Posted By Jim Boomer,
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
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Does your firm have a formal
technology committee to chart the I.T. strategy for your firm?
Is it a
balanced group with representation
from all functional areas of the firm?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, then I commend you and
encourage you to continue reading as you’ll probably learn a few things to help
you improve. If not, I would encourage
you to start building out your committee today.
This article will outline some general guidelines to consider when
building out your committee, the importance of a balanced membership and why
you should consider having an outsider sit on your committee.
Firm Projects NOT I.T. Projects
technology committee, if built correctly, can be a valuable asset in building
the firm’s technology strategy. Once
you’ve set the strategy and decided upon the initiatives to focus, it’s time to
execute. A common mistake firms make is
to label most (if not all) of these initiatives as "IT Projects.” The problem there is that these are firm
projects and should be led by firm leaders with IT support. If you simply throw
projects to IT, you’re setting yourself up for failure and throwing away time
and money. This is why many of the most
successful firms make use of a technology committee to help steer the IT
Important Characteristics of the I.T. Committee
technology committee should:
- Be responsible
for plan execution – A plan is
worthless without accountability and the technology committee is the perfect
body to ensure that the technology plan is executed
- Have representative
membership – Make sure you have representatives
from all the service areas of the firm and gain input from every level from
partner to staff. Even if you don’t
include junior professionals on the committee, develop an avenue for their
input to be heard.
- Utilize task
forces – Again, there should never be an IT
project, it should be a firm project and task forces should be set up with
similar representation to the overall committee.
- Realize IT
Department does not equal Technology Committee – If you
just label your IT department as the technology committee then you’re defeating
the purpose. The IT department can make
decisions in a silo without the effort of formalizing a committee
- Understand the IT
leader is not the de-facto Chair – The IT
leader should definitely be a member of the committee but shouldn’t always be
the chair. Unless the right skills are
present in this individual (communication, marketing, project management,
budgeting & cash flow, HR & technology) you should select someone else
to be the chair. Ideally this will be
someone that is organized and skilled in meeting management.
- Include the
Training & Learning Coordinator – The
success of any project hinges on training and change management. Since the T&L coordinator will play a
huge role in both of these, it is important to have their involvement on the
A Balanced Group
start to build out the committee, it’s important to understand the preferred
working style of the potential candidates.
This will allow you to go beyond building a representative team based on
practice area and level within the firm.
You should strive for a balance between researchers and quick-starts to
bring to the table both their unique abilities and equilibrium to counter some
natural tendencies. If you select all
researchers for the committee, there is no doubt you will have all the facts
but it may be difficult to reach a decision and move projects forward. On the other hand, if the committee is
comprised of a bunch of quick-starts there will be plenty of decisions and
action but they might not be based on enough facts. Tools like the Kolbe Index are
great tools for better understanding your team and ensuring that you have the
An Outside Perspective
beneficial strategy is to invite an outsider to sit on the technology committee. The presence of a 3rd party at
committee meetings can provide several benefits.
- Provide a different perspective – An
outsider is not biased by working in the firm every day. They offer different experiences and
knowledge that can be leveraged in the decision making process.
- Less likely to change/cancel meetings – It’s often easier to inconvenience our own team members by
canceling or rescheduling a meeting.
However, when someone from outside the firm is involved the temptation
to do this is minimized.
- More likely to stay on the agenda – Along the same lines as not changing or cancelling meetings,
committee members will be more averse to wasting the time of an outsider. This leads to a meeting that stays on the
agenda and thus, on time.
- Attendance by the right people (MP, CIO, management committee) – The committee’s level of commitment also naturally increases
when a 3rd party is involved.
They are often influenced by the fact that this person made the effort
to attend and will hold themselves accountable to do so as well. Additionally, depending on who the outsider
is, they might be a draw for firm leadership to attend.
- Focus on what is
really important! – The presence of an outsider can help keep the
group focused on what matters most.
point – focus on what is really important – not only relates to pulling in an
outsider, it should also be a guiding principal of your technology
committee! Meetings should be about
progress and not perfection. They should
focus on the accomplishments made since the previous meetings. While we certainly want to ensure that we
learn from mistakes, avoiding the temptation to dive into the "why” and point
blame will keep the group moving forward towards positive results!
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