New In Role – Making An Early Impact

Strategy and Digital Transformation

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Developing your IT strategy, building the team, implementing a high-performance culture, managing tight budgets…. there is a lot to deliver in the first few months after securing a senior leadership position. These were all challenges that were discussed in the latest Telstra ‘New in Role’ breakfast discussion. Plus, attendees addressed the crucial question of how to prove value while rolling out a longer term IT transformation strategy.

Telstra New in Role Series

The Telstra New in Role series brings together a small group of senior IT Leaders who share a common theme in that they are less than 12 months into their respective tenures, coming together to share their experiences. The New In Role discussions represent a great opportunity to expand your network and gain valuable insights into how you can accelerate into your role. At this years New In Role breakfast, we were hosted by Mike Bugembe, who is widely recognised as one of the UK’s top digital masters, has won several awards and has been named one of the most influential people in the tech space and an expert advisor to senior technology leaders. With substantial experience at the board level, Mike is perfectly positioned to advise on establishing a strong board connection, reporting up, and making sure your voice is heard. Taking on more responsibility professionally can be a daunting prospect, so Mike’s top tips for balancing workload, managing early pressures, and building those important relationships will be of great advantage.

Changing Mindsets

The attendees at the breakfast seminar discussed how to react when encountering resistance from co-workers to a new IT platform adaption. The view in the room was that sometimes there is a natural inertia, a ‘don’t change what’s not broken’, attitude. However further probing suggested that some of this reluctance is exacerbated by staff misinterpretation of IT terminology which, in turn, can lead to a lack of clarity on the potential benefits of your plan. All of the IT leaders at the event agreed that it was important to gear terminology to non-technical audiences in order get buy-in from right across the organisation and lay the groundwork for implementation of a longer-term IT strategy.

It is vitally important that a plan shared with the wider business is curated so that it makes sense and has value for the broader organisation. However, this is not the only benefit. Showcasing your strategy in an easily understandable way also helps build trust within the business. And building trust is critical when you are new in a role.

Another important element of leadership is to ensure the tech team understands some of the current difficulties experienced by co-workers. Once a common pain point is understood, addressing the ‘why’ of technology implementation becomes more meaningful. A common acceptance of key drivers for changes is the first step to securing company-wide buy-in and avoids a siloed view of the benefits of your transformation from a team-by-team perspective.

Not everyone will be supportive of your strategy, but early identification of influential change advocates will enable a smoother program adoption. The group discussed and agreed on the wisdom of focusing on delivering change that has the widest and the most influential impact on the business as a priority.

Change Adoption Curve

The “Adoption of change curve” is an important concept when describing the relationship between the IT department and the wider business. Not everyone will be onboard with your changes from the beginning, and this is normal and nothing to worry about. The focus should be on getting supportive colleagues on-board and ready to join your journey, and measure your success against the majority, not the laggards.


Get your own team onboard with your approach

Analysing previous IT spend can be helpful to get an immediate understanding of how the business operates, particularly when occupying a new position. You should then ask yourself, how and why your strategy is any different. Why do you believe that your strategy presents a better prioritisation of the IT budget? These are difficult questions to ask, particularly when you are new, and getting an honest answer without alienating colleagues is trickier still.

However, evaluating previous IT investments also creates a great opportunity to demonstrate immediate value. Ensuring your plan is concise, reliable, and easily digestible allows for some early point scoring!

Retaining and Nurturing Talent

Linked to the identification of clear terminology was the next stage of the discussion which was around how to set and control your narrative – both of your long-term vision but also highlighting the contributions of the IT team. Not only was this valuable in terms of enabling the whole organisation to understand the value of your digital transformation but it has the secondary benefit of showcasing the talents of key IT team members, raising their profile throughout the organisation and thus helping with career progression and talent retention. One of the main pitfalls to avoid when newly in role is key members of staff, often one of your direct reports with lots of informal knowledge, which leaves you blindsided and hampers fast execution of your strategy.

To implement any successful strategy, you need talented team members to turn ideas into reality. When it comes to recruiting top talent, it is worth committing the extra funds to hire experienced team members that can hit the ground running, particularly when you are new in role yourself. When you hire inexperienced staff, they understandably require additional training and therefore will take a significantly longer period to get up to speed. When trying to gain confidence both within yourself, and from the wider organisation, a delay in implementing your strategy may be too much of a hindrance.


To summarise, narrowing your focus down to 2 or 3 pivotal areas is a good starting point when looking to accelerate into your new senior position. Ultimately, developing your IT strategy, building the team, and implementing a high-performance culture were discussed as being those areas that demonstrate the value the quickest, allowing you to accelerate into your new senior IT leadership role.

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