An Engaged Think Tank

The following is re-posted from NACS Online.
The objective was simple: Bring together a few IT leaders from the convenience retailing industry and let attendees at the Conexxus Annual Conference in May hear what was on their minds. The aptly named “Think Tank” came together, and quite surprisingly, the three panel members brought forth people- and process-focused thoughts—rather than technology topics—as issues most important to them.
As we reflected on this, we acknowledged how IT organizations in progressive companies across industries have transformed, and thankfully, our industry was keeping pace on this front. Today, the role of IT leaders is now more focused on business matters and how technology will play a role in delivering marketing, operational and other business unit programs that will drive revenues and results to the bottom line.

The Engagement Gap

Ric Spargo, vice president of information systems & technology at Couche-Tard/Circle K, talked about the gap between what IT people want and what they actually receive. He wants to close that gap by increasing engagement. For Spargo and his team, they are working on getting the basics right—setting goals, being approachable and employing positive leadership. This approach will not only benefit staff, Spargo said, but also benefit companies with greater productivity, higher earnings per share (EPS), lower turnover and absenteeism, higher customer ratings, and more.

Business Alignment

Doug New, CIO at Tedeschi Food Shops (now part of 7-Eleven), discussed the interaction with internal business partners. To help his IT department and his company achieve business alignment, the following were important:

  • Learn and know the processes and requirements of your internal business partners.
  • Consistently and actively work with your peers within IT and in other departments.
  • Understand the pain points of your business partners.
  • Bring proactive ideas and solutions to those pain points to the table.
  • Be engaged—above all.

New pointed out that along the way, his IT group evolved from an “order taker” to a trusted business partner, and the company was better off as a result.

Governance

Engagement and governance are processes that Hubert Williams, vice president of technology and development at Maverik, has discovered to be key in building stronger and healthier IT and business relationships. He outlined for attendees his thoughts on formalizing a process to allow business partners to help govern discretionary projects. He assigned liaisons from his technology group (called the CONNECT Team) to each of the company’s business units as a “go to” person to discuss problems and ideas. Along with empowering his people this way, Williams guides his team with questions rather than directives.
Williams summed up the overall session well: “As a technology leader, it is not about you: Empower your people. Be humble in light of their talents and marvel at their accomplishments, for your success is nothing more than a reflection of your team’s successes.”
Ed Collupy is an executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group. He is active with Conexxus working groups and is a former Conexxus board of directors member. Engage with Ed at ecollupy@wcapra.com.