Transformation Talk is an ongoing series featuring leaders who have led impactful change initiatives at organizations of all shapes and sizes.
We caught up with Chris Hood, a digital strategist and technology entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in online entertainment and marketing for TV, Film, Music and Video Games. He also helps businesses navigate digital transformation while advocating change, educating stakeholders, and creating successful plans with technology teams.
How did you begin your career in digital transformation and technology leadership?
CH: I started in technology as a kid. My first job was managing a software retail outlet at the local mall. Technology leadership was very natural for me, I could formulate a strategy, communicate the vision, and translate the information into business goals. Digital Transformation has always been a part of my DNA, we just never had a name for it. However, mindset and strategy drive transformation, not technology. My philosophy has always been to find the best opportunity to leverage technology, break the existing standards, and help companies grow.
You’ve written about some of the main obstacles of IT departments — which are some of the most common you notice in large enterprises?
CH: The two biggest obstacles in IT departments today are communication and leadership, both which are firmly integrated. In today’s large enterprises and sad corporate cultures, managers feel as if they know as much as the technology experts. A stable message must be communicated throughout the entire organization in order for the business to align with IT. When the direction of the IT department is being managed by individuals with personal agendas, the company will fail.
Given the rise of shadow IT, how can business lines and IT department work better together?
CH: Converge the lines. Shadow IT emerges because the business doesn’t get it. Today enterprises must support a two-speed IT architecture. Organizations must cultivate customer experiences with a new digital architecture that runs alongside legacy systems. Technology surrounds all of us. Consumers expect the same performance, agility and experience with every company they interact with. To reduce shadow IT, the business must be aligned with IT to support the speed of internal systems and external demands.
As an instructor of IT at Southern New Hampshire University, what are some of the largest changes you’ve noticed in IT education? What skills are essential for graduates to get a great job and thrive in a changing IT world?
CH: One of the largest changes we now see in education is the online degree. More and more people are able to take courses on their own schedule by logging online to take a class. This is great for students who are studying technology, because it also supplies them with a framework for how businesses should embrace technology. Despite where and how someone earns their degree, communication, organization, and critical thinking are still the key skills employers are looking for.
What can leaders do daily to get everyone to participate and share in building a great company?
CH: Leaders must continuously focus on the culture of their company. This goes beyond just saying what your company’s culture is, leaders must ensure they are leading by example every day. The culture of the organization should be open, equal, and transparent, allowing individuals to own their roles, grow their skills and help drive success. There are several different ideas around what a winning culture looks like, but the deliberate action of working on a positive culture for success is one of the best things a leader can do.
What do you consider broken in today’s business world?
CH: Oh so many things, but here are the top 3.
1. Equality. We need to support more women entrepreneurs. Currently less than 18% of women founders are funded. Why can’t this be closer to 50%? #FundFemaleFounders
2. Arrogance. This isn’t new, lots of businesses believe if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. A company unwilling to evolve will not stay around long. Remember Blockbuster?
3. Corporate politics. People are unhappy at work and when the environment is toxic, employees become disengaged accounting for about $500 billion in lost profits.
What makes a good change leader?
CH: Vision. Employees want to feel they are a part of something greater than themselves. Leaders who are able to generate an inspiring environment, with an enterprise-wide picture of what is possible, will be able to drive change. Change is obtained through recognizing emerging trends, and going “all in” with a strategy that encompasses the vision and culture of the organization.
What skills will be of utmost importance in the future workplace?
CH: Diversity. Business and technology is converging. I encourage all of my technology students to take a business class, and I encourage all of the executives I meet to take a technology class. Individuals who understand both will be extremely successful.
How can companies nurture leaders, not managers?
CH: One of the biggest issues in corporate America is the lack of quality leaders, and influx of arrogant, power-hungry managers. Today’s managers spend too much time dictating and grading what their employees do instead of allowing the employees to define how they can help bring value to the business. Every individual in an organization should feel they are a part of the company. Like great leaders, managers should be empowered to create value, mentor a culture to bring people together, and help their team realize the company’s vision.