The 3 Dilemmas of IT Leaders Working in Non-Tech Companies

The 3 Dilemmas of IT Leaders Working in Non-Tech Companies

While every modern company has some amount of technology, many IT professionals find themselves in companies where the main product or service has seemingly little to do with technology. Often, these IT workers feel relegated to the back offices of systems maintenance.

On this week’s episode of Digital Transformation Pioneers,we found Joe Lalor, an amazing techie at a hot tub company. He spelled out the 3 dilemmas every IT pro faces when they are working at a non-tech-driven company. Joe showed how to confront each of these pitfalls and ensure success.

Joe is the Director of IT for Watkins Wellness, the maker of the legendary Hot Springs Spa. Before his time at Watkins, Joe worked at Callaway Golf as the Senior Manager of IT. He’s also worked at SAIC for nearly 23 years as a Software Engineer and Systems Analyst.

1: Leading With Tech, When Tech Is Not the Business

“Every company is a tech company.” This notion is becoming a transformative and commonplace statement in modern commerce. However, the reality is, the foremost product or service of many companies is not technology.

When Joe was first brought on board at Watkins, he faced this dilemma. He had a couple of large tasks in front of him — implement an ERP and create an actual data center with in-house employees (consultants were huddled around desks wherever they could find them). There was much work to be done.

Many would be satisfied after implementing an ERP, establishing IT protocols, and creating a working data center.

But we’re not just highlighting anyone. We’re highlighting a true Digital Transformation Pioneer.

Joe has never rested on the laurels of his success. He constantly tries to lead the organization with technology. He understands his company’s product well — I doubt you’ve ever heard someone so passionate about hot tubs — and he is constantly wondering how technology may push the business forward.

For instance, he’s been instrumental in bringing their hot tub manufacturing equipment online. Functional area supervisors love his work, because he’s managed to connect machinery to the network to capture valuable data insights that enable better predictions on productivity, wear-and-tear, and needed repairs.

2: IT Professionals Love the Back Office. As a Leader, You Have to Coax Them Out

Issue #2 comes within the IT team itself: IT professionals love machines. It’s their world. When an IT team is left to their computers in a non-tech company, complacency can quickly set in.

Joe has received pushback from his IT staff on occasion when he has asked them to confront areas with updating their systems. Take the manufacturing plant equipment example: Many of his staff were hesitant to give direction to the facilities group on their equipment; the IT staff didn’t want to be perceived as overstepping their bounds.

So, occasionally, they would resist.

Joe had to convince his staff that consulting other areas on best IT practices is a true service, not a political power grab.

3: Not Everyone Will Accept New Tech Implementation

Bringing change to an organization isn’t easy. Not only because change is never easy, but because some people won’t see the value in digital transformation.

Joe says you can break most of the workforce down into 3 categories when it comes to digital transformation:

  • 1/3 will excitedly embrace change
  • 1/3 is willing to learn
  • 1/3 can’t be moved to accept the change

There is also an emerging fourth group:

Millennials. They love change, and often will push for it, mainly because they see themselves as more valuable in an analytical role than a physical one. They expect that technology will increasingly handle the mundane labor so their skills as a knowledge worker can be recognized.

Every Company Is a Tech Company

You may think of hot tubs as little more than a hole with warm water. But Joe explained what technology has done for their company:

He’s implemented an eCommerce B2B solution.

Their hot tubs now have landscape lighting.

They’ve developed a mobile app that allows consumers to remotely set their temperature, view their chemicals, and more. So when you’re on the way home from work, your hot tub will be ready and waiting upon your arrival.

That’s how you utilize technology to create superior hot tubs.

Taken from an interview with Joe Lalor from Watkins Wellness. Hear more from other Digital Transformation Pioneers.

If you don’t use iTunes, check out all podcast episodes here.