CIOs: How To "Be the Change" Agent

According to Patty Hatter, when it comes to driving transformation in IT, the CIO must be the change agent. Wearing the two hats of Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Information Officer, Hatter is responsible for innovating and executing a sustainable transformation of McAfee's operational processes and infrastructure across the global organization.

Patty Hatter (Twitter: @PattyHatter) - SVP of Operations & CIO, McAfee

Hatter believes that CIOs need to increasingly view themselves as change agents for the organization because of their unique perspective of the overall company business objectives and their ability to help speed up what other functions are doing with IT. Because the world is changing, the market is changing, customers are changing and the competition is changing, CIOs need to embrace change. In order to be a change agent for the rest of the company, IT needs to be very comfortable with changing itself first, yet in many organizations IT is not on the leading edge of transformation.

Hatter shares with us the steps she has taken to help IT feel comfortable with change and to ultimately transform IT at McAfee. Her great advice is relevant for all CIOs and IT leaders who are embarking on a transformational journey.

8 Ways for CIOs to Be Change Agents:

1. Understand the business - The first step to becoming a change agent is to take opportunities to actively learn from other parts of the business - sales, marketing, engineering, finance, supply chain, etc. - so that you can better understand line-of-business goals, success metrics and use of technology to further improve and strengthen operational excellence and alignment to business strategy. It's incumbent for IT leaders and the entire IT organization to have a macro-level view of how the company works. "IT is in a unique position if it wants to take it, but it is only in a unique position to be a change agent if it understands the changes that need to be made," says Hatter.

2. Lay the foundation for change - When Hatter took on the additional role of CIO and faced the challenge of transforming IT, she had the wisdom from already having first transformed Operations in her role as SVP of Operations, where she spent a lot of time driving collaboration with the other business functions - something she attributes to setting the foundation for how IT has been able to transform so quickly. Hatter had already gotten the agreement across all the different business functions around 'what are the big things that we really need to do that are going to have the biggest impact on the company?', which was a huge benefit for IT.

When Hatter came to her role as CIO, with the need to change how the business functions and IT were working together, she was able to show by what she was doing with the operations team that both sides need to come together differently. By demonstrating that "it takes two to tango" and that both sides need to change the way they do things in order to come together in a different way to get much better results, IT was more willing to embrace change.

3. Put all your cards on the table - When Hatter first took over IT; she focused a lot on building transparency because there was so much broken trust between all the business functions and engineering and IT, that people actually thought IT was working on completely different things. From day one in her role of CIO, Hatter took this problem head on by saying, "Every minute of every day we will put all our cards on the table. What we see, any issues, everything, all the cards on the table amongst IT and the rest of the business because I am confident that we can solve anything, as long as we solve it now and we don't let little problems snowball into something that's much bigger."
It was a major cultural change, because the organization had gotten used to being fairly protective with information and keeping things under wraps. As IT opened up and became clear in its communication and clear on what was working and what wasn't and what actions were needed in order to fix what wasn't working, they were able to connect very quickly with the rest of the business.

4. Engage your employees - With transparency established, the second piece is employee engagement. Hatter's view is that you can't be a great organization if the people in the organization don't want to be there. "To me it's just foundational to really figure out how to motivate the team, what makes everybody tick, how to get the team feeling much more personally engaged and empowered in everything that we need to do. There are a lot of great challenges to work on and a lot of exciting work, it's just a matter of connecting that great work with our employees," said Hatter. Through many employee interactions, all hands meetings and roundtables, Hatter learned many things that have been important as they've gone through their transformational journey.

Another great opportunity for Hatter has been employee led teams that help tackle the issues that come out of employee engagement surveys, which is the master survey of the pulse of the organization. "You really see some great leadership, some great ideas and some great execution coming out of those employee led teams," says Hatter who knows that everybody has ideas and sees it as her job to make sure that the forums are in place so that they can engage as many people as possible and really drive their ideas into the organization.

5. Delivering operational excellence is foundational - Delivering operational excellence is at the foundation to delivering progressive IT value. Hatter agrees: if you're not succeeding with the basic deliverables of what IT needs to do, you won't have the credibility to talk about strategic topics. "How could anybody have faith to trust IT with the bigger complex programs if they can't even keep the lights on?," questions Hatter. With how fast technology is moving and with all the new tools that are coming to IT, keeping the lights on has a new definition: how do you do it even better and with even less dollars. So there's innovation just in that part of the business.

6. Skate to where the puck is going - A big piece of the role of a CIO as a change agent is harnessing all of the new technologies that are out there, but it can't be technology for technology's sake warns Hatter, who prefers to be very connected with the rest of the business by "skating to where the puck is going, not to where it's been" - an idea made famous by ice hockey legend, Wayne Gretsky. Hatter says it's about putting the customer and the business model and your company strategy first, and then working backwards to figure out the pieces that you need to glue together to get there.

A big advocate of leading from the business and strategy side and then working back into what are the pieces that need to be put into place, Hatter says there is so much technology out there you that could really spend too much time working on things that aren't in line with where the business is trying to go. "I'm very passionate about finding out how you get what your customers are looking for and I think IT has to really try to skate ahead of the puck as much as possible," says Hatter.

7. Be a trendsetter - Hatter's IT organization spends time thinking about the trends they are seeing and advocating those trends, articulating their point of view and trying to support the company in moving there. CIOs in technology companies have a great opportunity to add value to their organization beyond what they do as an IT organization, to really help paint the landscape of what they are seeing coming at them as a customer of IT technology. "It's an important opportunity for us to lead and to give visibility to what we are seeing into other parts of the business. It's all about thinking about what you are seeing and trying to put that into a digestible thought leadership framework and then figuring out how to engage across the company," says Hatter.

8. Always look to simplify and bring clarity - Every CIO is concerned with bringing the budget down. The more you can break your business down into fundamental pieces and always look to simplify, especially running the business part of IT, the more you can free up money so you can try to get ahead of the curve. You don't want to be in the position of waiting for the business to have already discussed what it needs and bring you a shopping list because if that's where you are, you are late to the game and the different business functions are probably already outsourcing technology from other places.

To Hatter, digital transformation is taking all of those new technologies and figuring out what they mean for creating value with your customers, business partners and for your own company. The more simple and clear that you can see your business, the more you can easily explain what you are doing, what your priorities are and how you are going to get there. The only way to be able to embrace all the changes coming and the new technology that's out there is to have boiled it down and taken the time to get some clarity around business models, profitability and what comes next. Then it's just question of how do you leveraged that new technology to get there.

Hatter's closing advice to CIOs is to just embrace change because there are so many opportunities out there and IT can chose to either sit in the middle of it all or be on the outside.

You can watch the full interview with Patty Hatter here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3PM as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.