• Mark McKenna

Stewardship and IT Deal Makers

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

What does is stewardship mean to you? Here’s my definition: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to your care.

I work with many people who exhibit a great deal of stewardship in their jobs without ever uttering the word. I’ve also worked with the opposite -- those who approach work with a “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” attitude. Let’s talk about where we’d like to see more stewardship in action, regarding big IT deals.

Very often, I see mission-critical digital transformations with significant sticker prices being handled like an everyday pencil purchase. In the next five years, enterprises will spend 1% of their net revenue on these massive projects, adding up to $2T per year by 2022. Yet, many of these undertakings are tossed over to procurement a mere 30 to 60 days prior to the expected signing date.

Stewardship of your IT organization means treating every step in the process of a deal as important. Do I have the time? Have I enrolled the right stakeholders? Do we have alignment between the stakeholders to achieve the intended goal? Are these the right vendors? Have I created clear messaging both internally and externally to meet my objectives? Applying an end-to-end process that enlists stakeholders, inspects the financial impact of a long-term relationship with the vendor, and protects the company from cost overruns and contractual risk exemplifies stewardship of your IT brand.

Many sourcing and IT professionals struggle mightily to create the necessary alignment within their organizations and are often viewed as a non-strategic rubber stamp office, or worse, a speed bump to getting things done. Alignment, leadership, executive engagement -- these things either bloom or die depending on stewardship.

We’ve identified nine critical facets of leverage that determine your ability to execute a strategic deal. We call this model of nine elements the Leverage Management Maturity Model (LM3).

So, how does this apply to good stewardship? Seasoned leaders in IT, IT Finance and the business units are constantly looking for ways to improve deals with strategic IT vendors. With the move to cloud, the business units will not wait for IT to transform top-line performance and customer engagement. In fact, cloud providers often steer clear of IT and sell directly to the business units. They’re leading the conversation on business impact, lead-conversion growth, supply chain transparency, customer loyalty, brand distinction and other digital innovations that drive company performance and create new, loyal customers.

Outside of the workplace, look at the role stewardship plays in our communities. Efforts like carbon footprint reduction, community outreach programs, job creation and training for transitioning veterans – all these things are aimed at enhancing and improving community life. Our IT leaders need to adopt a similar mindset and set expectations for company behavior. In the end, stewards are judged by actions, not words on a company website.

An example of not-great stewardship comes to mind: we were helping a client through a recent deal, and one of the main proponents of a $60M sourcing event was vying for a promotion within the IT organization. To call attention to himself, this person proceeded to block every form of messaging, delayed every review, insisted that the sourcing professionals knew nothing about technology, and said that he’d handle all vendor communications. He forfeited the leverage to the vendor by telling them that they had the deal, but he needed a better price. The vendor stayed firm, and the organization paid 20% more than our target, hurting the business case and scuttling the strategy. Good teams succeed or fail based on stewardship, not pride. In the end, he didn’t get the promotion based upon the final project readout.

So, as a steward of your IT brand, how will you drive the next conversation with your stakeholders to create alignment and value? The first step is training. To learn more about the Leverage Management Maturity Model (LM3) methodology, click here.

Mark McKenna is a Managing Director at ClearEdge Partners and Subject Matter Expert in the Salesforce Practice. His experience working in sales, service and customer management has spanned 30 years. His global experience working with Salesforce, Atos IT Solutions and Siemens provides a valuable backdrop in his focus on customer intimacy and loyalty. Mark volunteers as a mentor for Your Grateful Nation helping Special Operations Fellows transition back to the private sector.