In my last column, I talked about the effect politics has on technology
decision making, and I got a lot of responses. Seems everyone relates to
politics and the impact it has on corporate behavior.
This time I’d like to expand the context discussion to include the rest
of the variables that influence the technology acquisition, deployment
and support processes… and, for that matter, all corporate behavior.
Politics is one part of the overall context that decisions are made in.
The others include the culture of the company, the quality and character
of the leadership, the financial condition of the company, and the
overall financial state of the industry, the national and global
The three most obvious pieces of the puzzle include the pursuit of
collaborative business models, technology integration and
interoperability, and, of course the management best practices around
business technology acquisition, deployment and support. Other pieces,
which round out the context that decisions are made in, include politics,
leadership, the economy and culture.
Let’s run through the variables.
As suggested last time, it’s important to assess the political quotient
of your company. Some companies are almost completely political. A few
people make decisions based only on what they think, who they like (and
dislike), and on what’s good for them personally (which may or may not be
good for the company).
Other companies are obsessive-compulsive about data, evidence and
analysis. In the middle, are most of the companies out there, with some
balance between analysis and politics.
Corporate culture is another key decision-making driver.
Is your culture adventurous? Conservative? Does your company take
calculated risks? Crazy risks? Are you early — or late — technology
adopters? Does your culture reward or punish risk takers? When they tell
you to ”think outside the box”, is that code for ”I dare you to
challenge the status quo”? It’s important to assess your corporate
culture accurately. Technology investments must sync with the culture (as
well as the rest of the variables that comprise the total decision-making
What about corporate leadership? Is it smart? Is it old to the point of
nearing retirement? Is everyone already rich? Is everyone still
struggling to get back to where they were in 1999? Is it embattled? Is
the senior management team mature or adolescent? Is it committed to
everyone’s success or just its own? Is it compassionate or unforgiving?
The key here is the overall leadership ability of the senior management
team. There are some really smart, skilled and honorable management teams
out there and there are some really awful ones, as well. Trying to sell a
long-term technology-based solution to a self-centered team with only
their personal wealth in mind simply won’t work. Trying to sell the same
solution to a team that embraces long-term approaches to the creation of
broad shareholder value usually works very well.
How well is the company really doing? Is it making money? More money than
last year? Is it tightening its belt? Has the CIO received yet another
memorandum about reducing technology costs? Is the company growing
financially? Is there optimism or pessimism about the future?
Is your industry sector doing well? Are you the only defense contractor
losing money? Or is everyone in the same boat? Is the general economy
looking good or are there regional, national or global red flags? What’s
the confidence level for the sector and the economy? Where’s the smart
It’s essential to position your company within the larger economic forces
that define national and global bear and bull markets.
Be sure to touch all of these bases as you prepare to launch a new
technology effort. While the business case may be strong, there are other
factors that can dramatically influence the outcome of the process. Pay
very close attention to politics, culture, leadership, the company’s
financials and the overall national and global economies.
If the lights are all red, maybe it’s a bad time to propose any changes
or any large technology investments. But if there are some red, but
mostly yellow and green lights, then perhaps it’s time to work the
context to your advantage.
One thing is for sure: Ignoring any of the pieces will jeopardize your
chances of success.