Looking back to look ahead

One perspective on our work as consultants and coaches to Chief Information Officers, their C-level colleagues and their teams is to enable continuous improvement in their practice in delivering value to stakeholders through digital technology.

A key foundation for continuous improvement is reflective practice. Looking back as to look ahead. Taking stock of what went well, developing and testing theories about why and when setting strategies and plans for coming year do some things differently to maximize the delivery of value.

As we are approaching the end of the calendar year, I’ve been prompted to consider what I have learnt this year about delivering value through digital technology. And as I enter what I could consider as my 35th year of working in this area, what insight would I offer as we look ahead to 2024 and the coming months and years.

I settled on three things to take into next year:

  • Good Governance is key, it’s always been important, yet right now I would argue it’s more important than ever. As we work out how to make the most effective use of the new, relatively unfamiliar technologies such as generative AI, robot process automation, machine learning. Good governance conversations to enable thoroughly considered, argued decision making is critical to successful, sustainable development.
  • Invest in relationships to deliver, we know that getting the right individual capabilities, the right tools and the right processes remain necessary to deliver value. Deliver value as we design, develop and implement digital technology products and services. And yet despite what many consultants promote the tools are never enough. And whilst getting the specific technical capabilities are important. They are all necessary but never sufficient. This last year has re-inforced time and again for me that those leaders, teams and organisations that invest in building trusted relationships along the delivery chain make the most significant difference. In some ways, I’d go as far as preferencing what are regarded as “softer skills” over specific technical skill. The skills of building trusted relationships fast, collaborating at pace to invest in those relationships to deliver.
  • Just start and review on a faster cycle, it’s doing stuff that makes things happen, it’s by doing stuff that you see the impact, it’s by doing more stuff that you and your organisation will learn and learn faster. I’m not arguing for reckless action, rather if you have the opportunity to influence the design of your programmes of product and service development and change, design them so that you start as soon as you can, bring into play those ideas from agile, devops and engage stakeholders in reviewing and testing on a fast cycle time.

Finally, a few thoughts on looking back to look ahead. I’d go as far as saying its always beneficial to prioritise taking time and energy to reflect on what has happened. Working on your own and with colleagues to identify what you have learnt about what’s worked and most importantly deciding and committing to action.

I recommend being both reflective and reflexive. Reflective in focusing on the broad agenda for your organisation, looking back across everything you have been working in the last period. And be narrow, just think about yourself, your behaviours, what has and is working? What doesn’t seem to be working? What could you do about it? As ever, it can help to have a sounding board, to act as your conscience and make sure you are thorough in the reflexive practice. Importantly the actions do matter, if you take yourself seriously you should take this process seriously too.