Transforming Your Business Through Technology: Chat with Interim CIOs

Technology is the most disruptive force in the business world today. It transforms everything that it touches, creating new opportunities while at the same time threatening incumbents and late-adopters.

Futurist Peter Diamandis describes the technology paradox in the following way: “Entrepreneurs will create more wealth in the next decade, than we have in the entire past century. We’ll also experience the reinvention of every industry. Understanding how to navigate accelerating technological change is essential for every leader. The problem with such dazzling change is that most people fear the future, rather than being excited by it. And fear is a terrible mindset from which to create and leverage the opportunities ahead.”

InterimExecs recently held a webinar with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) David Mitchelhill and Kevin Malover about how you should be thinking about technology and your business strategy as we enter 2020. Among the topics discussed were ways to navigate disruption to stay competitive, the value of outside viewpoints in technology, when to pursue new technology versus maximizing current assets, and balancing the fear of change with the fear of falling behind.

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V.U.C.A. Helps Companies Deal with Dynamic, Shifting and Challenging Situations

Our world, our universe is characterized by constant change. Stars are born and die, storms transform the landscape, nations rise and fall, people change over time. In the business world economies grow and collapse, business models evolve, industries transform and even the Top 100 list of leading companies completely changes in a matter of a few years.

But sometimes the speed and scope of change is extremely rapid, its consequences unforeseeable and unpredictable. This makes planning and decision making highly risky because it is so difficult to see what the future holds. “Everybody has a plan,” said championship boxer Mike Tyson, “until they get punched in the face.”

To help explain the often sudden, fluid, rapidly evolving and dynamic forces of change – that “punch in the face” — the U.S. Army War College created the term V.U.C.A. to describe and ultimately deal with highly dynamic, shifting and challenging situations.

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Why Most Change Initiatives Fail. And What to Do About It

“Write down a change you would like to make in an organization that you are currently with…or  change in the marketplace. Any kind. It can be a big change, it could be a small change – strategic, tactical, something you want people to start doing, something you want people to stop doing,” says Jeff Leitner as he looks around a room filled with CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-Suite executives at this year’s InterimExecs’ RED Team meeting. He continues “You’re change is absolutely, almost certainly going to fail. It’s not your fault. It has nothing to do with your particular genius – has nothing to do with your insights. Changes fail. They almost always fail.”

Jeff Leitner knows a thing or two about change and innovation. He spent the last 20 years improving organizations from the US State Department to NASA, Starbucks, Panera, and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace. In a world where innovation and disruption is key, the question is why does change rarely stick in organizations, markets, and society? Jeff has dedicated years to studying why change fails and in his most recent speaking circuit, is sharing what leaders can do to be more effective in leading change initiatives.

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Remove the Monopolies and Step Toward Innovation

The great thing about playing the board game Monopoly as a kid was that you could buy up everything, collect rents all over the place (or get slaughtered if say your older sister was just a better player) but when the game ended, it was over.

We’re now living a real life monopoly game that’s crept up on even the strongest free markets.

In 2017, 75% of the beer market was cornered by three monopoly companies and one, Anheuser-Busch, held more than 40% alone. In the online search industry, one company monopolized the market and held 91% of market share and 98% of the cell phone market is concentrated among the four largest companies, with 70% being split between Verizon and AT&T alone. Even seemingly trivial things like peanut butter, coffins, and adult websites are all controlled by only a couple of firms.

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The Healthcare Industry Leverages Interim Executives To Navigate Disruption

Modern healthcare is as complex as physiology inside our own bodies. The healthcare industry is now waist deep in an era of extreme disruption. The breakneck pace of technological innovation coupled with the increasing aging population and chronic diseases is a recipe for historic changes in healthcare.

In the healthcare ecosystem, some organizations will sink, and some swim as disruption occurs. From hospitals to clinics, to patients to pharmaceutical companies, to insurers to medical technology businesses no entity will be unaffected.

Leaders in healthcare say legacy providers must respond swiftly to the changes. The abrupt exit of critical leadership, gaps in capacity and expertise, or old systems that no longer work can quickly become problems. Because these factors are interwoven, health care organizations can find themselves unraveling if they don’t act fast.

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Organizational Change Is Fast With Alignment & Autonomy

Organizational transformation is a sore spot for many businesses who resist change. When evolution is desperately needed, they dig their heels in and cling to inefficient systems and outdated technology. This weakens their competitive edge, slows their go-to-market opportunities, and can wreak havoc internally. The end result is that these organizations remain stagnant, which is further fueled by a lack of internal alignment and frustration amongst employees who are not empowered to make decisions.

But how can organizations swiftly respond to change and come out on top? What are the key ingredients for business transformation success? Martin Danoesas, a partner of the BCG financial institutions practice, explains in a TED Talk how change is needed in today’s workplace. The old-school-way organizations were built meant “thinkers” were at the top of the org chart, and “doers” at the bottom. That model doesn’t hold up in the era of technological adoption and disruption.

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In M&A Deals, An Interim CIO Starts IT Systems Integration Planning Early

IT department leaders are usually left out of the early M&A meetings during the pre-merger or pre-acquisition phase. “IT systems integration” discussions do not include IT managers until it’s too late. This phenomenon is all too common when it comes to understanding the full scope of IT priorities and what each organization brings to the tech table to ensure successful M&A experience for employees and customers.

According to the 2018 Deal Value Curve Study, only 19% of M&A professionals surveyed believed there was sufficient due diligence on IT systems and assets before a merger or acquisition. This pitfall may stem from the fact that decision makers do not fully grasp the complexity of IT. Worse yet, they may fail to realize just how dependent the organization’s business goals are with IT systems.

Surprisingly, IT system integration is not top of mind during M&A discussions. That’s detrimental for two reasons:

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Poor System Integration & Company Culture Misalignment Leads to M&A Failure

In a merger or acquisition, discord of company cultures and disparate systems can cause the demise of a once-promising partnership. About 70% of acquisitions fail when post-acquisition results don’t meet pre-closing expectations. Many of these M&A failures are caused by poorly executed integration.

What’s surprising is that M&A failures are avoidable with careful integration planning and strategic post merger integration. Pre-acquisition, it takes a lot of forethought on how company cultures might clash and how their systems will integrate. Post-acquisition, it takes a ton of strategic elbow grease to rapidly align systems (and eliminate some), retain productive employees, keep customers, and make stakeholders happy.

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Signs Your Struggling Business Needs Help

We were having a conversation with an executive recently who shared about their experience parachuting into a business that was struggling with operational inefficiencies.

This executive, like many interims, kicked off the assignment by meeting face-to-face with the management team and employees to learn how the business functions, what’s working, and what isn’t. Their findings would turn into an operational roadmap of the business, where they would set out and implement a go-forward plan. When meeting with one team member and learning about what they did, the executive pointed to a process they had in place asking “why do you do that?”

 The answer: “Because we’ve always done it that way”

 (Alarm bells begin to loudly ring)

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How Turning Around a Company Looks Different Today

Turnarounds aren’t what they used to be.

Like a good spy movie, turnarounds used to center around a strong central figure making things happen. Turnaround stars and distress experts were born, like Stephen Cooper of Enron and Krispy Kreme fame.

In 1985 the Turnaround Management Association started as a conference of company turnaround specialists in Chapel Hill, ultimately creating a rigorous formal program and exam for Certified Turnaround Professionals.

“Back then the time frame for turnarounds was long,” Richard Lindenmuth, an executive who has completed 23 turnarounds over the years said. “There was bridge financing from banks that would facilitate a turnaround and bankruptcy was really used as a tool for restructuring a company.”

Times have changed. Many of the Fortune 500 companies from those days have merged or disappeared due to outdated technology, products, or services (think RCA, Blackberry, Zenith). At the same time, the way to turn around a struggling business has transformed, being driven by several factors:

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