Tag Archives: change

The Shiny Penny Syndrome

We recently finished our AIM innovations course and are starting the information management course. As I transition between the two, I can’t help but think of the shiny penny syndrome. A new shiny penny is perceived to be more valuable and sought after than an old tarnished penny, even though the two have the same value. This metaphor has been used in dating to describe a new love interest versus an old one but is also applicable to business and technology. In this blog I want to talk about the pitfalls of chasing after shiny pennies when perhaps the old penny just needs cleaning and polishing.

New Technologies

Often there are good reasons to implement new technologies, like the end of support for a legacy system or the need to interface with other updated programs or systems. The new technology can also result in efficiency gains and long term cost savings. When developing an innovation or technology plan it is important to ask whether this technology is a shiny penny or will it improve your throughput and create real revenue gains or cost savings. Acknowledging this early on will save time and resources that can be spent on improving the existing technology or choosing a new solution that really will deliver benefits.

Business Improvement

Businesses often chase after shiny pennies when they choose to acquire other companies to augment or enhance their own offerings. The wisdom is that it is easier to buy existing capabilities as opposed to trying to develop them from the ground up. This strategy often works, but sometimes it is a case of chasing a shiny penny. I have been involved in IT integration of acquisitions in the past and after a deep dive it is apparent that there was more flash than substance in the purchase. While it would have taken longer, the organization could have developed the same capability for less money and gained valuable experience in the process.

Leadership Changes

New leadership sometimes resembles a shiny penny. It’s tempting to think a new CEO or CIO will bring fresh ideas that will help get us turned around or get us back on track. While it sometimes works, there may be deeper systemic issues that can’t be solved with a new manager or a new team. After the honeymoon period, the old problems surface and the new leader can’t get any better traction than the previous executive, and then the new leader is sometimes replaced by even a newer, shinier penny. We can stop this rotating door by honestly acknowledging that we are trying to compensate for unresolved deep-seated issues with the organization or processes. It is admittedly hard to recognize and fix the real issues but doing so leaves us in a better position to succeed in the future.

Thoughts

Next time you face a major change such as new leadership or a new technology or adding new capabilities through a merger or acquisition, take just a second to acknowledge whether this is a new shiny penny or will it truly leave the organization in a better position to be competitive and successful.

Have you ever chased after a shiny penny? Did it work out? Let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about your experience.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Facing Digital Disruption

Image of airplanes in formation, one plane climbing straight up. In a recent Accenture report, 24% of surveyed CFOs believe that their company will cease to exist in its current form due to disruptive competition. Fifty-eight percent think their industry will be disrupted and 41% believe more than half of their competitors will disappear. The telling statistic, however, is that only 6% are preparing for the anticipated changes.

As I prepare to teach the summer AIM course Creating Business Solutions with Technology, I have been thinking a lot about disruption, particularly digital disruption. I define this as the forces of change, either within or outside the organization, which cause us to operate differently. Sometimes these are slight process changes or adjustments, but sometimes they completely change the way we do business and the way we serve customers. If only 6% of CFOs are preparing for these changes, I hope more CIOs and CEOs are planning ahead.

That’s Not How We Used To Do Things

Particularly for the IT department, technology changes are coming at a rapid pace. We need to become more efficient and deploy our resources and talents differently than ever before. No longer do we have a room full of hardware that we keep locked away from mere mortals. Our hardware and applications are now in the cloud and we are tasked with being service managers instead of systems or software managers. Because of the advances in networking, security, storage, and processing, our jobs have changed dramatically. At least they should have changed. If we are still doing our jobs the way we were 10 years ago, then there is a software or infrastructure service provider that would love to take our business.

Business Changes

Think about some of the things that you do differently as a consumer and you can begin to understand what businesses are facing in the way of new and different competition. The last time I went downtown to visit a travel agent was 10 years ago. I can’t think of the last time I phoned a hotel call center or front desk to make a room reservation. I do it all online. Sometimes I don’t even stay in traditional hotels but prefer a service like Airbnb. Taxi and even rental car services have been disrupted by new business models from companies such as Uber or Lyft. Tesla is threatening to disrupt the traditional dealership model by selling cars in small retail storefronts instead of huge showrooms with massive inventories supplied by the manufacturer. Not surprising, in a number of these disruptions, state legislators are trying to protect business as usual. That’s not how we do things around here, they say.

I send fewer letters than I did even a year ago. It is much easier to write and pay bills online. Mobile and online banking has disrupted the traditional bank downtown. I am sure that you can think of a lot more changes in your own lives due to advances in technology. These are the changes businesses need to grapple with or they risk becoming obsolete.

What To Do

Here are three steps that Accenture recommends to prepare for digital disruption:

  1. Conduct scenario planning to highlight areas of the operating model or current cost structure that need to be transformed.
  2. Create and implement an action plan to redefine your cost base with digital at the core. This is specific advice to the CFO, but applicable to all.
  3. Live and breathe customer obsession. Create strategies throughout the entire organization that focus on the customer first. What would make their lives easier and their transactions more efficient?

These strategies will help to ensure that you will be a viable competitor for the foreseeable future.

Thoughts

Let me know your thoughts. How has technology changed the way that you do business? How do you think things will be different five year from now? Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Courage in the Face of Change

Man leaps across a precipice in the mountains at sunset.I have been thinking about all of the students who are about to graduate and the new students who will begin the AIM Program in June. Graduates may be moving into the job market or starting a postgraduate program, but there are still many unknowns. New students may be embarking on their first graduate experience or their first online course. It takes courage to start that first step and to follow through on the commitment. This blog post is dedicated to those courageous souls facing new adventures.

Definition

Courage is defined on Dictionary.com as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” I am not sure that having courage means you have no fear. Instead, I think it is a managed fear. Think back to the last time you ventured into the unknown. What pushed you into that new venture? Was it to alleviate discomfort in your current situation? Were you seeking a reward? Or were you curious as to what the new experience would bring? The first time I skydived, there was definitely some fear involved, but there was also curiosity. In my case, the curiosity outweighed the fear.

Examples of Courage

One of the finest examples of courage I can think of is military service. These men and women face the unknown just by reporting for duty. They then face ongoing challenges if they are deployed to foreign lands to defend our freedom and security. They are not alone, but they courageously face the unknown despite their fears. I honor them for that courage.

Another example of courage is young people who move away from home and the towns they grew up in to better themselves through education or employment. It takes courage to build a new life. It gets easier as they continue to encounter new experiences, but that initial move can be daunting.

Change Takes Courage

I have come to understand that change takes courage, whether it be changing jobs, entering a new academic program, taking on new volunteer responsibilities, or changing a lifestyle. The pain of your current situation could make changing easier but it still takes courage to take the first step toward (hopefully) a better future.

Thoughts

I hope that you will take a moment this week to recognize someone who is facing a change with courage. Whether they are a new graduate or someone starting a new venture, congratulate them and wish them well as they confidently step forward.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Lessons in Leadership

Hiking group trekking on a Crimean mountain.In many of our AIM courses, we teach about leadership. Whether leading people, new processes, or new technologies, we place a great emphasis on leadership. But what are the characteristics of a good leader?

I believe this is important to understand and practice so this week I will share with you some leadership lessons I have learned and, more importantly, I am hoping that you will share your insights.

Leading Change

Throughout my career I have had several opportunities to lead change. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest tasks because it requires you to transition people into new territory amidst skepticism and fear of the change. I once worked on a very large data center consolidation project where computers were being moved from scattered sites around the world to large centralized data centers. People had become attached to their application running on a computer that they could see and touch like a favorite pet. To move the application and hardware to an unknown location was truly a change to be reckoned with. This same scenario is being played out daily as companies transfer data and functions to the cloud. I wish we could come up with a better term than cloud so that the end result appeared more concrete and palatable to those suffering from computer separation anxiety.

From this experience I learned two valuable lessons about leadership:

  1. A good leader is a good communicator. It is important to be able to paint a plausible and even inviting picture of the future: “IF we do this, here are the benefits for you.” The first thought in everyone’s mind is “what’s in it for me?”
  2. It is vital to lead people in a direction that is in their best interest and does not lead them off a cliff. This builds trust and increases cooperation. The first time a leader moves a team or group in a direction that is not in their best interest, trust dissolves and resistance increases. Until that trust is re-established, the leader will no longer be effective.

Leading from the Middle

Hard charging and visible leaders often lead from the front. Shepherds, in contrast, lead their flocks from the back. I have found that it is sometimes necessary to lead from the middle. Recently, I had the opportunity to teach and lead a weeklong youth leadership course at a nearby camp. There were 48 teen campers and a staff of older youth. During the week, a group of campers was tasked with cleaning the dining hall. The staff was in a meeting at that time. I decided to help clean the dining hall, since I knew that I had support leading the staff meeting. The participants were pleasantly surprised that their adult leader would actually help them finish their chore so that they could go off and do what they wanted. They assumed that a proper leader was always out front TELLING them what to do, which was their limited experience with leaders, but leading from the middle builds team unity and builds respect for the leader.

A Good Leader is a Good Follower

I have come to realize that to be a good leader you must practice being a good follower. If you understand the vision and goals of the leader, then it is important that you help your teammates to achieve those goals. For example, as a follower, it is your responsibility to ask clarifying question when the vision is not clear and then support that vision once the direction has been decided. When it is time for you to lead, you would do well to have teammates who are also good followers.

Thoughts

I think that everyone has a chance to step into a leadership role in his or her lifetime. Whether that role is parent, coach, mentor, manager, or executive, it is important to remember to lead in a way that gets everyone to the goal safely. As the leader, it is not about you but about the group and the desired outcome for everyone.

I hope you have some leadership stories that you are willing to share with me. What worked for you? What lessons did you learn by getting it wrong the first time? Did everything turn out well, or were there lessons along the way? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.