Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Technology Leadership - A Misnomer?

If you've had a career of any reasonable length in the IT industry and have a track record of success behind you then chances are you're now in, or at some future point will be offered, a role which is considered a Technology Leadership role. In the data and information space these types of roles include Architects, Business Intelligence Managers, Competency Centre Leaders, Data Quality Managers and the like.

I've worked in many of these roles at various times and the one thing that they all have in common is that often this so called technology leadership is actually dealing with issues that have little to directly do with the technology at all. Rather the Technology Leader spends his days strategy setting, looking for ways to deliver business value through future change or the current actions of his people, engaged in stakeholder management, selling concepts to senior management, and so on. Most of these issues are actually more closely aligned with managing functions, people, shaping programs of work, etc and require some ability to control and direct and have access to, and authority over, budget and resourcing decisions. Without this the leadership may become divorced from the ability to deliver which can have serious ramifications on credibility, influence and ability to show effect and value from the leadership role. Perhaps it could even be argued that people in such roles are shouldering, and in some cases having to own, some of the concerns traditionally associated with line management without having enough say in solving those problems - i.e. their plans could be quashed, derailed or rerouted by others who do have control over budget, resourcing or strategy.

In order to allow our technology leaders to add the most value we need to realise and acknowledge their leadership is in fact only in part technology based. Our technology leaders need a seat at the management table to be truly effective. Taking this step delivers another benefit. Technology Leaders are in the decision loop early, ensuring better alignment with other initiatives and allowing others in the management structure better visibility of, consideration of, and therefore use of the area from which the "technology" leader comes.

The alternative to this arrangement is the introduction of Thought Leadership roles. These may well be ideal positions for the person formerly known as Technology Leader if the organization can stretch to that. However most can't due to lack of size, true need, commoditisation of many facets of the IT function, or shrinking budgets. The unkind (or is that better phrased as jealous?) spin on these roles might well be lots of thinking, musing and sprouting of opinion without the need for implementation efforts hampered by real world constraints and politics. Hey Gartner - if you're ever looking, I'm over here :)

No comments:

Post a Comment