Lessons in IT Transformation: Technology Expert to Business Leader by Larry Bonfante, is a widely popular book on IT executive leadership. Bonfante, in addition to his role as CIO at CIO at United States Tennis Association, Bonfante also provides executive coaching services through CIOBenchCoach.com. Lessons in IT Transformation is a very fast read and an enjoyable one as well. I do have a ‘but’ coming.
I will admit though this may be one of the more difficult book reviews I have done thus far. What made Lessons in IT Transformation so difficult is that I really have two opinions on the book. Both of them strong. Both of them opposing. Yet, both involve a recommendation to read the book.
Opinion #1: Lessons in IT
I have read quite a few books on IT management and leadership skills and I would put Lessons in IT Transformation as one of the top 5 books on developing and improving your leadership skills.
Bonfante did an incredibly thorough job of covering the leadership challenge faced by most IT professionals. Bonfante uses a lot of very personal insights and experiences to connect with his readers using his own journey as a leader.
His style is very authentic and comfortable on the page with the illustrations working nicely into the flow of the leadership lessons. That style, and roughly 190 pages, makes Lessons in IT Transformation an extremely fast read. Depending on how you like to read books, it is also the kind you can consume in an afternoon as you work through a pot of coffee as I did.
In trying to summarize Bonfante’s themes I could follow the flow of the book’s chapters starting with how good leaders develop their vision then on to how to establish a focus on creating value for the business. Then following with the chapters containing solid guidance on Communications, Relationship Management, Developing Human Capital, Leading the Process of Change and Partnering for Success.
But then you would not understand the degree to which these topics are connected to the human side of being a leader and the struggles to achieve balance between them and between the needs of the leader and the needs of those being lead.
You would also not get a sense that Larry Bonfante will frequently remind the reader that although he works to attend to the needs of his team, being an effective leader in the modern era doesn’t mean delivering results takes a back seat.
Lessons in IT Transformation is a wonderful book filled with food for the brain and the soul of any leader aspiring to be more effective. I also think most readers will find his advice and guidance to be very reflective of the modern workplace and in tune with the needs of the modern workforce.
Opinion #2: Nothing on Transformation or Business
This part is more difficult to write because I don’t want to sound overly critical nor do I want to confuse that I do think this is a worthwhile book to read. But I do read these books with a pencil in hand and an analytic eye. As a result, there are two things I take issue with in the book.
First, Lessons in IT Transformation has absolutely nothing to do with IT transformation. It is a great blueprint for personal growth as a leader. I might even allow that it is a good guide to personal transformation, but not IT Transformation. Even the chapter Leading the Process of Change is not about IT it is more about the leadership change and the cultural change that accompanies it.
Second, Larry Bonfante never really provides anything specific to the “business leader” that isn’t also a part of the technology leader. So he never provides the blueprint for making the transformation from technology expert to business leader. Instead he offers a non-specifc blueprint to leadership development.
Overall, I did enjoy the book as it is always good to recenter on the important principals of effective leadership. I know it is also good to remember that the needs of today’s workforce is changing and as leaders we must adapt and evolve.
But if you are looking for insights on transforming your IT department of developing your business leader side of being a CIO this is not the book for that.
Lessons in IT Transformation: Technology Expert to Business Leader is the kind of book CIO’s should buy in bulk to give to their management team and read through together because everyone can benefit from the leadership advice.