A strong first quarter can set your business up for success in the months ahead—but that takes careful planning. The challenge is more difficult in these early days of 2021, as leaders will likely face lingering challenges from the upheaval of 2020. Many tech leaders will be working to provide permanent solutions to stop-gap measures put in place because of the pandemic even as they strive to keep up in the ever-changing technology sector.
With so much at stake this year, it’s critical for tech leaders to plan carefully so they can hit the ground running in the first quarter. Below, 14 industry leaders from Forbes Technology Council share their advice to help tech leaders nail their Q1 tech goals.
1. Put your stakeholders first.
Truly commit to being partner- and customer-first. Many companies say this, but talk is cheap. This is the year that the rhetoric around this separates from reality and commitment, and commitment is what will drive your growth. – Matthew Zielinski, Lenovo
2. Reaffirm Your Mission And Vision
Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed our world, but now is the time to reaffirm your company’s mission and vision and ensure that your team members are still aligned. Ask yourself key questions, such as: “How can we work toward our goals as the pandemic continues to impact the world in 2021? What operational adjustments did we have to make this year that we need to continue or rethink in the new year?” – Gail Peace, Ludi, Inc.
3. Get involved in big-picture discussions.
A lot of companies underestimate the value that technology can bring to the business. The systems that run a company can make or break it, and the most important job of a CIO or CTO is to ensure you have a seat at the table where the overall strategy of the company is discussed. Every company, without exception, is moving to digital strategies, so talk to your peers and get involved in the big picture. – Mercedes Soria, Knightscope
4. Revisit and communicate organizational priorities.
Focus across the entire organization is particularly important during disruptive times when there are additional challenges and complexities. Leaders need to revisit priorities so they can be clearly communicated across teams. This needs to be informed by having a deep understanding of customer needs, taking stock of internal resources and capabilities, and looking out for employees’ health. – Jim Witham, GaN Systems
5. Hire the right people.
Don’t compromise on talent! Hiring the right people for the job is the best advice I can give to advance your business. Never make the mistake of hiring somebody who doesn’t have 100% of the skills you need or who doesn’t fit culturally. Hire “multipliers” who not only excel in their specific area of expertise but elevate the whole team by bringing in great drive and energy. – Eric Trabold, Nexkey, Inc.
6. Foster a culture of communication.
Reaching tech goals in Q1—or any other quarter—starts with the fundamentals: delivering impact for your customers with quick wins to build momentum. Fostering a culture that features fluid and constant communication, especially between and among product dev and customer teams, is essential for realizing that goal and for holding the entire organization to account as you start the year off right. – Brian Stafford, Diligent Corporation
7. Review your cybersecurity countermeasures.
Covid-19 has accelerated people’s comfort level with doing everything online, but it’s also made many industries more vulnerable to bad actors. For example, the mortgage industry saw title fraud rise more than 30% in Q3 alone. With remote work here to stay, the best day to ensure your company is secure is today. – Kiran Vattem, ServiceLink
8. Choose a ‘macro’ goal.
It is very easy to create straightforward goals based on where your trajectory is headed today, but it leaves little room for innovation. Picking an outlier as a future “macro” goal and putting a capacity plan in place just for that can give you an edge on innovating before your teams get mired in the present. – Devin Redmond, Theta Lake
9. Begin with the end in mind.
Start with your long-term strategy and work your way backward to arrive at what needs to happen in the new year. How can you best position your IT team and business to tackle the years ahead? If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that staying nimble is essential. – Jeffrey Ton, InterVision
10. Understand the value of ongoing industry shifts.
In this new world of working from home, it’s key to ensure a closer connection with your customers. Analytics, metrics, scalability, automation and safety are important ingredients that are accelerating shifts and priorities in technologies ranging from machine learning and artificial intelligence to the cloud. Understanding the intrinsic value of these technology moves and mapping them back to “why” justifies your strategy for 2021. – Michael Raggo, CloudKnox
11. Develop high-fidelity roadmaps for the first quarter.
Don’t spend much time planning every detail for the second half of the year; focus on developing roadmaps with a high degree of fidelity for Q1. Ensure your teams understand how their contributions add value, and define metrics that reduce subjectivity in tracking progress. Finally, don’t lose sight of what keeps the trains running: Ensure that tech debt and platform health is in your plans. – Pradeep Ittycheria, Kasasa
12. Look for cost savings and pursue digitization.
First, take what you learned in 2020 and apply it to your strategies for 2021. We all know 2021 is going to be very different from any previous year. Think in terms of digitalizing your company, and apply cost-reduction strategies to help decrease your overhead expenses. Apply those savings to your company’s growth in a more digitalized approach. – Elnaz Sarraf, ROYBI Robot
13. Set your team up for early, quick wins.
Set a few clearly achievable Q1 goals for your team. Early wins can unify and motivate a team, carrying them through the longer duration projects you may have planned for 2021. With remote workers, you lose the nonverbal clues in communication, so tone becomes important. Stay in contact and celebrate the wins as a group. – Ian Campbell, Nucleus Research
14. Study both your industry and targeted sectors.
Take the time to make some predictions about your industry and the sectors you are targeting in 2021. This will help you gain a clearer view of what your realistic Q1 tech goals should be. Sharing your ideas and vision with all departments in the business will help align them to work in harmony. – Martin Taylor, Content Guru