Divergent CIO

An innovative, transformative, and digital leader experienced in Technology and Executive Leadership

Why Face-to-Face Interaction and Communication are so Important

Why Face-to-Face Interaction and Communication are so ImportantA colleague of mine recently shared an experience she had at her doctor's office. When she walked up to the window to check in, the young receptionist motioned with her finger pointing to the iPad on the counter and said, "please check in here," without taking her eyes off her cell phone. My colleague began asking her a couple of questions about the check-in process and the young gal remained fixated on her cell phone without once making eye contact during the verbal exchange.

Today's generation is socially challenged with the constant distraction of electronic devices and social media dominating our everyday lives. Does the convenience and pervasiveness of technology excuse poor basic human behavior? Certainly not. So how can we be more thoughtful and courteous to those around us?

Critical Social Skills Component

Face-to-face communication is an integral piece of the social skills puzzle. It's time to get back to basics with clear and precise communication -- something that has been lost little by little as technology such as smart phones, texting and email have permeated today's society. There's a lot you can glean from looking someone in the eyes, and a lot that can be missed if you don't. There's a personal connection there that you just can't get over the phone, via text or even FaceTime. It's so personal, in fact, that many of today's young people shy away from such an intimate display of human interaction.

Your clothing, hair accessories, posture and gestures can all convey a deep meaning, but it's your eyes that send messages as well, and failure to maintain solid eye contact with an associate, client or boss can prevent you from building critical business relationships, says Inc. Eye contact cues are subtle, to be sure, but they can make all the difference when trying to read the other party's emotions, from approval to disdain to any other emotion on the spectrum that can't be determined from an email.

A business venture or collaboration, such as negotiating a merger or even asking your boss for a raise, can balance precariously on how you handle a face-to-face conversation. You wouldn't ask for that raise with your face in your phone, and you certainly wouldn't negotiate a big business deal or merger over email. That's why the personal connection is crucial for conducting insightful discussions of mutual interest -- something that was just par for the course before the telephone was even invented, points out ToughNickel. The art of conversation has largely been lost, dragging down our social skills in the process.

Tips for Meaningful Face-to-Face Conversations

There are many benefits that come with face-to-face human interaction, resulting in encounters and relationships that can't be achieved remotely. From visual feedback and cultural differences to body language and eye contact, it becomes easy to understand the true value of what another is saying when you meet in person. Not only do face-to-face meetings build stronger, more meaningful business relationships, they allow for better social opportunities to bond with clients and coworkers. In addition, these meetings boost the ability to read body language and facial expressions as well as interpret nonverbal communication signals, says the Houston Chronicle. Recent studies have shown that face-to-face communication is optimal when it comes to persuasion, leadership, engagement, inspiration, decision-making, accountability and reaching a consensus.

If you have been finding that your face-to-face interaction skills are starting to erode, here are some ways you can make the most of your in-person meetings:

  • Pay attention to visual feedback.
  • Listen to what's being said and ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • If you are the one speaking, pay attention to body language that might indicate disinterest or confusion.
  • If you sense disinterest or confusion, respond to those visual cues by switching gears, or giving the other person the floor.

Just like any muscle, these skills take practice. From sales to customer service to board room meetings, face-to-face communication is vital in keeping the pulse of human interaction pumping. Let's not lose sight of what's truly important in business and in personal relationships as well: communication and connection. That's what drives progress and success, something that can't be achieved when hiding behind a phone.

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Ecommerce and Mobile Platforms

Ecommerce and Mobile PlatformsAn innovation is an idea, practice or object that has taken root in society and is perceived to be new or created a new adoption of a concept or technology. Innovations have many parameters when becoming part of a social system, especially with the onslaught of so many new different technologies that are being created on a daily basis. One particular innovation that has made a particular successful diffusion into society is the mobile telephone or smart phone. The mobile phone has been a technology that has had a large number of early adopters and become an integral part of the communication channels that individuals use to participate in daily conversation. Innovations have certain conditions that are important to becoming successful: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability.

One particular group of individuals has taken on the innovation of the mobile phone more efficiently than any other group, tech-savvy young people. Millennials are the largest generational users of mobile telephones and are harnessing some serious spending power. They are embracing online shopping on their mobile telephones and setting a trend in forcing technology makers to figure out how to build the relationship even further between ecommerce platforms and potential shoppers. For the millennial generation the mobile platform is the method of choice for interacting with technology. Furthermore, they are more interested in harnessing the power and control while using these platforms during shopping activities. Technology innovators and business leaders must answer this call to address the rise of mobile ecommerce use. The question is not whether or not this will become the future of shopping but when will it take over all traditional methods of shopping.

Users are accessing the web more and more on a mobile device or tablet rather than a desktop with the intent of shopping and making ecommerce purchases. Statically, during the holiday shopping season this year a third of all shopping was done via a mobile device. Furthermore, 84% stated that they have experienced a bad mobile transaction experience will trying to make an online purchase. With that type of high percentage of bad transactions, there is the opportunity to create more positive mobile responsive websites that will be more user friendly.

Improving mobile responsive websites to be more user friendly can be as easy as making a few improvements. Making sure the website is programmed to be adaptive can provide the best user experience for every user on every single device. Making sure that all buttons on the website are tap-friendly and are the correct size for any important call to actions or links. The main navigation is the most important part of the menu so that the items are easy to read and to utilize for the consumer on their phone. Part of making the menu accessible is to use text for contact information so that users are able to tap and contact the company easily. Furthermore, the visual content on a mobile website needs to be adapted so it gives visual ques and intertwines words. Having lengthy paragraphs on mobile sites is not user friendly and will drive users away because it is hard to view on a mobile telephone. 89% of executives feel that the user experience will be their primary factor to competition. A user-centric and user-friendly website is becoming the priority for getting a competitive edge and advantage.

The innovation of the mobile telephone has become so much more than just a communication device, but has been adopted into society, especially by millennials, to become a small computer that aids people in many types of transactions. Utilizing this trend, business leaders should use big data and predictive analysis to increase productivity in their businesses. Getting on board with mobile is the wave of the future and will increase sales capabilities when utilized properly.

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Finding True Digital Transformation

Finding True Digital TransformationDigital transformation in the business world refers to the efforts of companies to keep up with changing environments spurred on by customer demand and technology. Because digital tools and technology are constantly evolving and affecting how people interact with one another, this in turn changes the way in which we conduct business. How you transform your core business processes using digital technology will determine how you can achieve competitive advantage and gain differentiation in your market segment, says Techopedia. It's essentially the third component of how businesses embrace digital technology, following digital competence and digital usage. With an ability to bring on new elements of innovation and creativity, digital transformation goes beyond enhancing and supporting traditional strategies.

What Spurs Change?

On the quest to find true digital transformation, one must understand the drivers that affect this change, namely profitability, customer satisfaction, and increased speed-to-market. There's a general understand that CIOs should be the driving forces implementing this transformation for their businesses, but is this really happening? In reality, it doesn't seem to be that cut and dried. In fact, digital transformation has many motivations and is the responsibility of many people, from top executives to lower-level employees, says CMS Wire.

According to research presented by MediaPost, poor customer experiences caused an estimated $83 billion loss by U.S. companies every year due to defections and abandoned shopping carts. With so many options these days offered by cloud, mobile, Internet of Things, and others, it's easy to lose sight of quality of the data in favor or hyper personalization.

So the question remains: how can companies find true digital transformation with leadership from their CIOs?

Insights

Companies that can harness the power of true digital transformation will enjoy the fruits of their labor by being at the top of the heap in terms of competitive advantage and differentiation. That's what we're all striving for anyway, right? Here are some suggestions:

Have a real strategy ready to go. If you're still grappling with how to come up with an operational plan that works for your website and social media platforms, you're not going to get very far. Approach this goal not operationally but strategically, focusing on how your organization will be impacted by digital or how you can channel those new capabilities to broaden your overall business strategy. Lisa Welchman as quoted on CMS Wire says companies that have been disrupted by digital have become that way --  not because they didn't have a CIO in charge of the transformation -- but because they lost that 360-degree view of how digital would impact their digital models.

Recognize the full value of all digital assets throughout your company. CIOs all too often get into a file-centric mindset that puts them in a rut they can't quite get out of. Instead, use flexible data models that will work to engage new streams of revenue in order to encourage innovation. This will go a long way towards creating important digital transformations such as attracting new clients or driving new sources of revenue.

Focus on the customer as central to your success in the digital age. As the CIO, you have to re-examine your thinking and accelerate your reach via the enhancement of the customer experience. Crafting a solid foundation on which to illustrate this transformation is key for longevity of purpose. As such, you must re-evaluate traditional roles and make sure you are incorporating the best talent and infrastructure to build a platform for your new targeted strategies.

Imaginative thinking, coupled with just the right amount of spot-on execution, will be the catalyst for true digital transformation.

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Wearables and Your Health: Where Do They Intersect?

Wearables and Your Health: Where Do They Intersect?Both sides of the health technology debate

Last week, we talked about what to watch for in the way of wearable technology this year. Now we'll discuss how this innovative form of technology can be used to promote a healthier population. We all know that health insurance payers give out incentives to providers for healthy patients; to obtain these incentives, healthcare providers must gather more data, communicate more effectively with their patients, and get them engaged in managing their own health. Why not use technology to automatically gather this data and send it back to the patient's medical record? This method ensures accuracy, efficiency, timeliness, and accountability -- things that can be sorely lacking in today's healthcare management system.

The use of wearables, once a practice driven solely by individuals hopping on the "cool" factor of a FitBit, is now moving into the realm of employer- driven incentive as part of their health and wellness programs. Research has calculated a clear ROI on those who use wearables vs. those who do not. In fact, as part of a study conducted by Springbuk, employees using wearable technology cost $1,000 less on average for a company than those who didn't. 

Undoubtedly, wearables are ideal for tracking and monitoring ongoing health and daily fitness activities. In fact, many companies are already boasting they can achieve this (you may have heard about Apple's recent announcement of a patent for a device that can gather and process electrocardiographic measurements; or perhaps you've heard of wearable pregnancy trackers). Wearable devices, along with mobile health apps, have made health data collection extremely convenient because they integrate with patients’ daily activities and reflect that activity in a quantifiable way. The information that can be collected from patients can play a critical role in how the world of medical advancement will look in the future, with wearables allowing both patients and care givers to measure a variety of indicators and generate feedback on anything from everyday health to specific markers for disease.

This can also aid in medical research; in effect, future generations can benefit from information gathered directly from users today. Healthcare professionals can gain insight into how diseases progress, which treatments are effective, how symptoms improve with certain treatments, etc. The availability and capability of the data that can be collected is mind numbing if you stop to think about it all.

Bridging the Gap

However, just because the technology is here doesn't mean there aren't other issues or obstacles that can stonewall the real-world integration of these technologies to the Electronic Health Record, such as:

  • Device weight
  • Cost
  • Security issues
  • Privacy concerns
  • Validity
  • Reliability
  • Regulations
  • Vendor bureaucracy

In addition to all that, there are ethical, legal, and social implications that make many healthcare professionals a bit reluctant to welcome wearable data into the electronic medical record, points out Forbes. Of course, there is always the possibility that a physician could be sued, for example, if a patient's exercise pattern changed over time and the doctor failed to address it. Other concerns doctors may have include: How accurate is the wearable on any given day? What if there is a malfunction? What will each doctor do with the mountains of health information received? Is there a quantifiable way to document it all and make sense of it? Will this add to a workload that is already over stressed?

As you can see, many things still stand in the way of achieving a seamless connection between wearables and integration into patient records. It's starting, though. With 274 million wearable electronic devices sold worldwide in 2016 alone, there's no stopping the evolution of a simple fitness tracker into something much more helpful and potentially life saving. Novant Health, for instance, led the way in 2015 when it introduced its electronic patient portal, MyChart, so patients could share data from their fitness tracker with their doctors. This form of patient engagement represents the future of wearable technology integration.


Bringing Wearables into the Main Stream Health Community

With so many questions as to the security, accuracy and regulation of wearable technology and patient records, is it possible to develop standards for what data can be used and validated? Yes. The technology is there, it just has to be paired with policies that will protect patients' rights. Once this happens, though, we can make wearables mainstream to help improve our populations' chronic diseases. Looking ahead to what's on the horizon, it's certainly possible that such wearables can take this all one step further and alert or prevent the consumer from making unhealthy choices during the day. Hey, if Amazon and Maytag can automatically tell you when you are low on a product or an appliance needs service, certainly we can make this commonplace with our wearables!

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How to Create an Innovative Workplace

InnovationFostering a culture of innovation begins and ends with an open mind about change. In order to promote an innovative workplace, no matter what the sector, there should be a continual exchange of ideas to result in the right balance for your company. Yes, you need creativity at the forefront of it all, but this isn't something that can be forced. However, positioning your firm to achieve a successful approach to innovation takes a few key motivators, from flexibility in the work environment to hiring team members for a vision that aligns with yours. Let's take a look at some of the best ways to foster an innovative workplace. 

Building a Creative Mindset
This all starts from the ground up with the people you decide to bring on board to take this journey with you. The wrong employees can prove to be toxic to your overall vision of creativity, change and flexibility in the work environment. It doesn't mean you have to only hire people who agree with you all the time; it's more than that. You want to encourage different perspectives by hiring people who are passionate about what they do, with the flexibility to spur on productivity without being hampered by rigid thoughts, ideas or scheduling parameters, says Forbes



Here are some tips to achieving that sought-after creativity:

  • Give employees incentives to care and thus share your company vision
  • Involve your employees in the process, listening to their ideas and getting them pumped about a new project, company direction, etc.
  • Brainstorm to help new ideas emerge
  • Broaden perspectives and encourage change through practices like short-term job swaps
  • Encourage trying new things, tweaking them to make them fit, discarding them or embracing them as a result
  • Avoid penalizing those whose ideas don't end up working out
  • Reward and encourage the flow of ideas and new thoughts


Does Technology=Innovation?
There's no denying technology is a big piece of the innovation puzzle. After all, how can you expect to compete in today's global market if you're not on board with the latest technology? Innovation often goes hand in hand with technology, but it doesn't have to. In fact, you can be innovative at little or no cost. Innovation, at its very core, is something more than that. Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, put it best in Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: "In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value." You can have all the strategy, marketing, technology and financial management skills in the world, and although all those things will help get you on the path to success, it may not necessarily keep you there. Bottom line is, you won't get far if innovation, flexibility, and creativity aren't ingrained in the company's soul.

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CIOs - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm!

CIOs -- Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center Paradigm! 

Here we go again — IT is starting off the new year in a hole that we've dug ourselves into. Check out these current headlines:

Why Your Company's Next CEO is Not Your Current CIO, Forbes, February, 2015.
" IT is still perceived as a cost center and the CIO as the Chief Infrastructure Officer."

Better Pharma CMO and CIO Collaboration Will Advance the Digital Revolution, Accenture Study, March, 2015.
"Two-thirds (67%) of the CMO respondents do not view IT as a strategic partner." 

The Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015, Forbes, February, 2015.
"Transform the IT organization and reputation from no to yes, from SLAs to revenue growth, from obstacle to accelerator, from passive to opportunistic...For too long, CIOs and their IT organizations have earned the unflattering reputation of being Doctor No."

CIOs Combat the Old "IT-as-a-Cost-Center" Perception, Wall Street Journal, February 2015.
"The IT-as-a-Cost-Center perception remains widespread, threatening to deny CIOs an opportunity to help drive strategy. New McKinsey & Co. research found only about one-third of executives said their CIOs are very involved in shaping the overall business strategies and goals of the company."

CIO's - Let's Break Through the IT Cost Center ParadigmIt's time to take a serious look in the mirror, come to grips with reality and hold ourselves undeniably accountable — Information Technology is still out of sync with our business leaders and customers. While many CIOs and technologists may defend IT in an attempt to sway perceptions, I recommend that we wisely invest our time, energy and resources in  "changing the business of IT" through clear, deliberate and intentional acts that position our businesses and customers for extraordinary success!

Why is it so difficult for IT to make the leap from technology geeks to influential business advisors, empathetic customer advocates and inspiring change agents?

The short answer is...the IT industry continues to attract a certain type of individual plus perpetuate a certain type of servicing style — people who are great at tactics but who lack strategic chops. Now there is a place for IT tactics, but when the scale tips to a degree where the number of tactical thinkers and doers vastly outweighs the critical strategic thinking and doing required to help our organizations attain new performance heights, we're failing our key stakeholders. 

What do critical thinking strategists bring to the IT table?

Closely aligning and partnering with their C-level counterparts and customers, they are in the forefront of the action:

   Anticipating and quickly responding to market shifts.
   Articulating the possibilities as they identify, sell and act on the simplest to the most complex innovative solutions that will grow the business, advance market share and strengthen customer loyalty.
   Evangelizing for and accelerating movement on ideas and decision-making outcomes as well as seizing opportunistic moments.
   Building out the IT brand by enhancing the customer experience, connecting with customers at an emotional level and proactively shaping communications and key messages that highlight promises kept plus business value delivered.
   Speaking in business not IT language plus crafting compelling, real-life stories that influence and inspire decision makers to take enabling-technology action.
   Digging deep as they genuinely empathize with their customers while learning about their needs, pain points and goals, then seeking out targeted solutions that not only make their customers' lives easier, but spotlight their customers' accomplishments and successes.
   Being curious about and learning business nuances only to discover and act on organizational challenges that would have otherwise gone undetected.
   Tackling complex topics and issues that others avoid, such as customer-centric big data and analytics, social media engagement or more industry-specific subjects.
   Embracing globalization by reinventing security, mobility and virtual workplace strategies.
   Managing by exception versus managing everything in a world that is spinning at a rate that will obliterate us if we can't get our arms around what's most important to keep our businesses thriving and competitive.

What's stopping us from building out our strategic bench strength? 

It would be a considerable relief if there was one very simple root cause that could be easily rectified. Unfortunately, that's not the case. As CIOs, we're confronting some incredibly tough and sticky issues. In a nutshell, IT organizations are:

   Thinking that they're strategic when they're not — a case of being self-unaware.
   Failing to recognize that they need critical thinking strategists as a competitive advantage — a case of being oblivious.
   Magically expecting tacticians to become strategists when they're not wired that way — a case of misguided optimism.
   Continuing to hire like-minded people where tacticians are hiring tacticians — a case of "birds of a feather".
   Squelching the efforts of the few strategists that do exist in IT organizations by continuing to drag them into the tactics — a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. 

It's Our Choice

As CIOs, we must come to the realization that we're contributing to the IT-as-a-cost-center paradigm. We owe it to our organizations and our customers to take a hard stand and say "enough is enough". It's our responsibility to assess our strategic capabilities, or lack thereof, formulate a course correction plan and take decisive action. If we are remiss in our strategic responsibilities by continuing to turn a blind eye to this decade-old pervasive problem, we don't deserve a seat at the executive table...we don't deserve a loyal customer base...and we don't deserve to be fulfilling the role of CIO. Let's step up our game as IT leaders and permanently change the paradigm! 

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