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A Seat at the Table
IT Leadership in the Age of Agility

Iconoclastic CIO Mark Schwartz reveals how IT leaders must throw off the old attitudes and assumptions and claim their rightful seat at the C-suite table.

by Mark Schwartz

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Agile, Lean, and DevOps approaches are radical game-changers. They provide a fundamentally different way to think about how IT fits into the enterprise, how IT leaders lead, and how IT can harness technology to accomplish the objectives of the enterprise. But honest and open conversations are not taking place at the interface between management and Agile delivery teams.  In A Seat at the Table,  CIO Mark Schwartz explores the role of IT leadership as it is now and the role of IT leadership as it should be—an integral part of the value creation engine.

Asking two critical questions, how can IT harness Agility to achieve the best value for the enterprise and how can IT redefine its relationship with the enterprise to maximize this value, and in the process, earn that seat at the table, Schwartz shows that the only way to become an Agile IT leader in today’s world is to be courageous—to throw off many of the attitudes and assumptions that have left CIOs struggling to gain a seat at the table, to proceed in bold strokes, and to lead the enterprise in seizing opportunities to create business value through technology.

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"Mark Schwartz’s A Seat At The Table will be one of the most important books on technology and business leadership of our generation.”

—Gene Kim, researcher and WSJ bestselling author of The Unicorn Project 

Articles by the Author
The Good and the Bad of Bureaucracy
By Mark Schwartz

In a previous post I revealed how IT is the biggest, baddest bureaucrat on the block. But to overcome bureaucracy, we need to separate those of its aspects that are problematic from those that are not, and focus our efforts on the former. We must disengage from the metaphysical pathos and reengage in a particular way. Let’s now identify the actual bad stuff.

Making Bureaucracy Lean, Learning, and Enabling

By Mark Schwart

I’ve been thinking a lot about bureaucracy. And the first thing I want to point out is that bureaucracy is not just a problem in the public sector, in government. It’s something that companies have to think about a lot. In my role at AWS I meet with about 120 senior executives from large enterprises each year, and consistently they tell me that their biggest problem or one of their biggest problems in transforming is bureaucracy.

IT: The Biggest Baddest Bureaucrats
By Mark Schwartz

If you’re an IT geek, don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you love to get things done quickly and effectively, and because you rebel against rules imposed on you, you’re free from the bureaucratic urge. No, it’s more likely that you have an impressive ability to optimize processes and implement controls by turning people’s freedom into constraints. You, mon semblable, mon frere, are probably a bureaucracy savant.

Quick Guide To DevOps For The Non-IT Business Leader

By Mark Schwart

Think carefully about what success looks like. In the digital world, it looks like speed, flexibility, controls, and leanness—not like making plans and following them. It’s these new IT practices that will bring you those benefits. They have already brought them to the many other enterprises that have started down the path and, in some cases, disrupted industries.

Unlock Your Enterprise's Digital Transformation by Changing Your Relationship with Technologists
By Mark Schwartz

If you want to unlock your enterprise’s digital transformation, you must change not only its relationship with technology, but its relationship with its technologists. Conventional wisdom has settled on a way of integrating IT into the enterprise that hasn’t been very effective up to now...

The Battle of Borodino: Business as a Complex Adaptive System
by Mark Schwartz

It might seem like a stretch to compare the business environment to a ­battle, but a set of common characteristics seems to exist between war, ICUs, business in the digital era, and IT. Each of these, including the business enterprise, is an example of a complex adaptive system (CAS)—a self-organizing system (a concept that draws from evolutionary biology) in which individuals pursue their own objectives and interact in complex, ever-changing ways. 

"I use to feel guilty when someone would ask me how do I get my leadership to understand DevOps if they refuse to accept it. My answer was, basically, you can’t. Now I can give them a copy of A Seat at the Table."

—John Willis, Co-Author The DevOps Handbook

About the Author

As an Enterprise Strategist for Amazon Web Services, Mark Schwartz uses his extensive CIO wisdom to advise the world’s largest companies on the obvious: time to move to the cloud, guys. As the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, he provoked the federal government into adopting Agile and DevOps practices. Mark speaks frequently on innovation, change leadership, bureaucratic implications of DevOps, and using Agile practices in low-trust environments. With a BS in computer science from Yale, a master’s in philosophy from Yale, and an MBA from Wharton, Mark is either an expert on the business value of IT or just confused and much poorer.

Mark is the author of The Art of Business Value, A Seat at the Table, and War and Peace and IT and the winner of a Computerworld Premier 100 award, an Amazon Elite 100 award, a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award, and a CIO Magazine CIO 100 award. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

If you’re a CIO, read this book. If you’re not a CIO but work closely with one, read this book.

—Sam Guckenheimer, Product Owner, Visual Studio Team Services, Microsoft

More Titles by Mark Schwartz

In the war for business supremacy,  business leaders of today can foster a space of collaboration and shared mission, a space that puts technologists and business people on the same team.

Through humor, a healthy dose of history and philosophy, and real-life examples from his days as a government bureaucrat, Schwartz shows IT leaders (and the whole of business) how to master the ways of the Monkey, the Razor, and the Sumo Wrestler to create a lean, learning, and enabling bureaucracy.

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