The Silicon Review
Information technology is now a critical function in any organization. In fact, even companies that do not consider themselves to be “high-tech” are investing in new technologies for digital transformation. To ensure they are tapping the right opportunities, many engage strategic IT consultants to facilitate the development and implementation of an integrated IT strategy.
Founded in 2009, Palo Alto, California-based CIO Professional Services is an IT strategy consulting firm that helps mid-size organizations address a wide range of IT alignment and strategy issues. Over the years Jeff Richards, the firm’s co-founder and Managing Partner, has seen that there are two axioms that explain the problems many of their clients face: In IT the demand for services will always exceed the supply, and If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never arrive.
The reality is, nobody has an IT department because they want an IT department. Organizations invest in IT because they want their business to run more efficiently and effectively. They invest in IT because they know that the right systems, automation, applications, etc. can make a world of difference in their bottom line. They invest in IT to improve their operations and profitability. But then they lose sight of all of this and start acting reactively instead of strategically.
Without clear goals and processes, a strategic plan for how to best allocate their finite IT resources and the expertise to implement that plan, organizations flounder. It is surprisingly common for an organization’s IT investment to fail to live up to its potential between missed opportunities and poor decisions. CIO Professional Services helps organizations address this problem.
In conversation with Jeff Richards, Managing Partner of CIO Professional Services
What is your firm’s approach to IT strategy consulting?
For us, the starting point is always an assessment. We have a short, sharp, well-tested assessment methodology that takes just three to five weeks and ends with the delivery of a portfolio of very specific recommendations. This assessment is all about business needs, because business needs always drive every aspect of our recommendations.
For example, when we did an assessment at a Bay Area resource recovery company, we ran 80 people through 10 facilitated sessions…and only two of those sessions were for people from IT. The bulk of the participants represented the rest of the company: Finance, Supply Chain, Operations, Human Resources, etc.
Why do we start with an assessment? Because we often find that what an organization needs is not what they think they need. It’s similar to when people make an appointment with their physician after making an inaccurate self-diagnosis via “Dr. Google.” At one recent engagement, for example, we were brought in to look at the company’s help desk. Through the assessment process, we quickly determined that the IT organization didn’t have a service-oriented culture. This was the root issue; the struggles with the help desk were just symptoms of this bigger problem.
After we make recommendations, we then help with the implementation. Simply giving someone a strategy is not helpful. It’s the implementation of those recommendations that bring the strategy to life. The implementation is what provides value to an organization—provided, that is, that the implementation is done right.
While many IT strategy consultants consider their work done after presenting their recommendations, we do not. After the assessment is complete, we are available to stay on and manage the implementation phase of the process, providing expert supervision and insight to ensure the project is done well. Although we don’t have developers or engineers on our team, we do have them in our network.
Sometimes our team members act as interim CIOs or heads of Infrastructure or Applications. Other times they are embedded in the teams as project managers and subject matter experts. While the assessment is a three- to five-week process, the implementation is usually a small team of our senior people for a three- to nine-month engagement.
How do you cater to the needs of never-ending digital transformation?
As IT consultants, we live at “the art of the possible.” Clients count on us to be well-tuned to the latest developments in the IT world and how best to employ them.
After helping our clients define their current business processes (this can be a big part of our initial assessment), we then help them redefine and redesign these processes to take better advantage of technology. In this type of project, our role is to assess the needs, define the process, and oversee the implementation of the recommended automation solution.
Take, for example, a current buzzword, robotic process automation (RPA). Before you can automate a process, you need to be crystal clear as to what that process is. What is the process meant to accomplish? What business problems does it address? What are the steps in the current process? Can and should the current process be improved before it is automated? After all, there’s no point in automating an inefficient process!
Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
Yes. To help organizations make the most of their now-remote workforces, we have a Remote Workforce Effectiveness Survey product that’s currently at two beta sites. With this offering, we will be surveying an organization’s executives and workers regarding the new work-from-home realities. What do they like? What do they dislike? What’s working? What is not working? What tools do they need? Are they as enabled as they can be? Would they prefer to go back to the office environment when it’s safe to do so, or do they want to continue working from home indefinitely?
Unlike our standard assessments, this process will only take a few days. The deliverable will be a set of recommendations regarding how the organization can get higher employee satisfaction and greater effectiveness from their remote workforce. The two organizations that are serving as the beta sites jumped at the opportunity! Like many of their peers, they’re struggling with the work-from-home orders. We are excited because we see this new service as a way to have a significant immediate impact on our clients’ operations.
Meet the leader behind the success of CIO Professional Services
Jeff Richards is the Managing Partner of CIO Professional Services. As an inspirational leader with the ability to develop the “big picture” strategy then drive it down to executable tactics for implementation, Jeff leads the firm’s Professional Services team. Clients benefit from Jeff’s 25+ years of experience developing and implementing transformative business strategies. Jeff’s experience spans both industry (including Materials, Operations and IT Management) and consulting. He developed a unique global perspective during his tenure in significant P&L management-level positions in both Asia and Europe.
Simply giving someone a strategy is not helpful. It’s the implementation of those recommendations that brings the strategy to life. CIO Professional Services addresses both sides of this equation to help clients maximize the value of their IT.