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Technology Corner

CIO – There's a farmer in your team look out for him


A husband and wife were driving down a country lane on their way to visit some friends. They came to a muddy patch in the road and the car became bogged. After a few minutes of trying to get the car out by themselves, they saw a young farmer coming down the lane, driving some oxen before him. The farmer stopped when he saw the couple in trouble and offered to pull the car out of the mud for $50. The husband accepted and minutes later the car was free. The farmer turned to the husband and said, You know, you're the tenth car I've helped out of the mud today. The husband looks around at the fields incredulously and asks the farmer, When do you have time to plough your land? At night? No, the young farmer replied seriously, Night is when I put the water in the hole.

In all our IT team we will have similar type of farmer which create issues, road blocks to make themselves visible and important. They constantly are look out where in they can water the hole and then help business users come out of the hole created by him. An enterprise will have events where in especially with technology where in something old stops and something new begin. We cannot implement solutions until we know all the possible questions and answers. Business user wants to get on with their job without wanting to implement this change. As CIO your job is to ensure you find this so called farmer within you team and then ensure rather than watering the hole he is giving a permanent solution by filling up the hole once for all. Once this so called farmer is convinced on giving permanent solution to the problems than business users will accept the changed solution easily.

We had implemented our BI solution in a healthcare company. There was a similar farmer (MIS Manager) whose job was to create MIS reports in spreadsheets and publish regularly to business users. Director IT of the company, the CEO saw the BI solution found it useful hence placed an order and we started the implementation. This so called farmer in this company was disturbed as now he was feeling insecure as BI was going to provide a permanent solution to the company for it reporting needs in fact much more than what he was delivering. The farmer importance and existence was at stake. As nature of the human is he started watering and creating holes with deployment and implementation team. This farmer was afraid of the unknown because of the confusion, anxiety and self doubt. The Director IT was smart enough to spot this farmer with observable behaviors' like communication issues, productivity drop, loss of team play, lower morale and weak commitment and resistance to change.

Director IT then focused on addressing this observable behavior:

Communication Issues: Director IT spent lot of time talking with this farmer (MIS Manager). He created lots of opportunities for him to ask questions and have his say on the BI deployment

Productivity drop: Director IT ensured this farmer (MIS Manager) has the right skills and knowledge with BI training, he worked with him on the role change from MIS Manager to BI consultant, he engaged him in the changed role immediately.

Loss of team play: Director IT ensured that the farmer (MIS Manager turned BI Consultant) is getting acceptable in the organization in new role as BI consultant. He encouraged senior cross-functional meetings with business users and by focusing on the benefit of his role change the company will have in coming future.

Lower morale and weak commitment: Director IT created for the farmer (MIS Manager turned BI Consultant) goals and regularly revisit WHY, WHAT and HOW goals, he ensured lots of quick wins through short-term goal setting, he focus on what is going well, give motivational feedback to him.

Resistance to change: Director IT did the listening part and let farmer (MIS Manager turned BI Consultant) be negative at first then he asked questions that focus on the benefits of the change with being a BI consultant.

Not to mention that this farmer (MIS Manager turned BI Consultant) became the best evangelist on BI to make it successful implementation.

Things you as a CIO should do to ensure no farmers are there in your team creating holes and watering them:

  • Engage your team in a compelling future vision
  • Ensure complete alignment of organizational, functional and individual goals
  • Communicate at all hierarchy of level
  • Empower and provide people will the right skills and knowledge
  • Create Ownership of the task and empower them to take decisions
  • Address the human side systematicall

  • "In the business world data the CEO knows something about everything, a CIO knows everything about something and the BI consultant knows everything about the data."