An inspirational thought leader in Information Technology and Financial Services Industries, Chief Executive Officer of Liberty IT Consulting Group, John Dimitropoulos, joins our editor for an interview this week. Here he talks about what makes him tick and what he looks for when recruiting team members for a project.
Q: You’ve been heavily involved in Banking Transformation Projects. What do you see as the keys to success for such large and complex projects?
First and foremost, transformation is typically driven by the need to change the way a business operates.
Organisations usually place most emphasis on digitising or modernising their technology and start to worry about how they operate as a business later. The business needs to be part of the transformation. What I mean by that is, transformation doesn’t happen to the business, it happens with them.
Then comes the need for bold and committed-to-success executive sponsorship. The senior leadership team’s willingness to embrace change, make courageous decisions and empower team members to excel; this will trickle down to every member of the organisation and in the project.
Setting the sliders for the project early and carefully is another factor. These need to be determined at the very beginning of any project; how is the work going to be prioritised and what is driving the need for change? Is it increase in revenue, quality of customer service, customer experience, optimisation of operational costs, keeping up or beating the competition in leading edge technologies? This is one of the hardest things to decide on, but it needs to be done at the very beginning with the executive officer present.
Q: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from being involved in such large projects?
The biggest lessons I’ve learned come by association with very complex transformational programs.
My influences include some very talented leaders who I cannot name here, who led large-scale banking programs over the last two decades. There have been some important lessons I learned, and I am happy to share with your readers.
- Executive sponsorship (from the CEO and the Senior Leadership Team) is a must; without it don’t bother.
- The Program Schedule must to be treated with the greatest respect, especially in the first 12 months. A great leader once said, “you lose programs in the first 12 months if you don’t manage schedule with the utmost respect”.
- Business transformation is a pull, not a push. The business needs to be actively driving the change from their end and cannot afford to have change done to their operations by IT or project managers. Earn their respect and buy-in early through small, incremental value-add solutions.
- Build a diverse and resilient core team to take with you in your long journey. Partner with the right service providers who have a proven success record and understand your industry; you will need their experience, capacity and support in the boardroom
- Manage change diligently; have the courage and conviction to say “no” to your business and your leader as “no” is not just an acceptable answer, it is a necessity if you wish to keep things on track.
- Look after yourself. Your health, your family and your career. I’ve been touched by sickness and loss (in my teams) in the past. If you are healthy and well you will always excel and outperform.
Q: Which attributes or talents have been most valuable to have in your team in order to see the project through?
These programs are large, complex, expensive, multi-site and tend to attract talent from within and from a multitude of external organisations. Both permanent staff and contractors require skills, diversity and the right attitude. Re-use and grow internal talent where possible; you need to cultivate and retain IP for the future of your organisation. But it’s not enough. No organisation can scale on its own to deliver these programs. Create talent diversity through lasting partnerships with expert external suppliers. As team sizes grow rapidly, it is important to strike a good balance between existing business, technology experts and new blood. Expect and plan for multiple role rotations and attrition over the life of the project.
Q: What usually drives team members to willingly follow a project leader?
The willingness from everyone involved to embrace the transformation is the biggest human factor. We don’t walk into a project and tell people “this is what’s going to happen”. We spend a great deal of time working with them to discuss the vision and purpose of the program first. We then work with them to determine the right business solution and how technology can enable it.
When team members understand the vision they are inspired to contribute to the success of the program.
Open and timely communication from the leaders creates a trust-based environment and makes sure the team is engaged and driven by a common purpose. Being a compassionate leader and expressing good work behaviours themselves, leaders will attract a team of right people.
A leader needs to also recognise the importance of a work/life balance. The mental and physical wellbeing of team members is very important. Things like ensuring they have proper breaks and offering flexible work arrangements helps to not only build a great team, but ensures their support for the life of the project.
Q: What do you look for when you’re hiring people for a project team?
Personally, when I build teams, my approach is that you can always train people for technical skills, but you cannot buy attitude. Having expert skills will only get you so far. Cultural compatibility to the organisations values and the project’s work ethics is important. They also need to be willing to learn new skills (which is actually a big bonus for their career) and also willing to share their knowledge with others so the whole project benefits.
Q: Tell me about your company, Liberty IT.
We established Liberty IT Consulting Group in 2016 with a small but great group of highly talented and experienced Information Technology professionals. We are part of a management consulting and recruitment partner ecosystem which collaborates well to create world class consulting solutions. Our clients operate across a diverse set of industries. That said, our core competencies are in the Financial Services Industry. Although our clientele includes some of Australia’s most recognised brands, we are also servicing the needs of a number of smaller clients. We have built the company on agile, “start-up” like principles. We are all very enthusiastic, passionate professionals with high drive and energy. Our flexible engagement model makes business with us easy and straightforward. We currently attract some of the best talent in the market.
Q: Why is your relationship with Tech People so important?
In our early days, being the new kids on the block, we knew that our combined expertise and experience would only work if we got our business operations and strategic alliances spot on. With so many businesses in the same IT space, we saw a unique opportunity to align ourselves with Tech People as their longevity is testament to their business’ culture. Our values of experience, quality and ethics are also perfectly aligned. Ours is a true partnership – we’re not trying to outdo each other; we complement each other. We’ve gained a lot from Tech People and we believe they have too.
Tech People know IT recruitment like the back of their hand, and so we look to them for scale expansion and supply of the right people for our large projects. By truly working together, strategically and operationally, our business has been able to grow from the get go and with the right people from the very beginning.
You can find out more about John and his team here: http://www.libertyit.com.au/ and you can find opportunities to join the Liberty IT group on their careers page http://www.libertyit.com.au/careers/.