IT Executives Are Facing Unprecedented Times

IT Executives Are Facing Unprecedented Times

IT Executives share a lot in common with the best athletes. They play on a team that is always working hard to gain success after success. They’re motivated by the need to improve and broaden their skills and play more consistently. At the same time, they face pressure from all sides, even during regular times. The added weight of supporting remote working requirements caused by COVID-19 may feel overwhelming. Overnight their focus pivoted from strategic thinking as the CIO to tactical needs thinking as the CCO – Chief Connectivity Officer. The game changed under their feet.

How are effective IT Leaders performing during this time of unprecedented impact as more is expected of them and their teams than ever before?

Highly Competitive – The best IT executives are very competitive, especially with themselves! They take pride in having the best, most-efficiently operating IT department. They take pride in achieving faster development cycle times, in adopting the latest technologies and methodologies first, in enjoying the gratitude of the departments they serve.

Must know their stuff and be very well trained and conditioned – Beyond high proficiency with technologies that are core to their enterprise, IT executives must also be continually conditioning themselves to successfully manage the many diverse talents and personalities that form any IT organization. The tremendously intelligent people involved in most IT teams require a sophisticated leader who can bring out the best in them.

To lead the team, they must be part of the team – Legendary symphony conductor Leonard Bernstein observed that to be a great conductor, one must be able to play each instrument in the orchestra, mostly. Hence, that conductor would understand and appreciate what each musician was experiencing. Just like a sports team, IT teams respect and admire a leader who truly comprehends their expertise, and themselves.

The more coaching they get, the better they perform, and the better the results they produce! – Even the most proficient high performing athletes will readily share praise for what their coach does for them. Similarly, executive coaches are most often engaged to focus on those with high potential to improve from wherever they currently are.

While many CIOs are going it alone, others are finding great value in calling on trusted relationships with their Executive Coach.

What to Look for in Your IT Executive Coach

Credibility – The first thing most leaders seek an IT executive coach is credibility. It’s one thing to have training and certification in professional coaching and advisory, that’s certainly very valuable. But, IT executives also want and need someone who truly understands and appreciates their world and what they experience each day. Someone who has invested years working as an IT executive comes with a level of credibility that is priceless.

Objectivity – IT Executive coaching is not like consulting or therapy. Despite their practical executive experience, you don’t go to them to share your feelings or ask them how to do anything or to validate how you do things. You look to them to be the objective outsider who looks at the challenges you present with no hidden agenda. You are looking for someone who can help you self-evaluate your performance, identify where you may have weaknesses that require correction, and establish areas where improvement will take you from merely good to truly great, best-in-class.

Clarity – Companies often invest in their most promising executives for coaching to accelerate their progress. Individuals also seek coaching when they want to accelerate the growth of their career, and when they have specific challenges, they’re not sure how to address. Their Executive Coach provides clarity in the process of improvement, helping to overcome the obstructions we often put in our way to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths about our actions.

Mutual Respect – A healthy coaching relationship requires mutual respect and trust. If these two elements are not part of the relationship, nobody is going to benefit. An executive must be able to trust they can confide in their coach without fear of judgment.

Motivation – Great coaches take an honest interest in the businesses they help and the executives they coach. If you want to see me get excited, talk to me about past or current successes, and watch me light up with enthusiasm. A good coach is motivated to discover who you are beyond your role as a leader and executive. They take an interest in why your business exists, how the business is run, and what they do to serve their customers. Once your prospective coach gets to know you and your business, that’s the kind of interest and motivation you should expect to see.

Vocation – For the genuinely excellent business or executive coach, coaching is never a job; it is a vocation. My journey into coaching provides me proof of this truth. Grant you, it took me over fifty years to discover my real purpose. And it took a coach to help me find it. When I did, my stars aligned. More importantly, I don’t regret my years as an IT practitioner, leader, and executive. These experiences provided me with the foundation and context to understand the world my clients live in without a great explanation.

What to Expect from a Quality Executive Coaching Experience

Your Executive Coach will begin by developing a clear understanding of your individual “current state,” focusing on where you see yourself positioned right now both from an organizational and personal performance perspective. Next, they’ll work with you to establish a clear definition of your “desired future state” and then structure a series of interactions to help you achieve that improvement.

Certified Executive Coaches will also provide structured experience assessments such as the BATES EXPI Executive Presence Assessment to dive deeper into your self-perceptions and provide more insight. And don’t worry about finding a qualified, certified executive coach near you…most are!!

Your engagement will continue beyond the scheduled interactions to include ad-hoc access to your Executive Advisor for answers to questions and clarifications on specific topics and points.

Anticipate Great Outcomes

Of those who’ve enjoyed Executive Coaching experiences, most appreciate the apparent improvements in communication and leadership skills they’ve achieved, saying it has improved their confidence and broadened their understanding of the executive experience. Ready to grow in their careers, they’ve taken the bold step of preparing a qualified successor and defined desirable growth paths for all their key team members. Most of all, they feel more a part of their company’s leadership team.

In Closing

An athlete does not get off the bench without the core capabilities. The coach helps them to find the inner strength and skills to excel. The same applies to the IT Executive. The life of the IT executive is wrought with challenges and setbacks. I predict the fallout from COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on how IT looks and the impression they leave. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. You may know where you want to go, and perhaps even have a good idea on how to get there, but a professional coach can offer the untarnished insight, feedback, and guidance you need to become a star player.

I am offering to help a limited number of CIO’s on a complimentary basis if you find you need a trusted colleague to bounce ideas around with or if you want to share in order to help solve a problem.


Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

There Will Be A Tomorrow

There Will Be A Tomorrow

Our publishing schedule called for discussing IT’s role in supporting Merger and Acquisitions.  We seriously questioned the applicability of this topic at this time with IT at the forefront of helping organizations keep afloat, and people stay connected.  Never have I been more proud of my IT friends and colleagues than now.  They are doing what they do naturally and have stepped up to the plate to expand remote working capabilities and improve security foundation quickly.
As we thought through this decision, we came to a sobering realization.  There will be a tomorrow that will bring change represented by challenges and opportunities.  One of the opportunities that may be driven by challenges is an upswing in mergers, divestitures, and acquisitions.  With that realization, we decided to move forward with the conversation as planned.
M&A Consideration Overview
Lets’s start with an overview of the standard framework, often referred to as the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Playbook.  M&A literature abounds, but M&A Playbooks all have a similar table of contents.  For IT, the chapters are sure to include:
  • The M&A Playbook:   Have a playbook of the well-defined yet flexible process; if you do not have a playbook, develop one.  A well-designed playbook is analogous to a good cookbook.  It focuses on the basic methods and properties of different ingredients before getting to the actual recipes.
  • M&A Resources:   If M&A is core to your company’s growth strategy, keep IT M&A integration expertise on reserve ready to be called up as soon as confidentiality considerations allow.  Obviously, you will not keep an entire team on the bench between M&A deployments, but you should identify who on your team can be called on to lead the next charge.

  • Due Diligence:  Get invited to join the Due Diligence team early in the process.  This will allow you to more accurately forecast the scope for carrying out the integration and assess the acquired company’s IT landscape.  You can shed light on the state of maturity in each of the acquired company’s IT domains by how readily they can address the standard list of Due Diligence questions about hardware inventories, business applications portfolio, IT business management practices (including budgets, contracts, and expense schedules) and the skills and competencies of their IT human resources.  Information discovered through the Due Diligence process is essential to the Integration Planning process.
  • Integration Planning:  There is often a more or less self-evident logical order to the projects that make up an M&A program due to inherent dependencies.  Assemble and field your team(s), establish secure connectivity, harmonize e-mail (roll out new while maintaining access to old), triage, and plan business application integration.

  • Day 1/Welcome:   This will be the only chance you will get to make a good first impression with many of your new colleagues.  Organizational Change Management (OCM) is especially crucial for Day One activities.  Plan and execute wisely!

  • Integration Execution:   While executing on your Integration plan, you will be balancing on the tight rope between two competing imperatives.  Execute as swiftly as possible while minimizing the inevitable disruption to the business (both the acquirer and the acquired).

  • Monitor Benefits Realization: The IT Business Office often spearheads this agenda.  Identify and quantify cost reductions or cost avoidance enabled through an economy of scales and/or portfolio rationalization.
The M&A Gap
What too many M&A playbooks lack is the details for a robust Organizational Change Management (OCM) Plan.  Your OCM Plan needs to be developed well before the deal closes as change management is critical to the success of your M&A program and you need to be prepared to execute specific OCM tasks as soon as the transaction is announced.  IT should partner with Corporate Communications, Human Resources, and the business stakeholders in the various M&A project teams to coordinate corporate-wide change and corresponding communications and training for the acquired company’s employees and, as appropriate, the acquiring company’s employees. Your OCM Plan should also include customers, suppliers, and other external stakeholders.
M&A Organizational Change Management  
IT needs to ensure its messaging is consistent with corporate goals and policy statements, is timely, and is as transparent as possible.  To do so, you must be clear on the M&A goals (increase market share, new business capabilities). Integration approach (run acquired company as a stand-alone entity, adopt best practices from either acquiring or acquired company, implement acquired company systems and processes or some hybrid of the preceding options) as these should inform your OCM Plan.
Be sensitive to the human element.  Many of us in IT are strong in the myriad of technical aspects of M&A integration.  Unfortunately, given our fixation on objective analysis and drive towards effective and efficient solutions, sometimes we are quick to overlook or dismiss the adverse phycological impact of change.  Expect resistance to change and develop mitigation strategies.  Arrange to have thoughtful mechanisms in place to address the fear factor proactively and honestly.  Enable feedback and two-way dialogue to provide a means for on-going stakeholder engagement.
To know who needs to know what and when, it is helpful to make it your business to learn who is who, who is where and what is where.   Get to know the organizational structure of the acquired company(s). Then use targeted communications as a tool to enable change.
A simple OCM framework for each IT project in an M&A program is as follows:
  1. What’s coming when 
    • What is the impact 
    • What actions, if any, are required 
    • “What’s in it for you” 
  2. Specifics on IT policy changes 
  3. Specifics on business systems changes 
  4. Training program and schedules 
  5. Go Live announcements 
Do not allow OCM to become an afterthought in your M&A Playbook.  Instead, have a master OCM Plan and weave its well-coordinated components through each M&A phase inside and outside of IT.
In Closing
Every chapter of the M&A Playbook warrants careful consideration.  If tomorrow is likely to bring M&A opportunities your way, my colleague, Mary Patry, and I are available to discuss how to improve your M&A  planning and execution.
Today, we send along with sincere wishes that you and yours remain healthy and hopeful.  In support of that wish, Mary Patry is offering to help a limited number of CIO on a complimentary basis if you find you need a trusted colleague to bounce ideas or sharing in helping to solve a problem.
You can learn more about Martha at:

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

The Fork in The Road

The Fork in The Road

Have you ever found yourself sitting at a fork in the road, wondering which path to take? I suspect most people can readily relate to this metaphor. The fork in the road is all about choice. The choice is where you pull together your options, your awareness of the possibilities, and assess risk mitigation tactics against desired outcomes.
Typically, I love being in the position to weigh my options against the possibilities and potential outcomes. I more than love it, I need and want it. I recognized that my need for decision making is a form of control that I’ve taken for granted. It’s been taken away with the COVID-19 pandemic. The level and speed of impact on human lives and society as a whole are unprecedented.
I worry a lot. I worry about the steep climb in the number of people impacted by the virus. I fear for the healthcare workers, the true heroes in this mess. I pray my family and friends will be spared. I watch the volatile stock market and economy with angst. It angers me that anyone believes GDP growth is worth a single life. At the same time, I worry about the clients furloughed and hope my kids won’t be next in losing their incomes. I find it curious that I don’t worry about me.
Instead, I find myself sitting at the fork in the road, wondering what I can do or should I do next. I am fighting for a level of control that is unreasonable to expect. I am questioning which options and outcomes are worth shooting for. Most of the time,  I just want the world to be restored to normal. And then at other times, I am more curious as to what can we do better to create a new normal when COVID-19 is no longer the major threat it is today.
Our normal was pulled out from under our feet. We can’t take anything for granted at this time. We can’t assume we will have access to essential material needs. It is frustrating to prohibit physical proximity to friends and society. We crave our favorite things, such as going to a movie, playing in the park, or stopping at the local ice cream shop for our favorite Rocky Road. We are washing our hands and practicing common sense sanitary habits, not sure how we forgot that one.
At the same time, this horrible disease is enabling us to spend time and connect with our immediate family members while distancing from extended family. I miss hugging my grandkids so very much. Kids are missing school, and I see parents taking up the reins to continue their learning. Never have I seen parents and their kids walking together, shooting hoops in their driveway, drawing with chalk on their sidewalk, or riding their bicycles as a family unit as I have in these past two weeks. I’ve met more of my neighbors than ever before despite our keeping a safe social distance. We are sharing needed staples without embarrassment or hesitancy.   We are picking fruit from our trees and leaving them in bags for strangers to come, pick up, and enjoy.
I’ve read more and reacquainted myself with lost hobbies, delighting in the feel of a paintbrush in my hand. I have signed up for an online drawing class in hopes of renewing long lost skills. My husband and I have spent more time in the past two weeks together cooking, talking, and just basically finding us than we would have in two months. I’ve taken the time to reach out and talk with old friends and colleagues across the globe. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and reveled in the reconnections.
In cities across the world, the streets are empty of vehicles and people; factories are shut down. In China, satellite images have shown a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution. The skies over Bejing are blue, and the water in the Venice canals is clear. In New York, scientists at Columbia University are reporting a significant drop in CO2 emissions as traffic has dropped dramatically. The earth is taking this time to heal itself, proving the role emissions play in climate change. Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?
Do we want to return to a world consumed by greed and distance? Or, do we continue to build on the new communities we have started? Are there lessons to be applied? Will we grow from the experience and develop the missing safety nets? Will we look to adopt low climate impact transportation methods and advocate for increased working from home? What more can we do to make the world safe?   Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?


I find myself questioning, “What outcomes should we expect?,  What outcomes do I hope for?”  As Alice answered, “I don’t know.”
We are all in this together. We know this pandemic has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  When it ends, which way will we turn in the fork in the road? Will we return to our way of living, or will we use this life-altering event to define a better way, a better outcome, and a better world for generations to come?
There is no easy answer to these questions. Please join me in continuing the conversation.
Take care, be safe, stay home, and wash your hands often,

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.