The Need for Speed: Getting to Market Faster Starts with Investing in Your Employees

BrandPost By Sohail Sikora, Vice President & Delivery Lead, Salesforce Professional Services
May 11, 2021
IT Leadership

Increasing speed to value starts with giving teams the resources they need.

Credit: Salesforce

The ongoing pandemic has accelerated digital transformation faster than anyone could have predicted. Projects scheduled to take place over the next five years were squeezed into five months as business leaders adapted to the evolving business landscape. Moving forward, companies who can’t adapt quickly will fail, but those who invest in skilling up their organizations to move faster will survive and thrive.

Changing customer needs have prompted companies across every industry to rethink their workflows and fast-track innovation to continue driving growth, even as economies become stagnant. Research has found that 69% of boards of directors accelerated digital business in response to COVID-19. For instance, at Target, the technology team created the first version of a new mobile app designed to help employees manage customer flow in their stores in just a few days – not weeks or months.

CIOs are faced with the difficult challenge of ushering in innovation on tight timelines. It can be easy to focus on the technology aspect of digital transformation, but if that’s the bulk of a leader’s focus, they’re missing the point. The team behind the tech is just as, if not more, important. Increasing speed to value starts with leaders investing in their teams, and providing them the resources they need to quickly skill up, adapt, and drive innovation.

With that in mind, here are four steps CIOs can take now to prepare their teams for ongoing digital transformation.

1. Make education a top priority, not ‘nice to have’

Transformation requires a diverse set of knowledge and skills to execute successfully. CIOs must invest in educating their teams now to ensure they have the tools to perform later.

One of the best ways to do this is by prioritizing learning during downtime. While transformative projects can happen at a break-neck pace, there are often quieter moments in between projects that give your team time to focus on education.

Use this time to retool your team for the post-pandemic world. As the business landscape continues to evolve, your employees will need new skills and resources to keep up with changing consumer needs. Investing in this education now means your team will be ready to tackle any new issues quickly and efficiently.

I’ve found that small teams of highly-skilled workers are more successful than large teams with lots of people in the room. More people means more channels of communication and more room for things to fall through the cracks. Giving your team the skills to succeed eliminates the need for more workers, reducing the chance of miscommunication that can hold up projects.

Part of education is also giving your teams time to figure out how to work together. Just like a football team practices for days before a big game, your teams need time to figure out how their skills fit into the overall workflow of the team.

For example, take a wealth management company I recently worked with. Before launching a new transformation project, the company’s leaders trained all of their product managers on every step of the product journey, and all developers received training on the new service platform. The team was then able to work together to quickly launch the new service and deliver a better customer experience.

Taking the time and investing the resources to educate and retool your employees upfront gives them a valuable head start in the ongoing digital transformation — an advantage that will lead to better results both short- and long-term. To stay agile, it’s essential.

2. Set goals, not deadlines

One of the biggest mistakes I see CIOs make is setting hard deadlines for their teams. Working toward a hard deadline often leads to launches without a complete product, which then leads to poor results. Instead, CIOs should focus on setting overarching goals for their teams. Agility and flexibility go hand in hand, and a dogmatic approach to deadlines counteract those values.

I like to encourage all CIOs to adopt a startup mindset when approaching a new project. Simply put, this means you have to reach goal A before you can start toward goal B. With this mentality, you aren’t starting with a date and working backward. Instead, you are working toward benchmarks, ensuring you launch when the product is ready.

It’s important that your goals are clear and measurable, not nebulous. For example, if you are updating a service software, your goal might be, “We want to implement 25 features by October 2021.”

After you’ve identified the goals, allow your team to review them and plan appropriately. What resources will they need to meet the goals? Will they need extra team members? Is there new technology needed? By involving your team in the goal-setting process, you can identify problems sooner and address them quickly to eliminate obstacles down the line.

High-level goals empower employees to find solutions, instead of taking shortcuts to meet tight deadlines. On a recent project with a leading telecom company, I urged the company’s leaders to start with macro-level goals and then allow their team to figure out the journey to get to those goals. In doing so, the team was able to truly put the customer first and think through what needed to be done to deliver a better experience.

By setting goals and not deadlines, your team can be agile and adjust throughout the project to deliver the best results possible, building customer relationships and driving business results.

3. Trust your second-line leaders

This point might be the simplest, but it is just as important as the previous two to support fast digital transformation. As a CIO, it’s your responsibility to make sure second-line leaders have the skills and tools needed to successfully manage their teams, as well as attainable goals to guide their work.

Then, it’s crucial that CIOs step back, and trust their team leads to run with a project. In my experience, creative problem-solving and innovation come much more readily when an organization’s CIO focuses on periodic check-ins and resolving blockers, rather than over-involving themself in the details. Trust and space are critical to success, especially when it’s a high-profile project with a fast turnaround.

4. Build on a strong foundation

With your team prepared to handle the demands of transformation, and with the intentional steps taken to create agility and speed, CIOs can integrate technologies that work in tandem with their teams to help them deliver, faster. Cloud-based systems like Salesforce can connect data and provide valuable support for automating systems and drawing insights. Know when to reach out for expert help from a Salesforce Partner or engage advisors from Salesforce Professional Services to support your technology team as you build and deliver your digital transformation.

While the introduction of technology may cause tension as some parts of jobs are automated, CIOs can stay ahead of any potential issues by investing in the team’s education and professional growth. Take the time to train and educate your employees on how to use the technology to reach their goals. This takes some of the more mundane tasks off of their plates, giving them more time to wield their knowledge for innovation.

Ultimately, transformation starts with a strong team that has the education and skill to execute projects quickly and efficiently. CIOs can then guide their teams with strong goals while using flexible, cloud-based technology to support their efforts. In doing so, they’ll speed up the delivery of new products and features to meet customer needs in the ever-changing world.

About the Author: 


 Sohail Sikora:I “”. Imagine – is the architect in me, stretching the boundaries of my customer’s and my team’s imagination on what is possible. Build – is the technologist in me, building and helping build things to prove what can be imagined, can become real. Deliver – ensure that what can be built, is built effectively to help solve business problems in the real world. I have 25 years of experience in the areas of Software Design, Development, Architecture and Delivery. In my current role, I have the pleasure of working with our North America Technical Consulting team in addition to leading delivery on large transformative Services projects.