About a year ago, Brian Chan took on the role of as vice president of IT for Avnet’s corporate services group in the U.S. after spending four years heading up our IT team in Asia Pacific.
I’ve asked him to share a few of the lessons he learned from successfully leading the IT team in that highly-dynamic region in the guest post below.
When I joined Avnet in 2008, the Asia Pacific IT team supported five countries and had just started a major project to consolidate onto SAP.
Over the next four years, the business completed five acquisitions, doubled its geographic reach, and grew revenue 400%. In addition to successfully integrating the five acquisitions, we also completed seven SAP implementations in that time.
Here are six “secrets to IT success” I learned from that experience.
1. Focus on your success
In the face of that much change and a daunting list of critical projects, it’s easy to get dismayed. But rather than focus on the seemingly impossible tasks of so many SAP implementations and acquisition integrations, we decided to focus on what success would bring.
The team looked at those circumstances as an opportunity of a lifetime in their career; after all, you can’t artificially create an environment like that where there are so many exciting things happening at the same time. We chose to look at the big picture and say, “When we are successful, this will be a great thing to put on the resume.”
2. Help each other be successful
This is a byproduct of the change in perspective above. When you’re thinking big picture and focusing on success, a lot of the potential negative team behavior goes away.
As a result, the team committed to each other to not just work together, but to help each other succeed. Because there were so many exciting things happening, the team held the belief that there was more than enough glory to be had for each of us, and we did not have to compete for attention as a result.
3. It’s all about Employee Engagement
As a leader, the question I always ask myself is, “What do I bring to this team that will ensure each and everyone one of the members is motivated to become a contributor to our success?”
There is no shortcut or silver bullet to good employee engagement, other than to earn each employee over one at a time, understanding and aligning their motivations and goals, and ultimately building a critical mass of believers that creates the momentum needed to move the entire team along.
4. The importance of face-to-face contact
Tools like video conferencing, conference calls, social media and collaborative platforms make it easy to hold meetings and exchange ideas without the expense and time of meeting face-to-face.
However, what ends up missing is the value of truisms like “the team that works together, plays together.” It’s important for teams to go out and do things outside of work that allow them to build the authentic connections that strengthen working relationships.
For example, I encouraged people from our team in China that travel to the U.S. from time to time, to give them a sense of the work and social culture of the U.S. Likewise, when the U.S. employees travel internationally to Asia and Europe, it gives them a deeper understanding of the teams there and how things are done differently in different cultures.
5. Innovation is more than technology
When most people think of innovation, they tend to focus on new features and technologies. While things like smartphones and cloud computing can bring about sea changes in the way we do business, I’ve found it’s just as important to encourage innovation by simplifying and untangling some of the inefficiencies and obstacles brought about by our own legacy systems.
This is where our people who have a lot of corporate memory and intellectual capital can add deep value and understanding. By directing some of their energy towards innovating within the legacy environment, these incremental changes can yield big benefits across the enterprise.
6. Think like a startup, act like an enterprise
To keep pace with the fast changing business environment in Asia, we had to maintain a high degree of agility in order to respond to rapid changes in the business.
But that same focus on responsiveness can also result in a lot of ad hoc process decisions and duplicate effort. So it was important to balance that responsiveness with the advantages of enterprise IT, including standardized processes and platforms and compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements from financial reporting to exporting.
Do any of Brian’s comments resonate with you? Please let us know in the comments.