In the most unusual year that just ended, there were a great number of technology articles that shined lights on important activities to foster resilience while also highlighting rising trends to bear in mind. In soliciting feedback from technology and digital executives for the pieces that were most meaningful to them, these ten rose to the top.
MIT Sloan Management Review
As CIOs continue to find and retain top talent and drive growth across their organizations, there has been increased agreement about the need to look far beyond technical know-how. As this piece notes, CIOs could focus on building diverse, collaborative teams and foster a mindset of continuous learning across their teams. The authors note a few key traits IT teams need to thrive in a period of rapid change, including an ability to manage role complexity, integrate knowledge swiftly, and manage often contradictory demands.
As the work-from-home experiment continued into the back half of 2020, leaders began to seek lessons from companies that have been distributed from the start. In this case it was GitLab, a software company with no physical headquarters and employees spread across nearly 70 countries. The conversation continues into 2021 as companies determine how best to organize their teams, drive innovation and foster a strong culture in a hybrid environment.
The New Yorker
This article focuses on WeWork and how that company achieved a valuation deep into the tens of billions of dollars without a path to justify that valuation. The author posits that even poorly run companies can achieve unicorn (billion dollar) valuations if enough venture capitalists pony up early enough. This proves to be antithetical to innovation, as businesses with better, more sustainable business models are shut out of venture money if they do not get in early enough with the right firms. As technology and digital executives deepen their relationships with the venture capital community to get an early read on the evolution of enterprise technology, the lessons of this article are important to bear in mind.
Published in March, around the time that many IT teams in the US were thinking through their pandemic response plans, this piece discusses how leaders could prioritize digital transformation investments in an uncertain environment. Vijay Gurbaxani, who is a professor at the University of California Irvine, provides a framework for executives thinking about how to articulate company values and prioritize technology investments when the road ahead was far from clear.
As US companies entered month seven of operating in the shadow of the pandemic, finance chiefs noted that they planned to safeguard and prioritize staff retention budgets despite an economic downturn. Executives feared that job cuts and salary freezes could lower morale and ultimately lead to a string of departing employees. At a time when many companies were cutting costs, this piece highlighted the continued focus on talent. As one CFO said: “When we get through this Covid time, people will remember how you treated them.”
Harvard Business Review
Translating cybersecurity risk to the board remains a common challenge for technology and security leaders. At the end of the day, however, a risk score can only tell you so much. This piece lays out the cybersecurity knowledge directors need to effectively assess risk. The authors point out that “becoming literate in cyber risk doesn’t mean that all executives need to become technical experts. What it does mean is that they need to be able to establish their company’s tolerance for cyber risk, define the outcomes that are most important in guiding cybersecurity investment, and be able to foster a culture of cybersecurity and resilience.”
Amid the pandemic, the leadership of technology executives was in the spotlight like never before, including at the board level. In this piece, Maryfran Johnson explains why now is the right time for technology leaders to take the plunge and consider seeking out a board seat. Based on our conversations with technology leaders, we expect this to continue in the year ahead.
This article delves into the history of “legacy IT” and explores the difficult tradeoffs that are part of any modernization decisions. As many CIOs will tell you, updating or replacing a mission-critical system often means major disruptions for the business. As the author notes, “on most days, nothing goes catastrophically wrong, and so the legacy system remains in place.” Many companies today are struggling with outdated IT systems, which may lead to bigger risks and greater cost down the road.
Harvard Business Review
The state of change in today’s world, according to the authors of this piece, is now perpetual, pervasive, and exponential. Navigating that change requires a new kind of leadership. Based on conversations with executives at Stanford University, the authors articulate a leadership style to help navigate the uncertainty ahead, one that is “characterized by being wise, sagacious, and discerning in navigating change while also being humane in the face of change that can often feel alien. This kind of leadership emphasizes – counterintuitively – an anti-heroic leader.”
MIT Sloan Management Review
As remote work became a longer-term proposition, many companies began to explore the extent to which technology could be used to track employee activity and productivity in a distributed environment. This piece offers guidance to leaders when deciding the best path forward, including engaging employees in the conversation about any potential monitoring activity, thinking hard about what actually needs to be monitored, and putting appropriate safeguards in place to prevent potential abuse.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His has written two bestselling books, moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.