In today’s ever-changing business environment, tech executives need to be nimble like Fred Astaire, determined like Amelia Earhart and strong like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Beyond that, they need to know which capability to apply when, for how long and in what ratio. Today’s dynamic business strategies demand that tech leaders constantly adjust the styles of their investments and operations to consistently maximize the value and performance that their business partners require.

To do this, tech leaders must bring together individuals, processes and technologies as a complex team structure that strives toward common goals aligned on business outcomes. A careful balance of capabilities, both human and technological and within and across teams, is required for this to succeed. Too much of one and not enough of another, the right balance at the wrong time, and desired outcomes will not be realized.

An IT “style” is part capability, part swagger and lots of intent

To meet the needs of the business, your IT organization must leverage the four IT styles — enabling, cocreating, amplifying and transforming — in the right balance. A style, beyond its capabilities, has characteristics unique to each team’s intent. Some teams will be charged with “enabling” business success by providing rock-solid resilience, stability and security; other teams will “cocreate” products and services that open new markets for business partners. Business transformations may need teams to “transform” their operations with emerging technologies. Teams that want to maximize the potential of their technologies and processes may look to “amplify” the performance of their operations with automation and data analytics.

Blending these styles and their associated IT capabilities ultimately expresses what the organization or leader wants to be known for, as well as meets their business needs and expectations. It is how high-performance IT organizations best align themselves for positive business outcomes. The tech leader must help realize business objectives, express which style best represents the long-term target for IT, and then ensure that teams across the IT and business ecosystems are all driving toward the same outcomes.

SEE: Forrester’s 2024 Tech Leadership Predictions About AI, HR, Budget and Manufacturing

There is no steady state, only a current state with a vision forward

A steady state can manifest itself and be demonstrated in many ways. Never adopting a new technology, or adopting new technologies every time a new one is introduced, are mindsets to which leaders and teams can become attached. An IT organization that stays in place is in fact falling behind its peers; moving too fast, however, will drive IT investments that may never deliver value to business partners that can’t catch up.

There must be an intended purpose to the style of operation that IT takes on. Tech leaders must perpetually assess their current-state performance against the business objectives and then rebalance the emphasis on each of the four styles accordingly to ensure that:

  • Enabling efforts are prioritizing capabilities that efficiently stabilize, operate and protect the business and then consistently deliver on their promises, creating trust. Additionally, enabling capabilities can promote adaptability that provides the platform for future growth.
  • Cocreation is taking advantage of technology partnerships to acquire new skills. Teams must collaborate on product and experience delivery with a focus on skills such as agile development, DevSecOps and product management.
  • Amplifying actions optimize business outcomes at scale. Advances in automation, AI and analytics must be harnessed to streamline processes, deliver insights and optimize business outcomes such as sales, inventory costs and customer experiences.
  • Transformation initiatives fuel tech-led business. Tech-led innovations and emerging technologies such as chatbots and generative AI accelerate business in new directions. Tight organizational alignment and a deep understanding of customer needs are critical to be adaptive and quickly shift capital, people and technology to stay ahead of the changing market.

Tech leaders: Let your intents drive your IT style

Tech leaders can maintain their swagger and be true to what they want to be known for by employing the right balance of styles that drive strategic intents. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of your organization’s desired outcomes. The strategic objectives will indicate the mix of IT capabilities that you must prioritize regarding associated costs, investments and performance constraints. Consider the following tech leadership tips.

You can’t grow on top of unstable foundations.

If your organization struggles with stability or resilience, you cannot grow, nor will your business partners trust in your capabilities. Invest in the IT ecosystem to enable growth while simultaneously reducing costs. Establish technological visibility across the enterprise to empower proactive actions and improved operations.

The more the merrier — work together for increased benefits.

Reduce the friction between teams and increase the momentum of work with agile development, design thinking and product management. Extend developer reach and energize other teams to improve both employee and customer experiences.

Make the most out of your existing investments.

There is no shortage of options to help amplify good practices that you already have in place. Utilize automation capabilities to eliminate mundane, redundant tasks from resource queues. Analyze operational data to promote proactive problem resolution.

The future is happening today; you needed to be ready for it yesterday.

New technologies are being released every day. Implementing and utilizing the right new technologies gives business leaders the opportunity to change direction, accelerate or decelerate as they see fit with little notice. Businesses rely on their IT team’s implementations of transformational technologies to respond to dramatic market changes and shifts in business strategy.

Challenges are opportunities for tech leaders

Every day brings new challenges for businesses to overcome. These challenges are often new opportunities for technology leaders to bring the business in a new or better direction that advances your goals ahead of competitors. Each new challenge must be met with an assessment and possible adjustment to your operating style.

You must always, however, maintain the right balance of styles through these changes. In doing so, you will be sure to deliver high-performance IT and continuously improve business results.

Profile photo of Carlos Casanova.
Carlos Casanova. Image: Forrester Research

This article was written by Carlos Casanova, a principal analyst at Forrester who serves technology executives and technology architecture and delivery professionals. His research includes artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps), observability, digital experience monitoring (DEM), application performance monitoring (APM), infrastructure monitoring, cloud monitoring, and the use of OpenTelemetry in these areas. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

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