Josh Davis
Josh Davis
Oct. 30, 2015

“Dear IT Professional”: 5 Lessons from an IT Executive

In order to make DECRYPTED a true think-tank for technology solutions, we find it invaluable to share this space with thought leaders and executives who can share their expertise with our readers. We would like to extend a warm welcome to our first guest blogger, IT Executive Chad Plemons, and all future guests you will have the pleasure of hearing from on this site!

Information Security Officer and IT Executive Chad Plemons has led some outstanding IT teams at some great companies. People are always interested to know how he’s accomplished so much and what he’s learned along the way. Here are the life lessons Plemons says made the most drastic changes in his life and career.

1. Establish credibility.

To move from the data center to the strategic management retreat, you have to change the paradigm of your peers from the person who keeps email flowing to a strategic thinking executive. Whether that means changing your wardrobe, getting organized, or even implementing that DevOps project to help your team focus, you need to start looking the part and, more importantly, start acting it. And I know outsourcing feels like a dirty word, but maybe it’s not if it helps you hone in on your core competencies.

2. Partner properly.

Partners can make or break you, and they have a direct impact on your credibility. I’ve worked with some excellent partners and give them equal credit as my teams for my success. The right partner brings you speed, flexibility and agility.  Most IT professionals are not sales people, so find someone who will help you sell solutions both up and down, who helps you articulate the value to different audiences in your organization.  You want to transform your IT department? Start with partners.

Don’t forget the difference between a “partner” and a “vendor.”  Anyone can take your purchase orders and buy you lunch; a partner brings a long-term relationship to the table and becomes an extension of your IT department.

3.  Think like a CFO and act like a CMO.

“Technology doesn’t support the business model.  It is the business model,” Michael Dell.

IT used to be viewed as a cost center and necessary evil, but now it’s truly a competitive advantage.  IT is pretty much the nucleus of every business and organization that I come across.   But with its advantages comes a whole new arena of challenges and opportunities.

So, it’s time to start thinking like a CFO and acting like a CMO. The language of the business is accounting and your peers will support you more if you are a competent business professional, not just “the IT person.” As more and more companies use IT as a competitive advantage to leverage themselves into new markets, it’s important to act like a CMO and market your department as the catalyst for agility, efficiency, and revenue that it is!

4. Don’t talk about the “how” or the “what”; talk about the “why.”

I’ve watched this mistake unfold too many times:

You get your chance to present to the management team.  You stand up and dive into great details about a technology solution and how great it is.  You get lost in the “bit bucket” and start talking about speeds and feeds.  Eyes glaze over and everyone starts pulling out their phones.  People don’t care about technology.  They only care about what it can do for them. So, give up your dreams of turning your company into IT aficionados who appreciate technology as much as you do; just tell them how it solves their problems.

5. View everything through the lens of risk management and security.  

Understanding your organization’s risk appetite can help you establish credibility and create trust. Identify risks and manage them properly. 

Nothing is as devastating as a security breach, and it’s becoming more impossible to defend. No one talks about “if” you get breached anymore; they talk about “when.”  For that reason, the best IT policy is an incident response plan.  Start developing a plan—not tomorrow or next week. Do it today.