Guest Author: Kathy Tito
The IT Transformation Institute’s John Palinkas and Kathy Tito recently “sat down” with IT leader Will Lassalle to discuss his perspective on where IT currently sits as an industry, and where it is likely headed in the coming year – in addition to some personal questions about how Will successfully manages his career. Thanks to social media, ITTI was introduced to Will as he hunkered down into his new role as Senior Program Manager, IT Infrastructure, at Horizon Blue Cross & Blue Shield in New Jersey. This interview has been edited for length.
To hear the audio version of this interview, click here
IT Transformation Institute: I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression “dress for the job you want”. From your extensive personal branding online, it appears you are writing for the job you want. You have over four thousand followers on twitter and your blog makes no bones about the fact that you are an aspiring CIO. What motivates you to develop such a strong presence in social media?
Will Lassalle: My motivation lies in my aspiration to move up the corporate ladder into a CIO position. Social media gives me an opportunity to express my thoughts on what is going on, good trends, bad trends, and provides me with an audience that I can engage with. At the same time I’m developing relationships that will help me with my career goals, vendor relationships, things of that nature.
I like to write about ways to improve the delivery of IT, which is my passion. I look at end-users “opening up” a new technology solution the way I look at my kids opening up Christmas presents (toys, not clothes) – I’m that passionate about what IT can do for people. The writing also helps me improve my thought process as I lead IT teams.
IT Transformation Institute: Has social media opened up your network and opened up your world to things you would not have been exposed to otherwise?
Will Lassalle: Oh definitely, I started using twitter during a job search years ago (2007), when it was fairly new – and it was highly worthwhile. It helped me land a new job.
IT Transformation Institute: According to your online resume, one of your salient messages is partnering IT with business and developing the strategic value of IT. This is frankly what interested us in this interview. Your principals align with what we call The Quantum Age of IT. What influences in your career have led you to hold this perspective?
Will Lassalle: I’m a big proponent of customer service, and feel the core concept has been lost as a whole in society, and in IT specifically. As a teenager, I read a book called “Customers for Life” by Carl Sewell which still influences me to this day. I believe that IT departments need to engage the business unit, get to know their pain points and offer suggestions and ideas, communicate expectations and follow up. This will all help customers believe in the solutions IT brings to the table and see IT’s value. As IT aligns more with business objectives it will be thought of as much more than just “keeping the lights” on for email, internet, and business processes. I view the business unit, the company at large, and external customer – all as customers. In the end, we want the customers to be happy and deliver services with a smile.
IT Transformation Institute: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face that was in direct opposition to your principals, and how did you deal with it?
Will Lassalle: The biggest challenge I face is dealing with the dissemination of information, and moving ideas and suggestions up the hierarchy. Too often ideas are not generated at the lower level because they feel stifled – like their ideas won’t matter.I consider part of my job to solicit the ideas and bring them up the chain of command.It’s important that everyone feel like they are contributing. Dealing with antiquated hierarchies can be a challenge. While there are good reasons to be organized a certain way, it’s important that ideas get heard.
IT Transformation Institute: You are very up front about your career aspirations, after all, your blog is called “Next Great CIO” Thoughts and opinions of an IT executive on the rise – Can you tell us about some key differentiators that separate those IT professionals who will take themselves and their teams to the strategic level, versus those who will stagnate and see their roles deteriorate?
Will Lassalle: The two drivers that will help IT departments flourish are a commitment to learning and adaptability. One thing that is constant in IT is change. If someone isn’t committed to lifelong learning, they won’t have a long career in IT.You have to constantly be updating your skill sets. I see too many administrators who can’t implement basic migrations because they haven’t taken the time to invest in themselves. IT will pass them by.
Adaptability to change is also key. This is different than learning new skills. You may see functions go from in-house to outsource and back in-house again. You need to be able to role with the changes.
IT Transformation Institute: What are some of your best practices and resources for professional development for you and for IT teams? How do you become a more strategic resource?
Will Lassalle: I’m always picking up new things from books, blogs, certifications, management programs, tradeshows. I also have a mentor who I like to run ideas past and absorb anecdotes and leanings. I encourage team members to follow these resources as well as analyst firms like Gartner that help keep up with the ways CIOs are thinking.
IT Transformation Institute: As an industry, how do you feel IT is positioned in 2013? What do you think we’ll be talking about at the end of the year? Will this be that pivotal year when IT grows or diminishes in strategic influence?
Will Lassalle: IT is at a crossroads for many make or break decisions, for example BYOD, in-source versus outsource, security spending, moving to the cloud, to name a few. While IT can’t get caught in analysis paralysis, informed decisions need to be made. I’m surprised to see some IT executives do not have a 1,3 and 5 year strategic plans.
BYOD is very important right now. There is a great push going on to support this. There are many end-users walking around with too many devices. I have two laptops and two smartphones in my office right now. The MDMs have caught up and I feel IT needs to jump on board and support this.
My prediction for 2013 is that IT will overall grow in strategic influence if IT leaders identify where IT is heading and impose influence. I’ve read that CMOs may come to control more IT resources than the CIO and IT will. IT and its leaders need to understand business drivers in order to move up in strategic value.
Question IT leaders should be asking include the following: What data do we have that can help our fellow departments? What systems are not being utilized fully? What are our organizational pain points and how can IT help overcome them? What breakthroughs in IT can we leverage to give us a competitive business advantage? How can IT become a profit center for the business? If IT can express and deliver on the value it can bring to the business discussions, it will most certainly increase its strategic value to the organization.
IT Transformation Institute: Thank you for your time Will. We’ve enjoyed this discussion and we look forward to sharing it with our followers.
Will Lassalle: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.
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