Conviction in Service

George Wang, Board Member

George Wang,
Board Member

As many of you in my network know, I was fortunate to have been offered a Cluster CIO role with the State of Illinois last year, focused on Students and Education. As a first timer in public service, it has been an honor to work with so many hard-working team members focused on serving our citizens, businesses and institutions in Illinois. Having worked in many different industries, company sizes and roles over the last 26 years, I thought I would reflect and share with you some of my learnings that seem to also hold true in government public service:

  • Conviction in Service: Our world is faced with so many challenges and issues that it can be difficult to solve all of them. Yet through each person's effort and commitment in trying to make a difference we can contribute our small part towards a solution. Whether it starts with yourself, your family, your community, your state, your nation, or your faith, there must be conviction in service and helping others. Throughout my career I have tried to help others and found that during even the most difficult times, that your core value of service is what steers you to the True North. At the State we face very difficult times and constraints and yet our newly formed centralized Department of Innovation and Technology (DOIT) organization (a $1B startup of sorts!) is undergoing an amazing transformation journey. We have 45 years of modernization to accomplish in 4 years (our oldest active system dates back to 1971). DOIT, with our Illinois First strategy, is accomplishing new things that have not been done before through collaborative enterprise-wide efforts in the areas of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC). It's not easy but if each of us have conviction and passion in what we are doing, it sure goes a long way.
  • Seek the Truth: I believe each of us have gone through great positive times as well as those very tough times that bring out the not-so-good side of people and teams. I genuinely believe that people come in to work to make it a good day and wish their job brings a certain level of personal satisfaction. Yet during difficult times of organizational transformation (positive spin) or reorganization (negative spin) one must seek their own internal truth as to why they choose to stay in the organization or role they are in. Many times I have heard of folks complain about their role or organization (even in good times) and my advice to them is simple: have you asked yourself what have you done to make the situation better: do you have a solution to offer? While it is important to be committed to the organization, I believe one will know when it is time to move on. For example, long periods of unbearable work stress is one of them that hurts your body, your family and even relationships. For those that choose, including your own staff, to not make a change or are afraid to do so, seek help and support from others who have made the transition into a new role, company or even career. For those not as fortunate and are impacted by a reorganization or reduction in force, that move is forced upon you which leads me to next bullet...
  • Keep the Network Alive: You have probably heard this before but it is important to network as one can never predict the future and in this day and age, organizations and roles come and go unfortunately. Even in government service, one might think there is no competition and therefore insular -- but we know that isn't exactly true either. Presidents and governors can and will change with each election and with that change, the positioning or posture towards technology can change drastically or perhaps minimally (perhaps if things seem to be going right). Either way, this is where organizations like SIM Chicago offer a great venue to stay connected, share and learn with other senior leaders, and just as important -- provide support to our community like through i.c. Stars via our annual SIM Golf Charity event in August, our SIM STEM scholarships and our annual charitable donation to the Arts and Business Council of Chicago at our recent February SIM Winter Social.

We have two great SIM Chicago events you won't want to miss in March: Our SIM / Chicago Innovations Award (CIA) Partner Event on March 1 in the evening at Xfinity Studios with a moderated panel of past CIA winners, and our 2017 SIM Spring Gala on March 16 at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare where we feature Kelly Leonard from Second City discussing where improvisation and humor can in many ways help enable game changing transformation. I plan to be at both events and hope to see you there!

Digital Transformation SIM Chicago

Rob McGillen, Board Member  

Rob McGillen,
Board Member


Since joining the SIM Chicago Board and the Marketing committee last year, I have heard a steady flow of feedback on all things communications and digital from members. "The website needs work", "the emails are too long", "the experience is not mobile enabled" all frequent observations (mixed in with a few more colorful ones). Yep, I agree!

I spent a portion of my family holiday trip to China thinking about what to do about it. Taking a commercial and analytic approach, I took the time to review the utilization reports (as we have them), evaluated other SIM association websites, and competitive groups that also serve a similar audience.

Evident in the analysis, we are trailing what we could and should be doing. The website today and our processes around communicating are aging. We need to make a change to improve our communications engagement for existing members (+brand awareness for new members we want to attract.)

We clearly have compelling reasons for change. That said, a website overhaul used to be one of the top three projects IT & marketers avoided if they could. When I first broached the topic with several of our board members, I got a slight pause and "Won't that take a long time and be expensive?"

In short, No transformation does not have to take long or carry a heavy cost.
Lately, the game has changed.

You can transform your business and become a digitally effective company in a very short order, and for a reasonable investment of time, tech, and talent. Digital transformation is now about 20% tech, and 80% change management. You need a game plan, a comfort with uncertainty, and the right expertise to get it done. And passion to change the game.

In my two+ decades experience, passion is the key ingredient that makes the difference in successful transformations (digital or otherwise). Passion is crucial in the drive for change. Sponsors need to exhibit it, the project team needs to live it, and the customers should be excited about the changes to come.

So we are announcing today our plan to launch the new SIM Chicago website in time for the Spring Gala four weeks hence. We will have a new UX experience, which is built mobile first from the ground up. We will be taking measured change steps (experience and UX first, events sign up / payments second, and email / social marketing engagement third) to ensure we hit the value points in the midst of the digital change. And we will seek your feedback frequently on the improvements (features, content, and experience) that will make for a game changing member experience.

We are passionate about the digital change for SIM Chicago because the opportunity is needed. We benefit as a society of IT leaders when we can most effectively gather together to share knowledge and experiences.

So four weeks and counting. Time for late nights, headsets on, coding, marker design boards and load testing, SEO tuning and security checks. In the words and spirit of the late, great James Brown - "Relax, and watch us work". See you at the Gala, and bring your mobile phone.