Scott Madsen on Accelerating Business Value
Scott Madsen, CEO Cingo Solutions talked to Emerge on how adopting technology business management (TBM) helps embraces new delivery models and accelerates business value.
How does Cingo Solutions approach technology and tech management?
We have a unique business model and a multi-varied approach to TBM. We don’t just do outsourced IT or advanced MDR cybersecurity solutions, we also develop custom software and provide SaaS for some of the most highly regulated industries in the United States.
Our clients need to know where their IT infrastructure currently is and understand the risks they are facing. We found it necessary to develop our own proprietary software so we could be the most reliable informative sources of cybersecurity possible for these clients. We customized it to meet SOC2 (an AICPA third party audit) requirements and with the highly regulated spaces we service we have leveraged this software as a basis for new innovation and deployment of a very adaptive approach to interpreting the data and predicting trends. Properly managing these technologies enables us to manage our clients’ technology with a similar approach to how we manage our own.
My involvement in managing technology covers two spheres- overseeing the management of our proprietary security software and recommendations for our clients’ technology, as well as the coordination and development of technologies for our clients.
Is technology business management different from technology management even though they intersect?
TBM requires a forward-facing and accountable development focus. It must be adaptive, predictive, and focused as opposed to the repetition of being contained within the boundaries of IT. Fundamentals in business tend to shift. Technology shifts, business models shift, and employment shifts. TBM allows for these foundational shifts to happen without breaking the greater structure. Great managers are good broken-field runners, they pick a course and then make minor adjustments to adapt to these variables. These solutions should be inclusive of the goal at hand and, hopefully, operate within budgetary restrictions.
Effective CIO/CTO’s are constantly looking at new research and new tools to be more productive and efficient. Great CIO/CTO’s do so while remaining within security and budgetary standards. They must be capable of seeing the trends in the industry and correctly interpreting and prescribing the correct adaptation the company should take. That’s what separates good managers in general but certainly as it pertains to TBM. IT shops don’t necessarily need to do that, it’s more about the status quo—reacting to the tickets, responding to what the clients are facing in a defensive approach. Defense, in this case, is less risky but also stagnates growth.
How do you integrate business units with TBM efforts and improve on existing processes for ongoing businesses?
When we onboard a new client, we usually migrate about 60% of their current IT management vendors to more scalable and nationally recognized vendors. The SOC2 guidance from our certification has been very effective in helping Cingo build various models for how our clients can receive the results they desire. It also helped us become more granular in our vendor diligence. If a vendor doesn’t meet the SOC2 requirements, we move on because we feel it’s a keen insight into the company culture and indicative of its investment in its own products. Simply put, we can decipher if they are the right fit for our clients based on the investment they make in security and new technology. By knowing what vendors are up to snuff and getting rid of those that aren’t, we are closing IT and security gaps and making sure everyone is paired with vendors that meet their specific needs prior to building new expensive technology solutions. This marries TBM with the overall health of the business from the outset for us and has proven to reduce costs for our clients while improving efficiencies. Old technology can be expensive and unnecessarily costly.
There’s a lot of discussion about IT transforming businesses. What approach do you take when working with a business that has decided to make significant changes?
Making the company process dependent instead of people dependent is the best thing you can do for a business. This may feel threatening to some or may give the impression that people are expendable but it’s the opposite. The overall health of the business is what guarantees paychecks, future opportunities, and expansion within the organization. One of our clients experienced a 30% increase to their bottom line by automating data entry positions which reduced their costs but also reduced human error. These increases in efficiencies were difficult to predict but they saw a decrease in redundant work in nearly all of their operational processes. Because of this they reinvested in innovation, job opportunities opened up and expansion was the result. Companies which are dependent on individuals are at the mercy of individuals. When processes are in place and effectively developed, businesses can remain stable even in moments of difficulty and upheaval. IT investments are unique in this way.
How do you align IT strategies with business units and execute continuous improvement while keeping business units up to date and onboard as things change constantly?
The most important thing when shifting processes within a company is to identify milestones and more broadly to always have an end goal clearly in mind. You could build the greatest software innovation of a generation, but it would be meaningless if it never deployed. Department heads should be involved in the overall approach and should inform the IT team of the needs of their departments and then should get out of the way. Whether it is the CIO/CTO or a designated project manager who is given the ball, they should be trusted to run with it. Technology cannot be developed by committee. By its nature, it is never fully completed because it is adaptive, and the environment changes every day. Pick a route, designate milestones, consider recommendations but give someone who is a capable leader authority over the project. Successful IT strategies that give demonstrable results require the understanding of the timeline, the reason for development, an understanding of needs, a solid schedule for deployment, and then an ongoing strategy for updates. Analysis paralysis can be difficult to overcome in IT environments. Ideas are great, continuing innovation is great but blowing the budget in tech investments can be like boiling a frog. You don’t know you’re in danger until it’s too late.
It’s easy to understand why IT strategies fail when there’s no clear deliverable- even if a large budget is allocated for a project, it has to be reconciled with the actual deliverable. This all goes back to management. A big reason why IT management gets fired is that when tech innovations are mis-managed they spiral out of control quickly and the leadership is left holding the bag. IT and management together can move mountains but separately create a vacuum, nothing gets done.
Who needs to lead the charge when executing a TBM strategy? Is it possible for IT to execute the process independently?
CIOs and CTOs are key in executing IT, but at the end of the day, if a CEO isn’t pushing a culture that is friendly toward technology and the execution of it, there’s very little anyone else can do. If technology is not directed from the top levels of the company, they are essentially set up to fail. The CEO has to be integral in the decisions and direction of the project and invested in the end goal. A CEO may approve a budget for a big IT expense but if he is a skeptic it can have damaging long-term effects on company culture and employees looking at innovations to benefit the business. It must be understood what the technology is going to do for the company in order for it to be executed, impactful and successful.
IT leaders often come up with great ideas that can possibly create advantages for their companies, but how can IT leaders have their ideas accepted and championed?
IT leaders have to put good management into place, and they need to trust them. In looking at the needs of a company it’s important to get the 30,000-foot view. To do this you need to discuss openly with your people on the ground. Take an exhaustive view of processes and personnel. Look for inefficiencies, areas of increased risk of error, risk of loss, or risk of theft. Look into functions prone to user error and develop a plan with them. Logic should prevail in this step, it’s hard to write ‘gut feelings’ into code so make sure your logic is in place. Discuss the things that are in the pipeline that could impede any department’s growth and success. Make sure your team is invested in the success of the project even if it means long discussions with people who may be a little anemic to technology or change and earn their enrollment in a particular idea.
It takes consistent work and consistent effort to view technology not as a singular project but as something that is open-ended and will continue to evolve and grow with a company. The right course of its evolution will advance your company in ways impossible to account for in a cost-benefit analysis, but in application the results can be astonishing.
The difficult thing to manage in properly executing TBM is flexibility. At Cingo, our greatest difficulty is the constant need of adapting to new threats and new technology. Every update we deploy in our internal software we have the knowledge that it won’t account for threats we don’t know exist which can be very demoralizing if not understood in the proper framework. It requires a team which is attracted to puzzles, to unsolvable and difficult problems and management which makes that an exciting proposition instead of an insurmountable one. We take them one day at a time, most of the time discover solutions for what seems to be unsolvable, and then go home and start again the next day. Maintaining this development cycle requires intense communication, coordination, and adaptation but with the right approach and solid fundamentals, it can be done effectively.