As the largest market in the world for information technology products and services, today’s technology leaders in America are faced with high levels of competition and even higher expectations. With an expected sector growth of 5% in 2018, finding and developing strategic IT leaders with the right skills and values will be critical to a company’s success.
Rather than playing it safe, IT departments must get ahead of the curve and find new, better ways to do their jobs—starting with hiring the right strategic leaders.
These leaders must have a good technical foundation, an adherence to best practices, a strong ability to collaborate and bring a team together, and a passion for innovation.
In the modern world, these technology leaders will be faced with a tough challenge: how to innovate when bogged down with traditional internal IT department functions like maintaining servers and updating licenses. In order to keep pace, IT leaders in all companies must understand the current challenges facing IT across the nation, including:
- High expectations matched with cost cutting
- Updating and upgrading systems while maintaining productivity
- Cybersecurity and privacy-related threats
- Turning data into a competitive advantage
- Strict leadership regulations that slow the innovation process
What defines an IT Leader?
According to CompTIA, the voice of the world’s IT industry, there are two components that make up the tech workforce: core tech industry employment and core tech occupation employment. The first includes technology companies themselves, whereas the latter encompasses all tech workers with careers in other sectors such as healthcare, finance, or media.
Traditionally, most companies would outsource their most robust IT duties and assignments, which meant a majority of IT innovation existed only within tech companies themselves. The expanding capabilities of internal IT departments has changed that; many large-scale companies have now brought technical talent in-house in order to promote company growth based on objectives and goals. This shift has created a new challenge for IT leaders: How can internal IT departments harness innovation and growth but still make sure the day-to-day activities are accomplished?
Organizational vs. Technical leaders
By refocusing IT leadership positions around these two concepts, a company can utilize its employees’ strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. Large-scale companies should emphasize two types of leaders within their IT departments—organizational and technical, or industry and occupation—in order to meet expectations and innovation goals. Unlike organizational leaders, technical leaders are in charge of driving innovation rather than managing a team. This gives its IT team the manager it needs while supporting and highlighting technical leaders who excel in their fields.
Spring Venture Group, the fastest-growing company in Kansas City and a technology leader in the area, reorganized its IT department earlier this year to mimic this structure. SVG Director of Application Development Mike Young has seen success in this structure already. His team has become more efficient, more collaborative, and ultimately, more successful.
“At Spring Venture Group, we believe that the more we can spread leadership responsibilities, the more effective we can be at getting multiple voices heard and affecting change,” Young said. “We found that we needed to involve the people that are most closely aligned with the day-to-day work at the leadership level because they are the individuals on the frontline implementing the change.”
The organizational leaders are tasked with taking technical problems and goals and transcribing them for distribution to external leaders. Technical leaders, which include skilled, experienced workers who act as mentors and leaders to their peers, are expected to lead the team to new, innovative solutions to tech problems. This restructuring has allowed SVG to continue exploring different tech opportunities and maintain its title as a leader in the field of technology.
By harnessing the opportunity of restructuring, companies will be able to put more focus on innovation while still maintaining traditional IT duties. This will free up time from strategic IT leaders, allowing them to focus more wholly on areas for improvement and expansion. It will also bring all leaders together under the same goal: growth.
“To be a world-class IT organization, a company must be constantly improving and moving forward. The only way to do that is if not only the leaders, but also the technologists in the group, are pushing forward as well. It’s a group effort.” —Jerry Hagedorn | EVP Information Technology
Once restructured, the next challenge is finding the right IT leader for the job—especially in today’s competitive market. There are five qualities that make any good technology leader successful and impactful in their company.
5 Qualities That Make A Good Leader
A good leader must be creative.
Being creative is the first step in standing out amongst the vast number of technology companies across the nation. Many teams are stacked with excellent skills and tech talent—it’s what leaders do with their team that makes them stand out. A good leader with a high level of creativity can inspire their team to greater heights and drive business-critical initiatives that are ahead of the curve.
At Spring Venture Group, we highly value finding creative ways to solve our problems, and our IT leaders are constantly looking for new and better ways to complete daily tasks. Gone are the days of just checking off boxes; our IT department creates proprietary solutions and applications and implements new strategies designed specifically for SVG’s businesses.
Our motto is if it doesn’t exist, build it—and built it right.
“The fun part of working in IT is being faced with a problem and having to figure out the best way to solve it while meeting business goals. This gives leaders the ability to truly influence the organization in a way that makes a dramatic impact.” —Gregg Freeman | Principle Architect
A good leader must continually grow.
For some, the transition into management comes from a desire to move away from day-to-day encounters with technology. But a good IT leader must embrace technology and use it to their advantage. A good leader doesn’t have to be the smartest in the room—especially when that room is filled with skilled technologists—but they should dedicate ample time to keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies.
Leaders can focus on growth through attending networking events, conferences or trade shows, and by reading a variety of online resources and blogs, including TechRepublic, InformationWeek IT Network, and Forrester.
“A good leader has to stay passionate about technology. A struggle in this job is finding the balance between providing leadership while staying in touch with technology. To be a good leader, one must get to know their people, business, and craft. And because technology is always changing, this means leaders must really dig in and learn as much as possible to stay ahead of the curve.” —Jerry Hagedorn | EVP Information Technology
A good leader must push for innovation.
In order to promote advancement and development in the company, a good leader must make innovation a priority. Creation doesn’t always start from the top down, so meeting regularly with staff to promote new ideas is a necessity.
At SVG, our team actively engages employees to rethink current systems with reoccurring Tech Days dedicated solely to creative thinking and expression. We have found success in giving our developers a chance to try something new and think outside the box, with leaders supporting them along the way.
“Our Tech Days are a chance for leaders and team members to work on whatever they want, whether that’s a language they’ve been interested in or a framework they want to try. It helps everyone become more well-rounded and it helps us as an organization identify new technologies that we should be looking at. Without a day like this, it’s impossible to stay current and stay effective.” —Mike Young | Director of Application Development
A good leader must think strategically.
In the fast-paced world of technology, leaders face a lot of pressure to think more strategically about how to leverage opportunities to find long-term success. Rather than just reacting to mishaps, a good leader must have a vision for what success looks like to both themselves and their company. This means understanding key business objectives, having a strong, open channel of communication between other departments, and setting clear, defined goals that are challenging but manageable.
“We’re not big on revolutionary changes at SVG—revolutions come with a lot of risks. What we want is to get better every day. By thinking strategically, a leader can implement smart, impactful changes that, in the long run, make a big difference. A good leader has to be able to understand the problem, know how to react to it, and delegate to the right people with one goal in mind: success.” —Jerry Hagedorn | EVP Information Technology
A good leader must focus on development.
Technology departments spend only 25 hours, on average, in structured development each year—that number should be much higher if teams wish to succeed. Because IT employees tend to be younger, with more than half falling between the ages of 25 and 44, IT leaders must spend ample time mentoring their staff if they want to be prepared for success. Leaders should focus on implementing strong developmental programs for both themselves and their team.
A good IT leader should also be a mentor to their team—helping them learn new skills and hone old—and act as a constant resource during the growth process.
“As a leader, you have to let your team make mistakes without making the ‘big’ mistakes. Being the best at what you do is a growth process, and we encourage them to try and fail with the understanding that they won’t make that same mistake again.” —Gregg Freeman | Principle Architect
About Spring Venture Group
At SVG, we are leaders in the field of technology. As the fastest-growing company in KC, we stand out amongst our peers in the city, but more importantly, we stand out in the region.
Our technology department is constantly looking for new ways to innovate, achieve, and grow, which has been integral to our success as an organization. We stay at the top by focusing on creating strong leadership positions and filling them with the best of the best.
Interested in working with us? Check out our open positions.