The New IT | Book Review

Jill Dyché's subtitled How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age, is a tectonic wake up call for an industry, as well as a blueprint for a generation of aspiring leaders. Geoffrey Moore accurately introduces Dyché's call for a new social contract between IT and the lines of business (p. x). This book is ideal for IT project managers who are witnessing the erosion of IT responsibilities and who are finding themselves immersed in political battles (p. xviii).

Dyché uses rock lyrics and an inviting intuitive, visual communication style offering three parts:

Part One              addresses IT issues (chapters 1-3)
Part Two              majority of the book focus on transformation (chapters 4-8)
Part Three           focuses on leadership (chapters 9-11)

This review focuses on Part I, IT Challenges, Real and Perceived; and Part III, Leadership in the New IT; allowing leadership opportunity focus. Part II is highly recommended as a practical and visual template for how to actually transform one's organization, with numerous case study templates.


Dyché repeatedly observes that business leaders didn't really care about the technology standards or underlying architectures -- they were laser focused on the rules of engagement between the business and IT (p. xv) -- leading to Shadow IT (p. xvi), or when businesspeople, frustrated with jargon-heavy excuse making, take on IT responsibilities outside IT's purview (p. xvi). Leadership By Walking Around could be an easy corrective step.

Technically inclined staff are more comfortable playing in the technology (competency) sandbox than solving business problems (p. 9), which may fundamentally ignore leadership character development:

Leadership Competencies

Vision and Strategy
Job Competence
Industry Knowledge
Leading Change


Leadership Characteristics

Leadership Image
Developing a Following
Personal Ethics


Not all of the problems are due to nerdy IT introverts. A lack of vision for the future - indeed, the inability to see IT's potential to enrich the organization -- is the fault of the company's top leaders (p. 13). Solution: How about a Personal Leadership Philosophy to start.

Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big, explains more and more small companies are cropping up and staying small, and attracting the attention of your customers, and they could become your competitors (p. 15). In order to successfully rebrand their organizations and redefine their own roles, IT leaders should consider three new decision levers that will drive change: operation, connection, and innovation (p. 17).

Rahoul Ghose, CIO of Lifetouch, stresses the need for CIOs to transcend operational focus and offer business solutions (p. 18). David Delafield, [former] CFO of Swedish Medical Group (p. 19), asks: "How do you take a big company and its people and try to drive a certain amount of alignment with technology, with limited capital and resources?" Ron Guerrier, [formerly of] Toyota Financial Services, appointed division information officers (DIOs) as extensions of business units, with dotted line responsibility to vice presidents of the respective business units (p. 21), very similar to Stanley McChrystal's liaison officers in Team of Teams.

Each of five common justifications (page 26) for inertia:

"They don't give me the authority I need to do what needs to get done."
"In order to build new things, I need to destroy old things."
"When they hired me, they didn't know what they were recruiting for."
"The CEO told me I'd have influence beyond just technology."
"There's no mission here."

May be solved with a shared leadership philosophy, particularly setting and aligning expectations with one's superior and the overall organization.

A six IT Archetypes spectrum is introduced: Tactical, Order Taking, Aligning, Data Provisioning, Brokering, and IT Everywhere (pp. 28-40). Dyché describes tactical as keeping the lights and IT Everywhere as shifting control of technology to those who use it. Later, she stresses the importance of asking "What's our primary model?" Similar to the Energize2Lead Profile (E2L), consider how your organization behaves when it's under stress (p. 44).

Leadership Opportunities

Don't mistake fads for leadership. Free sushi, Ultimate Frisbee, and nap pods won't keep tech-savvy millennials, whose average tenure at companies is a meager three years, from seeking greater pastures (p. 193). Dyché reflects on her experience (p. 196): "the companies that have consistently achieved strategic objectives are those with the highest staff retention rates, and for good reason: the connection between talent and performance is only as good as corporate priorities are clear."

Dyché defines holocracy as work that is purpose driven and delivery focused, with minimized chain-of-command and hierarchical structures (p. 210), or think of Conscious Capitalism & Mackey (p. 211) explaining, "good deeds also advance the company's core purpose and create value for the whole system."

After observing Peter Schuck, author of Why Government Fails So Often, Dyché realized the dysfunctions of any kind of institution can actually be traced back to the failures of its leaders (p. 218).

Think of or our E2L, Leadership Philosophy, and Feedback workshops as forums for addressing these disconnects, or more generally (p. 228):

... the missionary work of educating different lines of business about the value of rationalized enterprise but also collaborating with executive leadership and peers around a common vision for success.


Larry Bonfante, CIO at the USTA, and author of Lessons in IT Transformation, cites three capabilities of IT Leaders: They deliver IT services and projects, they understand how technology can drive business value, they master competence of human dynamics (p. 238).

Note: Jill Dyché generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | July 2016