As the tsunami of COVID-19 begins to slowly subside, we should pause and be grateful for all the essential workers who cared for the sick, continued to provide fire and law enforcement, kept critical infrastructure working, staffed grocery stores to keep us fed, delivered our packages while we sheltered at home, and performed many other critical roles. We also need to be grateful for the folks in IT who made it possible (for those of us fortunate enough to be employed during this crisis) to continue to work remotely.
While some organizations were prepared, many had to quickly embrace an overnight digital transformation that may have eluded them before the pandemic. We have found that organizations with strong technology leadership and well-managed technology were able to quickly and effectively keep people working and connected. This is one example of how effective technology leadership can help organizations plan for and execute projects that support critical business goals.
Technology leadership will continue to play an important role as this crisis unfolds, especially as nonprofits and associations address the serious loss of revenue from in-person conventions and other meetings. Virtual event technology has been around awhile, but it’s only been embraced by a few organizations. I’ll use this challenge to illustrate the roles a technology leader should play. The primary goal of effective technology leadership is to be a resource and guide to help organizations use technology to meet business objectives. Helping to develop a solution for virtual conferences for your association is an opportunity for IT leaders to shine at a critical time.
The Roles of an IT Leader Supporting Virtual Events
Successfully navigating this storm requires a steady hand on the tiller. IT should have lots of experience with change and leverage that experience to assure anxious staff that, with careful planning and execution, the end result will be successful.
Facilitator of change
Digital transformation is more about business transformation than about technology. Encourage staff to consider thinking differently. A virtual conference is not the same as an in-person event, so how can you change your organization’s traditional thinking to embrace this new approach and maximize the attendees’ experience? For example, you could have shorter sessions, combine live and pre-recorded sessions, or make the recorded content available as an additional post-conference revenue stream.
For more information about facilitating digital transformation, see Four Organizational Capabilities to Pursue on Your Digital Transformation Journey.
Tap into your professional network to learn about successes and failures of other organizations who may have already held a virtual meeting.
Serve as an honest broker between the line-of-business owners (e.g., meeting managers and vendors). You can volunteer to serve as a “bad cop,” when needed, to ensure the chosen vendor delivers on its commitments.
Ensure that your organization follows a disciplined, albeit accelerated, system selection process and that technical requirements (e.g., SSO and data integration) and user experience requirements are not compromised but are considered along with the business requirements.
After a system is selected, align the IT resources needed for the implementation. This may require shifting resources from other projects already in process. Those projects will be impacted, so be sure to communicate the reason and the anticipated delay to the project stakeholders.
In times of crisis, you don’t need to grab the spotlight to be an effective leader. When the virtual meeting launches and is successful, celebrate with the meetings team but acknowledge that IT only played a supporting role. It’s the technology they selected and their event planning that resulted in the success. Alternatively, if the result is less than successful, seek feedback to determine if there was anything you or your team could have done differently to have improved the outcome. This type of servant leadership can make all the difference in minimizing the impact of a crisis and getting through it together.
Mike was a guest on DelCor's Reboot IT podcast, Episode 12: Talkin' IT Leadership.