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We are living in a particularly unique time, from a technology standpoint. The rate of innovation is staggering and companies of all sizes are leveraging technology to create massive gaps between themselves and their competitors. I can't think of a single industry that has not been impacted, but I can think of dozens of case studies about those who have failed to identify an opportunity and/or mobilize.

The pressure on the CTO/CIO may never have been so great as it is today. The entire C-Suite is pushing for innovation to stay a step ahead of the competition and, in some cases, the CTO/CIO is ill-equipped to do much more than keep themselves preoccupied with “maintenance” activities. The fundamentals that run the business are important but, in an environment of increasingly tight budgets and big dreams with major IT implications, an under-performing CTO can leave a LOT to be desired.

This type of disconnect will inevitably cause friction and frustration, and frankly won’t end well for the organization. But let’s be realistic-- the mandate for an IT leader in today’s environment is intense. Urgency is at peak levels, financial pressure exists in nearly every decision, and net technology trends are appearing rapidly with big data, automation, the list goes on and on.

Operating as a strategic business partner to many organizations, we see massive opportunities residing in media-centric prospects and broader business model adaptations which are generally technology supported. These days, a hot topic in our world is 1st party data. For many, mobilizing on their 1st party data and actually using it to drive media can feel like an impossible task because of internal roadblocks.  

Determining where your business stands is critical. This important step of internal reflection and evaluation can help position your organization for future growth. Below are some of the questions we believe you need answer to obtain clarity.

How do we compare to our core competitors?

Seeking a benchmark is vital. Understanding how your organization stacks up against your competitors is essential to understanding what fundamental changes you may need to make.

Play in your own field and the one just beyond you. Dreaming too big can create some massive issues as your ability to implement, support, and finance these initiatives may be too unrealistic for your organization. Let’s face it, we’re not all SalesForce with seemingly unlimited Opex budgets.

From which industries can we borrow insights?

We leverage this technique to help our partners look beyond their “localized” competitors. It does require a brand to step out of their comfort zone but it can offer some interesting and innovative approaches to your challenges.

As an interesting aside, you’ll see a piece from us in the coming weeks on vertical competition. Keep your eyes open for this one. It'll be worth it!

Can our resources support our vision?

This question is critical and its answer is fraught with implications.

In business, it's far too easy to become accustomed to saying “no” far more frequently than you say “yes”. That being said, having maturity and awareness in this moment is important. Be realistic. Going too far will leave you with dreams that are unattainable for a variety of reasons.

Our best advice is to dream big, delegate research to members of the team who can break a vision down into gates/phases, and evaluate the impact of the steps. This will leave you with a good view into the requirements, essential phases, and also the micro and macro level commitments your organization may need to make.

Avoid the massive dreams without realistically understanding what is technically feasible and what can be meaningfully supported from a resources perspective.

Is our team aligned on strategic choices?

A parallel between your work and personal life relates to the choices that you make. Making choices can be a challenge, particularly related to topics which may stretch your ability to fully grasp them. Do your homework, understand the business implications, and focus on aligning with your team.

It is much better to make that choice as a team, which will ensure you gel when/if things get bumpy versus pulling apart and setting a project up for failure.

Once clarity has been established, you enter a moment in time to have a mature discussion around your ability to execute. Your CTO/CIO will need to be transparent about what is realistic for them to accomplish, from both a resource (team & budget) and capabilities perspective. Understanding if you have the right person in that seat becomes your job, and knowing if they can execute against the vision of the team will be paramount. 

Many organizations are challenged on this front. You're not alone! We’ve found ourselves acting increasingly as a consultant in these matters since we've helped many organizations identify needs, assess requirements, and source partners to either help with the tech or to get the job done when internal resources are unable to provide support. So remember, when the future looks bleak you can always reach out for help.