Becoming an innovative anticipator

Last month, I talked about why there was never a better time to be an IT professional as the IT maturity curve reaches a new level.

The rules have changed and a new set of skills is required today. Successful IT organisations are now striving to move beyond what was once thought of as the end goal of being a 'strategic partner' with the business, and now aim to become an 'innovative anticipator', out in front of the business, driving initiatives that are progressing and enhancing company strategy.

So how does an organisation move up the maturity curve to become an innovative anticipator We relied on more than 20 years of experience working with over 3,000 IT organisations to answer this question.

The answer is there are a specific set of skills and competencies required at each level and an organisation will not progress to or be able to maintain itself at a higher level if these are not addressed.

It's like building a house -- we all know that having a strong foundation is critical because without it nothing else will stand. The same applies here; each skill set for the previous level provides the foundation for the next.

Stage 1: IT supplier

The IT supplier level is about getting good at the fundamental understanding and fulfilling business requirements, managing projects effectively, and building a culture of service excellence.

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A culture of service excellence goes beyond having an approach to service management - to having a culture that is proactive in regards to setting and managing expectations, understanding moments of truth that shape client experience, and providing consistent and reliable results across the organisation.

Stage 2: Solution provider

The solution provider is about building the skills of creating a trusted partner relationship. It's about developing the skills of a consultant.

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With IT not having "positional" power you need to develop the ability to influence and guide decisions and strategy.

Solution providers are good at taking an objective-based approach (as opposed to a position-based approach) to negotiation. Finally, the skills to market IT's value are needed -- how to best deliver your message and communicate to the business the outcome and impact that IT will have to the organisation and its clients.

Stage 3: Strategic partner

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Strategic partners must be good at leading and managing change. Successful change management at this level must consist of two parts: the process of implementing change and managing the human element of change.

Strategic partners must take vendor relationships from a standard supplier relationship to a more strategic relationship that drives business outcomes and adds value. They must also bring agile transformation to the organisation.

Stage 4: Innovative anticipator

With all these skills in place, you are now positioned to be an innovative anticipator. The skill here is innovation, driving solutions and initiatives that are progressing and enhancing business strategy.


A key to remember here is as you move up the levels is that you still need to perform at the previous levels on a daily basis. Think of Level 1 (IT supplier) -- you still need to do well everything associated with that level. These are the basics or fundamentals that you need to master.

If you don't, the organisation will collapse down from whichever level you may have reached. If you can't reliably deliver as a supplier, there is no way you can move to being a solution provider and so on.

Two mistakes to avoid are attempting to move up the curve too quickly and thinking you are at a different level than you are and consequently attempting to jump or skip a level. The result will be falling back to the level which you need to focus on, so that you can build those skills and you have the opportunity to progress.

Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Lou is currently the Professional Development Specialist for DDLS.


Lou Markstrom

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