about what technology options there are around that. That's going to address the shadow IT, if that's a problem. It's going to set up a partnership with you with a business partner where you're just demonstrating things that have a short-term impact. Then you can start looking at what's going to be the impact if I bring in a technology that integrates six of your different data sources and gives you a way to manage this data. Then you can have that conversation.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Fair enough. Now we have another interesting question from Chris Petersen. Again, this time we're really going to run out of time, so it's going to have to be pretty quick. Chris Petersen asks -- going back to low-code -- "Do some of the low-code platforms create their own vendor lock-in with artifacts that only work with one or the other?" Basically, it's the downside or the risk. We've spoken about the advantages of low-code, what are the risks and how do you mitigate those risks to take advantage of the capabilities?

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah. The first thing to understand about low-code is that there are two different types of platforms. There are the platforms that aim to make developers more productive, but they are effective development environments and you're still building applications. Then there are environments that some of us call them citizen development platforms. Forrester calls them low-code for business developers. These are platforms that enable your business users to actually build their own workflows and their own capabilities.

Number one is, make sure you understand what problem you're trying to solve because how you evaluate these technologies is a little bit different. In low-code for developers, I am looking at the portability of that platform, and I am looking at the efficiency and the productivity that improves with my team. I'm looking at those two dimensions when I've talked to the platform providers in those spaces.

I'm very upfront with them, and that's how you should be as a CIO working in these spaces to say, "Show me how this is more productive. Show me what the code footprint looks like that you generate. Are you generating code that is in a native language that I can go see, use, and port over? If you're generating .NET or generating Java code, show me what this code looks like in case I need to go use it. Show me an example of a customer that's moved over," if they're required to move to another platform. If they're generating native code, go and investigate it.

If they're not, and that doesn't mean that you shouldn't go and use them, the other dimension to go look at is the volume of configuration and complexity that it's creating. If you can look at this thing and say, "I can go into a tool and reverse engineer what this thing is behind the scenes very quickly," then your lock-in isn't as big as it might look, and your speed to market may be more important for you to do that. If you can roll out ten applications in eight months with that platform and move your business forward then, if you have to move one of those natively over two years because it's outgrown what that platform can do, you've just bought yourself a couple of years of productivity before that.

Michael Krigsman: All right. Finally, to summarize. What are the top two or three pieces of advice that you would give CIOs who are looking at this and saying, "I need to do this too"? What should they do?

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: Where should they begin and what are the pitfalls, the challenges that they're going to face trying to do it?

Isaac Sacolick: Well, the two things we talked a lot about in this CxOTalk [was], number one, get out of the office [and] build up a relationship with your business partners. Do it bottoms-up so that you can deliver short-term wins for them. Demonstrate that you have the capability of delivering technology on a regular basis for them. That's the very first thing.

Don't just do it with yourself. Do it with your staff. Make them accountable for building relationships and coming to you and saying to you what they've learned, what are the opportunities, what are we missing over here. Engage your entire staff on doing that.

Number two, like I said in my book Driving Digital, go out and really practice and learn how to not only do agile practices, but bring business members into that practice. It's not just an IT practice for delivering software. It really is a business process. Go beyond just the fundaments of the process, beyond Scrums, standups, and so forth. Make sure that your business team knows how to prioritize and knows how to respond to what they're seeing in a demo.

Then even go beyond that. Think through, what are my barriers to having an agile mindset? If you try to take a fixed cost project and run it as an agile process, you can do that, but you really don't have an agile mindset going on in your group, and they're not listening to feedback and recognizing that they want to make decisions along the way. The two things I would do there is relationship building and really home in on an organizational-wide agile practice. Then the other things will come in easier after that.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. What a fast moving 45 minutes this has been with a wealth of practical advice. Isaac Sacolick, I want to thank you so much for taking your time and being with us today.

Isaac Sacolick: Thank you. I hope to be the Tom Hanks of CxOTalk and come back to the Saturday Night Live three or four more times over the next few years.

Michael Krigsman: I love it, the Tom Hanks of CxOTalk. Well, you got it. That role belongs to you, dude. [Laughter]

Isaac Sacolick: [Laughter] Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Well, we have been speaking on Episode #287 with Isaac Sacolick. He is the author of Driving Digital. It's a good book. It's a how-to manual for CIOs. Thank you so much, everybody, for watching.

Right now, tell a friend. The replay is there. Tell a friend. Watch it. Subscribe on YouTube. Subscribe - subscribe - subscribe - subscribe on YouTube. Thank you so much, everybody. Have a great day and go to There are a lot of other videos there. See you soon. Bye-bye.

Published Date: Apr 27, 2018

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 516