As mentioned in my first blog post on EOS and IT, I am encountering more businesses utilizing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to improve their results. EOS has six components that ultimately work together to drive company success. My prior blog describes how IT leaders can benefit when their company adopts EOS.
As with any discipline, a key question is, “Where do I start?” EOS is described in detail in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. (Spoiler alert!) Gino faces the question head-on in a chapter aptly titled “Getting Started.”
Who’s on First. What’s on Second.
For those who may not recall the reference, YouTube explains!
An EOS implementation begins with defining an organization structure where accountability is clear. Owners are coached to look at their business anew, look forward, and detach themselves from even their own role.
They are asked to begin outlining an organization based on its simplest functions: at a minimum, usually based around Sales/Marketing, Operations, and Finance. Depending on the size of the business, each of these may be broken into greater levels of detail or even customized for certain highly specialized firms. When owners have defined the organization (right seats), they can properly designate people for the roles (right people in the right seats).
- "This sounds simple, right? It’s not because when you start with the structure first, you are putting what is best for the business first, and that doesn’t always agree with how employee and leader roles have evolved and morphed over time." - Lorie Clements, Professional EOS Implementer.
Next, a company begins to define the short term goals it has for the next 90 days. In EOS, these are called “Rocks.” Because the company has not yet fully defined much of its long term strategy, these will be a combination of current problems and laying out milestones that build up to the most critical, large initiatives necessary to execute a company’s strategy.
Culturally, an initial goal is to get the leadership team functioning in a more goal oriented, strategic, and effective way. The ultimate goal is to get every member of the organization aligned with the goals a company maps out using EOS.
So, Where Does I.T. Fit?
In the simple organization design example in the book, IT rolls up under Finance. Many IT leaders will be familiar with IT reporting to a CFO, and often immediately perceive this as not viewing IT as strategic enough. If it’s any comfort, HR is also rolled up under Finance in this example. HR can be pretty strategic too.
- “A common challenge is to figure out how to set the "Finance" seat up for success. It’s a critical role on it’s own but ends up handling almost every other function in the company that operations and sales/marketing do not want to own or are capable of owning. Figuring out which functions need to be split out is a critical decision for a company.” Mark Henderson Leary, Professional EOS Implementer.
What I think is most important is companies have to determine who among the leadership team has the capacity to ensure IT is part of the company’s success.
- For a software company, the owner and operations leaders may often have more than enough technical background to be properly accountable at the top level.
- For many other companies, the owner will often look to the CFO and many of these individuals have experience overseeing IT services and systems support.
However, some companies may not have an experienced CFO or Controller. And, some Operations leaders may not feel confident in managing technology. In these cases, someone will have to be accountable but may need outside assistance.
The good news for business owners these days is there is an active market for fractional C-level advisory services, both CIO and CFO. These provide a layer of objective advice separate from any direct service providers like an IT managed services firm or a CPA firm. From an EOS perspective, an advisory role will not replace the accountability of the primary teams. Fractional advisors provide better definition of what the Rocks should be. And, provide expertise to resolve the Rocks, expanding the capacity of the leadership team. The two work hand-in-hand.
- “As entrepreneurial companies organize themselves to be more successful, they will usually encounter growing pains and need roles that they can’t quite afford to hire full time. I have seen lots of success with companies using fractional resources for HR, IT, and, sometimes, even Integrator roles. It’s important to not take those decisions lightly though. These individuals need to share the owner's core values, understand exactly what need they are filling, and be accountable to specific outcomes. This is especially true when using outsourced IT where often times the services are not well understood by the leadership team. - Mark Henderson Leary, Professional EOS Implementer.
Making Things Fit Together
Above the functional organization structure, Gino defines two top roles: a Visionary and an Integrator Role. This typically distinguishes between the strengths of founders and early leaders in an organization. The Visionary is the idea person who has many ideas a week and wants to pursue them all without knowing how to connect the dots to realize productive results. The Integrator is the more pragmatic individual who prioritizes well, sees and removes obstacles, and gets the functional processes to work smoothly. Every business should have an Integrator, but not every business will have a Visionary.
Assuming a company has individuals who fit these roles, it will help them to discuss which side of the continuum IT should sit on.
- Should IT have an innovation focus, always pushing to use the latest technology? This embraces the Visionary aspects of the business.
- Or, should IT look at long chain process integration to help harmonize how the organization functions together using more proven technology? This embraces the Integrator aspects of the business.
For my IT strategy engagements with clients, I utilize some proprietary tools that get at the heart of balancing Visionary and Integrator goals, along with balancing other trade-offs that are equally important to making successful investments in technology. A great thing about EOS is the discipline it provides while allowing other methodologies to be blended in. A C-level Advisor, regardless of what tools they use, can add more value because EOS improves how companies leverage information and expands the benefits of each team member working in the same direction.
Thank you to both Lorie Clements (firstname.lastname@example.org, 832.316.2402) and Mark Henderson Leary (email@example.com, 713.539.9084) for discussions around these ideas and sharing their experiences as Professional EOS Implementers. They would be great resources for any company looking to adopt EOS.