5 steps to a passionate tech culture from Deloitte’s CIO

Larry Quinlan’s recent keynote speech at Interop in Las Vegas offers some great ideas for turning attitudes towards IT around

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Deloitte CIO Interop

Las Vegas is a town of glittery illusions. But Deloitte’s global CIO, Larry Quinlan, kicked off his recent keynote at the Interop Vegas conference by simply stating a very harsh truth.

“Many IT organizations are hated. People would rather have a root canal sometimes than deal with the IT organization,” said Quinlan.

Quinlan quickly clarified that he’s not saying people hate technology; they love technology when it’s the Latest Shiny Mobile Device. But they loathe IT, as in the massive monolithic corporate entity that resides in The Enterprise. Quinlan believes it’s a huge problem.

“(IT) has really got to be at the table executing strategy. If people don’t want to deal with us, then we never really get to take our true seat at that table,” he said.

How can IT beat its bad rap? Quinlan said each IT organization must embed a passionate culture “that celebrates technology” into its strategy. “In doing this, you get this notion that people will change their attitudes about the technology organization,” he said.

What’s a passionate tech culture? Quinlan sees it as an environment where people respect IT, people believe IT is cool and innovative, and people want to invite IT to the table.

So how can you create that culture in your organization? Take some cues from Quinlan’s description of how Deloitte did it.

1. Don’t insist, inspire: Sending out a mass email to your staff commanding them to get excited about cultivating a technology culture doesn’t work. Create real reasons (as in points 3 and 4 below) for them to get excited.

2. Give people choices: Deloitte embraced BYOD – by buying the exact same mobile device for all its employees. Free device? Awesome. Free device you didn’t get to choose? Bad. “Instead of reveling in the adulation, what I got was hate mail,” Quinlan recalled.

3. Create cool spaces: Deloitte created various spaces in its offices where staff can retreat to come up with innovative ideas and collaborate. “It’s all designed to change the atmosphere, to have people believe technology plays not a boring part in the organization but an exciting part,” said Quinlan.

4. Make it fun: Deloitte transformed internal tech demos from dry meetings into launch party events (including beer). It also replaced boring security training sessions for staff with a funny, satirical video series called Don’t Be That Guy.

5. Design for individuals, not institutions: “In the old days, the CIO’s secret was that we didn’t write (apps) for the end user. We wrote them for the enterprise…we wrote them for leadership,” said Quinlan. “The people who actually had to use the applications were a distraction.” Today, he said, IT must design great experiences for real users if it hopes to inspire people in a more meaningful way.

Quinlan wrapped up by emphasizing that it’s not about IT being cool for the sake of appearances. It comes back to people believing that IT “ought to be invited to the table.”


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