Party Like It’s 2016 and Amplify Your Value!

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Party like it’s 2016!! OK, sitting here on April 1st, 2015 that doesn't sound very prophetic, perhaps a tad premature, but certainly not prophetic. But, think about celebrating New Year’s Eve 2015, ringing in the new year 2016 and it’s July...and the year is 2010...still not prophetic? Perhaps just a tad crazy?

One hot, steamy July Sunday afternoon in 2010, my wife Carmen and I went shopping. Have you ever tried to buy New Year’s Eve decorations and party favors in July? Not an easy task! Thank god for Party Tree! We loaded up the car and headed downtown to my office and began to decorate the IT Conference Room (dubbed by someone before my time the “Creativity Lab”). We had streamers, confetti, poppers, noise makers, and of course, a large sign: “Happy New Year 2016!” (OK, we had to make it from individual letters, no one, not even Party Tree sells "Happy New Year 2016" in 2010.) Once the room was complete, we locked the door and posted a sign: “Do Not Enter Until December 31, 2015”, and left.

The next morning I arrived early, my arms loaded with party snacks and bubbly (uh, Jim, it was non-alcoholic, honest!), I finished setting up the room. A bit after 8 the team started to arrive. I sat in my office chuckling as I heard the buzz of curiosity make its way around the floor. Finally, 9 o’clock! Time for the staff meeting! One by one, two by two, as people came in the conference room, I gave them party hats, party favors and exclaimed, “Happy New Year 2016”. Keep in mind, I had only been in charge of the department for a couple months. I am SURE they thought (and you are thinking), “This dude is CRAZY!”

Why pull off this charade? What was the point of all this wackiness? You may recall, we had just finished a very in depth IT Assessment. This assessment hadFireworks.jpg identified a couple of dozen “internal” projects the IT department needed to undertake. I was fairly certain my boss, Jim, and the board of directors were not going to say, “Yeah, we know we hired you to help develop our technology strategy and leverage it to take us to the next level, but go ahead and do these internal projects, we’ll wait on that strategy thing for a couple years.” What we needed was a plan. A plan that incorporated those very necessary internal projects, along with business projects, along with strategic initiatives, while at the same time keeping up with the incredible pace of change in the technology space.

To go where we were going would not be found on any map. We had to develop our own. My crystal ball was on the fritz, so drawing on a technique used by most professional athletes, we used visualization. I wanted our team to think about, conceptualize, visualize what did life look like in 2016? What did business look like in 2016? What did technology look like in 2016? More specifically...what did our company look like in 2016? What did our department look like in 2016? The party was just a way to set the mood.

We spent the next hour or so brainstorming what things would look like five years from now. We could have taken a page from the “Back to the Future” trilogy and described hover boards and power shoelaces...and of all things, the Cubs winning the World Series, but we wanted something closer to reality. We filled a couple whiteboards with ideas. Over the course of the next 90 - 120 days we would vet those ideas and develop our map for the next five years. (I am a Lewis and Clark GEEK, a few years ago I bought a t-shirt advertising a beer with my favorite slogan of all time on it; a philosophy that describes my approach to business technology: “For those who make maps...not follow them!).

To help draw the map, we took a three-pronged approach:

  • We launched a lunch and learn series aimed at level-setting the team and cross training ourselves on a wide variety of topics
  • We created a working group to develop Processes and Policies needed to become a Process Oriented team with repeatable process versus our current ad-hoc state
  • We formed inter-departmental teams to not only brainstorm ideas, but also to build relationships throughout the organization.

We also identified two key focus topics that would be explored throughout the strategic planning process.

The first focus topic was on Great Service., uh, I mean copying and adapting...Great Service Training from my previous employer (thanks Ron, Lori and Rick!) we launched a Great Service Initiative and Contest to promote exemplary service throughout our department. This training was especially vital to our Desktop Support Team. (If you are interested in more detail on this training tweet “Tell me about the pickle” to @jtongici)

That same previous employer was in commercial real estate development. I learned many things from my tenure with them. One of the things I learned was before you begin to build a building, before you have engineering drawings, before you develop site plans, you have to engage an architect to help you turn your vision into reality. Next month: “Architecture, to Amplify Your Value you have to look beyond technology!”

The series, “Amplify Your Value” explores our five year plan to move from an ad-hoc reactionary IT department to a Value-add revenue generating partner. #AmplifyYourValue

We could not have made this journey without the support of several partners, including, but not limited to: Bluelock, Level 3 (TWTelecom), Lifeline Data Centers, and CDW. (mentions of partner companies should be considered my personal endorsement based on our experience and on our projects and should NOT be considered an endorsement by my company or its affiliates).

Fireworks Image Courtesy of: S Ji and Stock.Xchng.

Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.

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Jeff Ton

About Jeff Ton

Throughout his career in business, Jeffrey Ton has developed and fine tuned his leadership skills to become a business focused leader who drives results. Extending the role of the CIO to encompass a strategic view of the business, he identifies innovative approaches to achieve the business objectives by leveraging technology where and when appropriate. Adept at building and leading teams, both in-line and cross-organizational, he has been a catalyst for change across the businesses he has served. Ton has industry expertise in information technology, non-profits, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting. Expertise: • Strategic Planning – Business & Technology • Organization & Management Reengineering • Merger & Acquisition Integration • Divestiture Decoupling • Business & IT Alignment • Enterprise Architecture Strategy • C-level Relationships • International Staff Management & Acquisition • Global Enterprise Implementations • Fiscal Management • Governance & Risk Management • Business Process Optimization • Vendor Relationship Management • Outsourcing(Offshore/Near-shore) & In-sourcing • Technology Portfolio Management • Regulatory and Compliance Management • P&L Management Specialties: Architecture, infrastructure, applications, application development, telecom, e-Business strategy, web development, knowledge management, integration, EDI, SAP, business intelligence, outsourcing, insourcing, contract negotiation, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting, keynote speaker on leadership, green and other topics, LEED AP BD+C. Read his blog on, Intel's IT Peer Network and LinkedIn.