Category: Digital

3 Critical Skills Required for Epic Leadership in The Digital Age

Over the past decade the world propelled like a rocket ship into the digital age. Everything we do, from purchasing products and services, to working from home, we do through technology. Smartphones and devices have become extensions of our body. Data has become an asset for organizations, and an improved digital customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate products and services. Experience is the new currency.

Yet with all the wonderful opportunities the digital revolution brings, it also brings challenges. Many organizations struggle to transform their business to a digital model, and the adoption of Big Data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) continues to be a major challenge. 

To confront these challenges and opportunities, we need leaders with the right skills. Here are 3 critical skills required for epic leadership in the digital age:

1. Business Imagination – Often the biggest roadblock to digital success is business imagination. As an example, most data analytics projects fail because companies neglect to connect the analytics to business value. It’s not enough to focus only on analytics output, tools, and technologies. Leaders must find ways for human intelligence and machine intelligence to work together. As I learned from Professor Ravi Bapna in the Carlson Executive Education program, “The future belongs to those (individuals, leaders, business units, societies, countries) that optimize the man-machine duality!”.

“It’s not enough to focus only on analytics output, tools, and technologies. Leaders must find ways for human intelligence and machine intelligence to work together”

2. Empathy – Empathy is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence and when it comes to business, empathy is often misunderstood. I once had a professor in business school tell me empathy was not important for business success. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Today, employees feel high pressure to deliver. This stress increased tenfold with the effects of the pandemic.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Behind the financial targets and technologies, companies are made up of people. People are emotional beings who need to feel understood and cared for by their leaders. Performance, wellbeing, and results improve when leaders treat employees with empathy.  Empathy is good for business, and it is critical in the digital age.

3. Digital Savviness – Gone are the days when IT was an afterthought. Technology now has a seat at the table. Digital leaders must have a strong understanding of technology. They don’t need to know how to write code, but they need to have digital savviness. In a recent study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review, they found that “large enterprises with digitally savvy executive teams outperformed comparable companies without such teams by more than 48% based on revenue growth and valuation”.


The digital age is here, and organizations need leaders with the right skills. Business imagination, empathy and digital savviness are three critical skills for today’s leaders. With these skills, leaders can take advantage of opportunities to reimagine their business and thrive in the digital age. 

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is an IT program delivery consultant providing leadership for large business driven initiatives.  

3 Ways To Improve Cyber Security In Wake of Covid-19

From an increase in online shopping to entire workforce’s working from home, cyber security if more important than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced corporate technology executives to focus on protection.

Shankar Arumugavela, CIO of Verizon’s Communications Inc states “The three things that keep me up at night are credential thefts using phishing attacks and malware, the threat of social-engineering attacks to manipulate customers and employees into divulging confidential or personal information, and third-party risk management to prevent malicious actors from infiltrating our network via our partners’ systems.”

Shankar’s concerns are well founded. In response to Covid-19 there have been major spikes in fraud and online scams. Consumers are being targeted using phishing. IT systems have been under increased hacking attacks. The FBI has reported a 300% increase in cybercrimes since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic (The Hill).

To deal with these increased threats, here are three ways to improve cyber security:

  1. Review and communicate data security policies and practices. Employees are your companies first line of defense. Review and update data security policies to ensure they are compatible with a remote work setup. Communicate data security policies to your employees and send frequent reminders to employees about data security best practices while working from home. Remind employees to be diligent in their review of emails before opening links or attachments, and to report phishing attempts as soon as possible once discovered.
  1. Tighten up IAM (Identity and Access Management). Limit access to protected and confidential information. Consider restricting employee access to confidential and protected information on a role-specific basis. This will ensure employees have access to only the information needed to complete their specific duties. It is important not only to protect the perimeter of systems, but also the underlying data. You must be asking the who, what, where, why and how for every attempt to gain access to your critical data. This requires relentless authentication. For more on the importance of identity and access management, see my post “IAM is more important than ever
  1. Use strengthened VPN access. To the extent possible, encourage employees to work using a virtual private network (VPN). This will provide an extra layer of protection to your company’s information. Put in place multifactor authentication for VPN access, IP address whitelisting, limits on remote desktop protocol (RDP) access and added scrutiny of remote network connections.

In the wake of Covid-19, improved cyber security needs to be top priority. CIO’s and technology executives must lead the effort to protect their systems, users, and data. All it takes is one breach to compromise an entire system and cause a crisis.

About the Author:Mike MacIsaac is a principal IT consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. MacIsaac Consulting, based out of Minneapolis MN, provides IT Agile delivery consulting and staffing.


The identity crisis of the IT project manager

The IT project manager role is one of the most in demand and sought after positions in technology. Ask any hiring manager and they will tell you that finding a good IT project manager is difficult. I’ve seen people with the most impressive credentials crash and burn trying to manage IT projects.

So what exactly is an IT project manager, and what makes a good one? The IT project manager used to be the person accountable for managing scope, schedule, and budget for IT projects. Today, that’s still true, for the most part, but the role has a bit of an identity crisis

The Project Management Institute, with their PMP certification, says the role is all about planning and control. If you’ve taken the PMP exam, you know PMI teaches you to create a large project plan. Within that plan are many sub plans for each area of the project.

The PMI has come under scrutiny in recent years by the technology community, and for good reason. With the rapid advancement of technology and globalization, organizations need to be agile. Planning is important, but responding to change may be even more important. Our systems and organizations have become too complex for the PMI plan and control model. This need to adapt to change is what has fueled the Agile software development movement.

With the increase of self-organizing agile teams, it brings us back to the question, what is the role of the IT project manager? Is it an Agile project manager? Is it a project leader? Is it a servant leader? Is it a Scrum Master? Is it a tech lead?

The answer depends, but the role may consist of a combination of all these things. One thing we know for sure is that the IT project manager is a change agent and a leader.

To succeed in this role, one needs to have both hard and soft skills. Good IT project managers use both the left and right hemispheres of their brain. The right side of the brain used for cognitive thinking, the left side for emotional intelligence and relationships. This enables them to be both technical, and emotionally intelligent. Project management is both a science and an art form.

If you are looking to get into IT Project management, you better be able to deal with chaos while keeping your cool. If you currently work as an IT business analyst, tester, or developer, you are well prepped for IT project management. I began my career in QA, and my experience in testing has been invaluable to my role as an IT project manager.

The reason people in these roles make good IT project managers is because they are battle tested. They know what it’s like to be in the trenches of IT projects, and to come out on the other side.

Let’s face it, delivering IT projects is tough. Business executives often don’t realize how tough it is. They are like patrons in a restaurant ordering a four-course meal. As they sit in the dining hall waiting for their meal, agitated by any delay, they don’t see the chaos in the kitchen.

It’s the job of the IT project manager to manage the chaos while portraying calmness and confidence to the team and business. Managing the chaos and leading the project to completion is what makes the IT project manager so valuable.

For me, I enjoy the chaos that comes with delivering IT projects. I particularly like the areas of development and testing. If you love technology, working with others, and solving complex problems, the IT project manager role may be a great fit.

So although the identity of the IT project manager is hard to define, it’s an exciting time for the field. With the rapid advancement in technology and globalization, the demand for good IT project managers will continue to go up.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of the digital world. AI, IoT, and big data technologies are in their infancy. As we chart a course into unknown territories of the digital world, we need good IT project managers to lead the way!

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Why robots won’t provide as much value as people in the future

As we go about our daily busy lives, it’s easy to lose sight that we are in midst of a digital revolution. We take for granted what we are now doing through technology.  Using smart phones for Uber, tracking our daily activity through wearable devices, or speaking to an Amazon Echo are examples. It is incredible how fast technology has evolved. Yet, we are only in the infant stages of the digital revolution.

digital revolution

The digital revolution brings about great opportunities for business. This is particularly true for services using IoT (internet of things), Big Data, and Cloud based technologies. Expect that you will see an increase in AI (article intelligence), automation, and robots. Self driving cars, unmanned aircrafts, and smart devices have become a reality.

This advance in digital technology has left many in fear of losing jobs to robots, and for good reason. In a recent study done by the Korn Ferry Institute, 67 percent of executives said they would value technology more than people when looking at the next five years. The idea is that workers will be unnecessary due to robotics, automation and AI.

While there is no doubt that technology will replace many manual jobs, here’s the good news. Human capital will still hold the greatest value. Why? The main reason is that humans continue to gain knowledge and experience over time. In a sense, they appreciate in ways that machines cannot.

It is my position that as the world becomes more digital, we will see a greater demand for human capital.  It’s ironic but the advance in technology will provide a need for human connections. This means people will need skills based on strong emotional and social intelligence. This also holds true for technical leadership and project management positions.

Executives then need to value both human capital and technology. They need to find the right balance between the two. It would be a mistake to go all in on technology and lose sight of human capital importance. It seems most CEOs currently don’t grasp this. As CEOs face intense pressure to increase organizational performance, they focus on what they can measure. Robotics and automation give CEOs the comfort of figures and metrics that help them make projections about the future.

These metrics and data driven forecasts leave CEOs with a blind spot. What they don’t see, or can’t measure, are the human factors effect on performance. “Actually, the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” (Lloyd S. Nelson)

You can’t measure the positive effect of a warm and empathic interaction between a customer and an employee. The convenience and performance of machines could never replace our core need for social interaction.

So as you plan your strategy during this time of digital revolution, tap into what you already understand. People are the most valuable assets within an organization.

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