Joe Freeflier is not a lucky man.  He’s been promoted.

Oh, he wanted the promotion.  He asked for the promotion, but it is a lateral move, and he had no idea of the difference between his old job and this new, unfamiliar role.  When he came to work for the first day in the new building, in a new city, he was thrust into a series of meetings that he wasn’t expecting, where people were looking to him for ideas, not decisions.  His team filled in, but he felt like an observer, completely out of place.

His wife was so happy when he told her about the promotion.  Joe is a middle-aged guy, a hard worker.  He’d been at the company for about seven years, all of it in the IT team.  He started as a program manager, coming over from the downtown bank where he had been an IT project manager.  He’s a thin man, having lost 30 pounds a few years back.  He’s taller than average, making him look even thinner, and he comes to work in distinctly comfortable clothes. He has always kept a modest and steady approach to getting things done.  He will push for changes, where needed, but mostly his attitude is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  If you want someone to keep the trains running on time, Joe is your man.   

Joe just took over the management of a good-sized IT group in his company.  His group is responsible for all the systems used by the Sales, Marketing, and Public Relations functions within this global multinational company.  Four years ago, each of the operating companies in the multinational had their own Sales and Marketing teams, but they were all brought together under a single executive and he worked to get uniform processes and consistent reporting.  To all accounts, from the business side, the merger was successful.

The IT path was not so easy.  Joe’s predecessor, Micheala Fling, had inherited four sets of Sales tools, four sets of Marketing and communications tools, and tools originally set up for the PR team.  The tools overlapped, created information in different structures.  Business Intelligence was a joke.  When the business teams combined, so did the IT teams, and among the 600 or so developers, testers, support and operations folks, there was no consistent “anything.”   

Micheala turned to a group of SOA architects in the company to fix the problem.  They proposed changes and she made them.  She was assertive and constant, pushing for change without pushing people out or stepping on too many toes.  She had a good relationship with the head of the new combined Sales and Marketing group and she worked to keep it that way.  She completely changed the way her IT group worked.  She used to say “When a toy is broken, you toss it.  When a car is broken, you fix it.  We are discarding the toys and fixing the cars.”  When she left, her staff gave her a toy car.  It was a good moment.

And now Joe has inherited the “fixed” IT that Micheala left behind.  Joe had spent the last four years in the supply chain IT team in Michigan.  Now he was in Ohio, at corporate headquarters, inheriting something that didn’t run the way he was used to, didn’t look like the group he had.  Micheala left to become the CIO of a midsized Restaurant company somewhere out west.  She took three of her top folks with her. 

Micheala changed a lot of things.  She hoped that the changes would last.  This was the test… “The rubber was going to meet the road.”  Could her changes be sustained?  Would the racecar that she had built out of tractor parts hold together with a new driver?  Joe was about to find out.

Fortunately, Joe has Selina Colander.  She was Micheala’s right hand, and helped set up all the processes and policies for the IT team.  When others left to go with Micheala, Selina stayed, and now she was the only thing keeping Joe sane.  Selina is not a tall woman or a thin woman.  An African American with a warm personality, and a taste for brightly colored clothes, she’s the kind of joyful person that people just gravitate to. 

Except right now… right now, she’s in Joe’s face.

(Author’s note: This story takes three blog posts to tell.  The other two entries are linked below)

Part two – Managing Complexity

Part three – The Users are Coming

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

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