I welcome 2012 with optimism and with gratitude! I am in a middle of a revolution that’s bigger than technology. I am not sure how to define it, but society is changing fast, in part brought on by technologies like social media and mobile.  The last time I experienced this change so rapid and exciting was in the mid 1990’s when web became mainstream.  I found 2011 to be a year of transformation for the  IT organization I work for and based on general observations, this seems to be true for IT organizations in general. As one in a leadership/management position of having to maintain legacy systems,  accommodate the changing needs of our customers and the consumerization of IT, it was a year wherein I had to spend an average of 3 hours at night learning/thinking about social media, mobile and how our roles as an IT organization are changing.  I spent some time thinking about how technology will transform our society in general and specifically about student affairs, the area of the university I work in. I learned many lessons along the way, not just about technology but how I will approach my leadership role moving forward.

1) Humility

There was probably a time when IT staff were the only experts when it comes to technology.  While that still maybe true when it comes to enterprise software and implementation, it’s virtually impossible now for IT staff to keep up with consumer technologies like mobile and social media given that our days are spent maintaining legacy systems, keeping the network secure and “keeping the lights on” and at the pace consumer technology is introduced.  I attended NASPATech, a conference focusing on student affairs and technology, and I was humbled at how much I did not know about how social media and mobile are used in higher education. I was also amazed at the knowledge of some of the higher education and student affairs technology leaders like @ericstoller, @edcabellon, @laurapasquini, @lesliedare, @dmolsen, @jeffjackson, @markmgr, @sethodell and many more.  I also learned a lot from many of the  “influential” names typically mentioned in social media. They really do know what they’re talking about.

Even within my organization, I am surrounded by extremely smart and passionate teammates who are far more knowledgeable when it comes to technology.

2) Commitment to Learning

I am not exaggerating when I say I spend about 3 hours a night learning about new technologies.  Many tweets, blog posts, connections led me to exploring areas I am already familiar with but they also led me to new subjects. One area I became interested in and I think will become a topic of discussion in higher education is social business. I learned a lot about mobile web and had the opportunity to present as well.

This last year has truly been a learning experience for me at work as well. I was promoted to a higher position overseeing other managers, leading a team that doubled in size and the scope of my responsibilities widely expanded to include all information systems and software development efforts in my organization.  Going from hands-on management of day-to-day tasks to overseeing others was a transition that required months of getting used to as well as figuring out how I fit into my organization and the values I contribute. I also learned that while I still don’t fully understand what my new position means in terms of responsibilities and privileges, I know this – not everything I do/propose will be met with open arms, especially with my efforts to lead the adoption of social media, cloud and mobile web. I have come to accept that these resistance are part of my job.

I believe that learning is an essential part of leadership and it’s a commitment I am making.  Personally, I feel like a sponge that’s willing to absorb every amount of knowledge I come across with.

3)  Patience

Adoption of new technologies within organizations, in my experience, moves at the pace of the organization. Priorities, culture, resources, local politics are all factors that I need to consider as I continue to balance the competing needs of maintaining legacy systems, providing operational support and introducing new technologies. With respect to social media, I understand the trepidations of IT colleagues  given that I had not made a business case for social media and we had not discussed guidelines and how to use them as collaboration/communication tools as an organization. As in the case in many organizations, social media adoption  are grassroots movements initiated by employees who see the value in them.  As organizations realize the risks/benefits of these tools, formal management (not to control, but to guide) of these initiatives will be required for them to be sustainable.

As it has been in the history or our organization, when the opportunities to introduce new ways of doing business via technology to meet the demands of our customers,  we will be ready.

4) Leadership

Leadership is still about people/relationships – technologies may come and go but they’re just tools . As a leader, my commitment is still towards promoting, creating opportunities for my colleagues/customers and those I interact with so they may find value in what we do and the service we offer.  Above all else at work, I value my relationships with those I work with the most. We may not agree all the time but the personal connections I maintain are important to me. The success of what we do is based on our ability to work together as a team.  My relationships are based on trust and respect, which I continually work on.

As a personal definition, I also see part of my role as a “transition manager”.  I am embracing the role as someone who will lead the effort to challenge status quo and redefine the way we do business.  What I mean is that not only is it my responsibility to introduce change (hopefully for the better), but to manage the process as well.  There is no such as thing as “technical projects/initiatives” as any change in technology should be tied to the business and people will be affected.  The demands of our customers and employees are changing fast and as an organization, our ability to adapt, not react is critical.  One challenge I see in my position then is how to promote our core mission while keeping up with the trends.

If you’re an IT leader, how are you approaching 2012? For those who work with IT folks, how can we provide better leadership/service?