The day was blistering hot! The air did not move. It was stifling hot. The crowd gathering in this Kansas field struggled to find shade, several people stood in the shadows of the tall grasses surrounding the field. Sweat poured off of me, even though I was standing still. I didn’t even want to fan myself because that would be too much exertion.
It was July 4th, 2004. We were standing in this field, nearing heat stroke, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition passing through this area. (Yes, in addition to loving IT, I love history! I am SUCH a nerd!) Ok, I can hear you, “What does THIS have to do with amplifying your value, much less IT? I am pretty sure they didn’t have computers in 1804!” Bear with me for a few more paragraphs, dear IT explorer…
After standing through several speeches and re-enactments, we piled back into busses for the ride back to Atchison. Hey, at least on the bus, we could put the windows down and get a breeze…but we WERE packed in like sardines.
We poured our of the bus and headed straight to a local bar and grill for lunch, and a COLD ONE…or two…or three. And then, the lesson…there it was…posters everywhere…we had to try one…Boulevard Brewing Co., a sponsor of the Lewis & Clark Event…the slogan…”To those who make maps, not follow them”. Think about that….”To Those Who Make Maps, Not Follow Them”. That is the definition of explorer 200+ years ago, they would literally “step off the map”, going where no white man had ever gone before.
If you’ve been following our journey to Amplify Your Value, we have looked inward to see where we were; we looked forward to envision the future; we studied our business and identified the impacts it had on our organization; and, we decided we wanted to do value-add projects to the best of our abilities. Like Lewis and Clark, we were then stepping into the unknown. There was no map for where we were going. We were blazing trails.
It may seem odd to say in this series of Amplify Your Value but, what I am outlining here is NOT a roadmap for you to follow. What I am outlining here is what worked for us…it may not work for you. You have to follow the steps of introspection that we have discussed over the last several posts, but your roadmap will probably differ greatly from ours…that is OK and to be expected. Businesses are different, cultures are different, environments are different. The point here is, if you have followed the steps, you now know where you are and you now know where you are going.
Like Lewis and Clark 200 some years ago, we had a goal, we had an objective. To draw our map, we identified immediate steps we needed to take. Lewis and Clark needed specific skillsets, they need discipline, they needed teamwork and collaboration. We needed process, we needed education, we needed different skills, we needed a deeper understanding of our mission. We identified many of the steps we needed to take on our journey. Like good IT professionals, we identified dependencies and precursors to our journey. We laid out a five year plan.
Five years…that is eons in the IT world. Perhaps it was too much of a chunk to bite off from where we were. The first year or two were very specific. We had processes we wanted to implement, we had technologies we wanted to implement, and we had an ever evolving business that we needed to support and…lead. Like Lewis and Clark before us, we did not bind ourselves to specifics in a future we could not foresee. Had they not been open and flexible they never could have travelled to the Pacific Ocean and returned to “civilization”. We laid out specific steps in the near term and specific goals in the long term. Each year we review our plan and we adjust our steps, we do not adjust our strategy nor our vision.
I have to admit, some of the pieces of our journey fell into place…sometimes it is better be lucky than good…we were able to invest in new Disaster Recovery technology as a “big bang” because our prior investments all hit their depreciation at the same time. We were able to migrate our production environment as a “big bang” for pretty much the same reason. However, there were many times on our journey that we had to adjust, to adlib, to step off the map we had drawn. As you learn more, as you experience more, you need to be flexible and adjust your tactics to meet your objectives.
Your journey will not be the same as ours. Your company is different, your culture is different, technology is different. You have to be willing to step into the unknown, you have to be willing to draw your own map. You have to be willing to keep your focus on the mission and the destination; and adjust your plan to reach that destination. Make Your Own Map!
Next time we will explore our first step into the unknown. For us, that was paying attention to the “Google Whisperer”, for you, it may be paying attention to a different muse.
The series, “Amplify Your Value” explores our five year plan to move from an ad hoc reactionary IT department to a Value-add revenue generating partner. #AmplifyYourValue
We could not have made this journey without the support of several partners, including, but not limited to: Bluelock, Level 3 (TWTelecom), Lifeline Data Centers, Netfor, and CDW. (mentions of partner companies should be considered my personal endorsement based on our experience and on our projects and should NOT be considered an endorsement by my company or its affiliates).
Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.
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