The New Superheroes: How CIOs Drive Organizational Transformation – People First

Gary Brantley
CIO at the City of Atlanta
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Speaker 1 (00:15):

You're listening to The TechTables Podcast, a weekly Q&A podcast dedicated to interviewing industry leaders from across the world, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, mixing it up each week with topics ranging from design and product innovation, to IOT and industry 4.0. Let's do this.

Joe Toste (00:34):

We're back for another week in the world of TechTables with me Joe Toste. I'd love to connect with you behind the scenes on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. There you can even message me questions for featured guests coming on the show. But today I'm super stoked. We're going to shift our focus to the public sector and lean on the experience and insight of Gary Brantley CIO at The City of Atlanta and author of The Art Of Organizational Transformation. Fantastic read, and a must-buy on Amazon if you're interested in organizational leadership and transformation. Huge thank you to Gary for taking time out of his busy day in the ATL to come on the show with me today, but that's quite enough for me. Without further ado I'm thrilled to welcome Gary Brantley, CIO at The City of Atlanta. Well, welcome to the show, Gary. I appreciate you coming on today.

Gary Brantley (01:15):

No problem. Thank you for having me.

Joe Toste (01:17):

Awesome. Well, let's kick off today with a quote from your book The Art Of Organizational Transformation. I not only read your book over the weekend, but I believe it's so good and worth internalizing a lot of the principles that you actually touch upon. I took a lot of notes before I think I was sharing them before, but one quote you said was, "Giving back to the city and state that it invested in me." That's on page 20. So this quote really caught my attention because someone invested in my life when I was in high school through an organization called Young Life and just radically changed who I am today and my family. And just a big piece of giving back to the community. I love working with kids and one of the areas I do that is actually coach. I've coached JV in freshmen basketball and ride the bench on the varsity team as an assistant.

Joe Toste (02:04):

So before we dive into tech and digital transformation with The City of Atlanta, tell the audience the importance of transforming people versus technology first.

Gary Brantley (02:14):

Yeah, that's always the tough part. I think you hear a lot about digital transformation and that's not really where you struggle at. I talked about this before, there was a CEO and actually a CEO I talked to a couple of days ago who just was struggling with the adoption around people. They had spent tons and tons of money, millions and millions of dollars for this big, huge digital transformation that they were going through with the organization. But the one thing that they did not spend time on is having the individuals within the organization adopt the digital transformation. That should have been done simultaneously and it wasn't done simultaneously. You can't put in the digital, all these new bells, whistles, procedures, policies, all these different bells and whistles and then forget about the people component. And one of the things that was really important for me is to kind of really explain where the heartache was in the whole transformation process. It wasn't the technology at all. It doesn't speak, it typically works well. If it doesn't is because somebody else is messing it up on the other end.

Gary Brantley (03:39):

And so when you really started to look at all of these places that I've been and we've kind of gone down this transformation role I spent 90% of my time with people. And it's the most important part of the whole journey, but it gets talked about the least especially when you start talking about technology and making these rapid changes and all of these different kind of innovative technologies that you want to put in place. And so it's really about people if you really want to get it done.

Joe Toste (04:17):

Yeah, now I really like that and that actually opens up chapter one in your book on culture, which I think is underrated and super important and I could spend a whole podcast episode just on culture and investing in people and the technology piece is probably the 10% piece. So the mayor of Atlanta, she said, now this is maybe a year and a half ago, but I really like what she said. She said, "Managing the city's technology infrastructure effectively is not only critical to our ability to deliver quality customer service to residents and businesses. But as we learned firsthand earlier in the year." I think it's referring to the security incident that happened. Yeah. "Our ability to run an efficient government." She was most impressed by your efforts to extend technology into underserved communities while also maximizing innovation within the workplace.

Joe Toste (05:08):

So coming into 2020, every CIO had a strategic plan and it just blew up. All of my clients, everyone I'm talking to, everyone has a plan and the hard and sad part is everyone works on their plan in October, they finish it in December and then the plan got blown up in February or March. So I know you're a huge Cleveland Browns fan, you're wearing the Cleveland Browns' hat right now. I'm going to guess you're a pretty big sports fan. I'm probably going to guess you know Mike Tyson too, he's got a great quote. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." A lot of CIOs got punched in the face.

Gary Brantley (05:43):

Yeah. We did.

Joe Toste (05:45):

So my question is, what do we need to understand about The City of Atlanta that we didn't need to understand pre-COVID on the technology and digital transformation side?

Gary Brantley (05:56):

Yeah. The City is very complex. Typically, when you walk into an organization, especially a private organization, there's a couple of areas that they focus on that they really want to do well in but with the City, it's very diverse. I mean, one minute we could be having a conversation about water, which is very essential. People don't really think about it until there's a water main break or their water shut off or just how much you use water for everything. But when you start to look at the airport, and Atlanta's airport is huge and most people have no idea that the airport is under the mayor of The City of Atlanta and that they we're responsible for it. So you have all of the nuances that go along with the airport.

Gary Brantley (06:50):

You have all of the nuances that go along with the judicial system. So you have courts, you have the public safety side of it with, of course, The Atlanta Police Department, along with 911, the EMT areas when you really start to look at emergency management and fire. And then we go to some of the basic areas that most people do know, public waste, you people talk about potholes on the streets so you have public works and you have the lighting within the city, all these things run on technology. A permitting from beginning to end, we've been really focusing on that from an innovation perspective. And we didn't even get to the core of why we're there and that's really to make sure that the other areas operate. You got finance, HR.

Gary Brantley (07:44):

Then you get inside to the regular kind of operational units that people are used to seeing, but then you add one other component to it, which is very political, which is a legislative body, which is city council. A whole another animal that you have to deal with and really be able to support. So, I mean, if you're really looking at everything, and that was just some of them, I believe it was like 27 different agencies and departments that are supporting parks and rec, you got all of the things that go along with that. People will say, "Well, what would you do in IT for parks and rec?" Oh, you would be surprised how all of that ties in. So it's just a very complex organization that you really have to learn how to navigate, and then you throw politics on top of it, and this is when you have The City of Atlanta.

Joe Toste (08:42):

Yeah. So very complex. So I'm trying to think about where to first unpack this. So first let's start with the airport. Really funny, that used to be my second home because I was traveling so much. The Delta Lounge in Atlanta at the airport, that's basically where I hung out. We might've even crossed. I had plenty of friends where I'd be texting and they're in the Atlanta Airport and it's so huge and we would miss each other. And one of the things I started to realize, I just shot a podcast episode with the Director at Thomson Reuter and that was on the public sector of the courts and justice system. And then preparing for your episode I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, my goodness, there is so many things that are under the purview." I don't even know how you really package and focus everything together. That wasn't actually a question I have, but the more I think about it I'm like, "Oh my goodness. This is incredible." I mean, that was just like pre-COVID.

Joe Toste (09:43):

Now, post-COVID, you've got the city council, you've got to figure out, "Hey, how do I get them on zoom or teams? How do they operate?" The court system is just insane. And what I learned is the ceremonial process of you go in-person to court. Now, I've never had to go to court. I mean, I was just blessed enough not to go to court and so I'm learning, I'm like, "How do you get all these people? How do you run a civil trial? How do you run a criminal trial? Judges are getting COVID, how do they remotely still manage everything? Parks and rec?" I don't even know what you would do in parks and rec. You'll have to maybe tell me offline, but there's just so, so much.

Joe Toste (10:25):

So basically, I've had a fine appreciation of CIOs, like yourself, in the public sector and kind of what you guys have to manage. It's really impressive. So this is going to lead me into, you've got a great story about going paperless. And I have a photo that I have in our notes so I'm going to put up on the website once our podcast goes live. So I used to work at a property management software company called Yardi Systems and I worked on the PAYscan team, which was all about reducing costs with paperless invoicing, all AP. And what made it so fascinating for me when I heard the paperless story, I forget what podcasts I was listening to that you were on talking about it, but it was so funny because I actually gave a presentation on going paperless and I used to train people so this is so funny.

Joe Toste (11:18):

And so I worked as like a technical account manager of the software company, it was like my first software job. So two years later I'm presenting and within this picture you can see there's another picture and they're just boxes of paper. So when I heard the story of what you did in a week and a half, it really stuck. I'm like, "This is so impressive. I couldn't get anyone in a year and a half to get off of paper." And in a week and a half, you made that transition. So walk us through day one to completion, including mindset, because that's just so huge, obviously, execution and delivery.

Gary Brantley (11:53):

Yeah. So first and foremost, right? You have to have, and we don't talk about them enough, but you have to have really good people, right? I'm not the one running around to all these different places and I think we have a very great team.

Joe Toste (12:12):

I mean, I met Diana. She's amazing. Shout out.

Gary Brantley (12:14):

Yeah. I mean, like that, right? So you see, when you have teammates like that working with you, it makes it a lot easier. But the other side of it is just the belief system that we could push and get things done. So all of this time we had this outrageous roadmap that had about 60 plus projects that I was like, "Hey, we're going to do this in a year." And when we start putting stuff down, everybody was like, "No way, oh, no way. There's no way." But we really focused on it and we got the majority of them done. Actually this past June 30th was our ending date for the most of it and our percentages were very, very high on the things that we got done.

Gary Brantley (13:03):

And one of the things that they started to see, I really believe over that time, is that they could turn things around really quick if you really started to focus. But the other side of it is, and I'll take you through this, this was an opportunity to really get things done fast in the city, because the majority of the time it goes through all of these different, it's going back to legal, then back to procurement, then up to the mayor's office, then back to city council, it's just all these different curves in order to get one thing through. And so this was an opportunity to say, "Hey, we're in a crisis. This sucks. People are suffering, but let's try to figure out how we can take advantage of what's going on technically. How we can take advantage technically about what's going on right now." And so we couldn't sign anything.

Gary Brantley (13:53):

If you looked at my office, it was full of paper, just paper that I had to sign and I have to look through a hundred pages just to find a signature line and then it was packed with all of this kind of fluff. I don't know if you've ever seen a legislative packet, but, I mean, before you can even get to what it is, you got to read all these attorney lines that are in it. And so we had an opportunity to say, "Hey, we can't get anything signed right now, unless we go completely digital." Like, "Nobody's going to be running up to the office, running back, coming back." It just was not going to work like that. And so everybody put their heads together. We were able to get all the different departments on board quickly because we knew things would suffer. And we couldn't have city services going dead, we couldn't have services for the community going dead. So we were able to get the contracts signed up, get everything worked out with DocuSign and get it implemented in about a week and a half and that's huge for the city.

Gary Brantley (14:55):

I don't always finish the thought when I say it, but I always say, just to have a conversation that resonates through the organization that we want to go paperless. Well, it took a year just for the conversation to permeate. And so that was the most exciting part of it was, "Hey, we can actually do this. See city? We can do this, ramp this up, still follow all the guidelines we need to when everybody gets out the way." So Joe, I haven't signed anything on paper and it's been a long time.

Joe Toste (15:32):

Let's go.

Gary Brantley (15:36):

And so now, I don't think anybody's going to want to do that. To tell you the truth, as we started to go forward I would say we have a couple of people who, and I'll say a couple, really two important people who sign. Everybody else is digital.

Joe Toste (15:56):

Yeah, no I love that. I don't want to throw any of my own clients under the bus, but they have sent me NDA documents back because I signed it electronically with my Apple pencil. "We need wet ink and we need you to fax this." I'm like, "We've got to have a conversation about the fax. It died the previous generation." No, I love it. I love that story, I love the story about going paperless and yeah, just the time efficiencies, oh my goodness. And really, I think the thing that stands out is DocuSign, I don't know, they've been around for seven years, it's like forever, right? But the belief that you could do something different, right? That's the hardest selling point, is that belief.

Gary Brantley (16:40):

Like the technology is not magical. Like you said, I mean, I'm sure when it came out it was, but at the end of the day, it's not the technology that was the biggest hurdle. It's back to the people and believing that you can actually transform your organization to go paperless. And so in a lot of these instances you have to take advantage of what's going on at the time. I also feel like that's a huge play for transformation because there'll be things that come up through that whole journey and you got to be ready to take advantage of it when it happens.

Joe Toste (17:13):

Yeah. 100%. But to piggyback off that there was a tweet that went around, you might've saw it, it kind of first took off during COVID. And so there's a picture that basically says, I'll throw it up there, "Who led the digital transformation of your company?" And it says, "A, CEO, B, CTO." You could even do a slash CIO, "C, COVID-19, and COVID-19 circled in red." So the phrase digital transformation, I know a lot of people use it, I know it's pretty exhausted at this point or it was exhausted because before COVID, I would say a hundred percent of everyone I talked to said, "Yeah, I have a digital transformation plan." COVID smacks them in the face then it's like, "Oh, our plan wasn't really a plan. It was a wish." Right? So I'm curious, what does digital transformation actually mean to you and your organization?

Gary Brantley (18:00):

Yeah. I think it's really about using transformative technologies to create efficiencies and innovation across your organization. I mean, it's as simple as that for me. You really want to be able to listen to the business and you really want to understand the business and the business needs. And then you want to go ahead and use technology to help create those operational efficiencies that they're looking for. Most of the time, and even if you have some old, outdated processes and old, outdated, I do believe process goes with it as well. I believe in government definitely, policy goes with it as well and so when you're looking at what that really means, you really have to understand your business. I can't transform a water organization digitally if I don't understand water.

Gary Brantley (18:54):

So that's what makes the city so complex because I have to spend time. This isn't like understanding HR or procurement, accounting and all those things in some cases you learn while you're in school so you have some reference of. I didn't take a water class in school, right? So I had to really understand what all of those things really meant at the basic levels to really be able to say, "Hey, these are areas in which we can really help transform this operation." And so I think that's what makes it up.

Joe Toste (19:31):

Yeah. No, I think that's really good. And I think what kind of exudes from you, so I'm sure that there's an IQ piece to you which is there and you have to have it, but I think even more powerful is that EQ piece, the emotional intelligence that you will bring, because you don't understand, I didn't take a water class either, you would have to go and learn and listen and actually have that emotional intelligence to understand and really go from sympathizing to empathizing and really start to dive into their world and understand what they need. To be honest, I have no idea where technology would fit in, in the water district or anything. I'd have to sit down, I'd have to figure out research, I'd go on Google and then really start to dive into that but I think the emotional intelligence that you bring is, I think the word is, not a bad way, but superior. I think you need that, I think you need it across the organization or stuff's just going to collapse.

Joe Toste (20:30):

Let's talk about how you build a hybrid cloud strategy around the business outcomes. So I heard a piece of this conversation on a snippet on YouTube, but I've wanted to fully tie it in. So how do you build a cloud strategy around the business outcomes that The City of Atlanta is looking at and what are the business outcomes that the city cares most about?

Gary Brantley (20:51):

I think most importantly, the... So we'll start with the latter piece, right? And then build on the latter question that you asked. I think the city really cares about its residents. I mean, it's there to serve and provide services for the residents. We have a very passionate and caring mayor. I think you've seen that nationally across many channels and so what you see is really how she is in most cases and so we spend a lot of time focusing on the underserved communities. You really want to be able to help people, right? We spend a lot of time on making sure that we have a strategy for our homeless population, but then you really want citizens to be able to access services. You want a great public safety system, right? Where the community confident in their ability to perform and their ability to protect and serve. You also want safety on transportation. We have a lot of fatalities across The City of Atlanta as it relates to fatalities and car accidents and bike accidents and scooter accidents and all those types of accidents. And you really want to provide the safest means of transportation and mode of transportation across the city that you can.

Gary Brantley (22:17):

And also the last piece is just from an operation operational efficiency standpoint, you want to have your stuff together, you want to be fiscally responsible. These are our tax dollars and you want to make sure that you're using them correctly and that you're hearing what your community and your residents want. So that's the first part of it and I got lost in that. If you could repeat again what the other question was.

Joe Toste (22:44):

Yeah. So really around building that hybrid cloud. So I know in the public sector, and I know specifically with The City of Atlanta when I was researching, there's a base case for you have public cloud, hybrid cloud, private. I'm just wondering, how do you kind of decide on what strategies the best, how do you kind of lead with that?

Gary Brantley (23:06):

That's a big area of focus. It seems like it could be kind of narrow, but it is really not. So one of the areas that we started with was this application rationalization project that we had, right? Where we took hundreds upon hundreds of applications that were in the city, we were looking at what was redundant, what was not, why do we have six or seven CRMs, right? So we weren't leveraging our buying power. Out of those seven CRMs, how many are cloud-based and how many are on-prem? How many have a roadmap for flexibility and innovation and how many don't? And so this was a really big task and one of the initiatives that I spoke about earlier, this was one of those initiatives. Is to really look at which applications we wanted to innovate on, which ones we wanted to kind of get rid of, and which ones we just had to tolerate, because we had so much wrapped up to them at the time and then you start to develop your strategy around your hybrid approach

Gary Brantley (24:13):

Because when you really start to collapse, you really look at your organization and you say, "Okay, even though we have seven CRMs within our organization, 70% are on this one platform. And this one platform, if you look at their future state and what they're looking at going forward, has everything mapped out on the direction that we want to go as an organization. Everything's there for security, everything is there for administrative functions. I mean, we're looking at your roadmap for innovation and how you're changing up your applications, even mobility, the virtual piece of it that we're talking about." And so then you say, "Okay, check mark, right? This is ready for a cloud approach. We're looking at it. Everything is in place. We have a security policies in place to run it."

Gary Brantley (25:05):

But then you go to other parts of the organization where you have that same kind of example going on, but it could be reversed. You could really say, "Hey, the time and effort to get." Well, let's talk about just 911 system, right? The time and effort that it would take to move that to the cloud right now, right? And then looking at the advantages of if the system is really cloud-ready, and not just that system, but systems across the U.S. How many, do we call them CAD systems? Are cloud-ready? And when you go to look at that and you take that into consideration, that becomes a part of your strategy. You say, "Probably 2%." And the 2% that are ready, aren't ready for prime time. They're not ready for Atlanta. They might be ready for a smaller environment, a city, but not Atlanta. So then you say, "This has to stay on-prem. So now I can't move that, but I'll put this on the roadmap maybe it comes up later."

Gary Brantley (26:10):

You also start to look at how many data centers do you have. We have a ton of data centers. I'm not even going to tell you how many, but we have a ton of data centers, right? And so with that what you also decide is, "How many of those are we going to start to collapse as well because our strategy has started to change?" And then the last piece you throw in is skillset. "How many employees do we have that are here that can run this?" So you really start to make a decision. "Are we going to become a true development shop in order to extend the life of some of these products? Or are we going to say, Hey, look, we're going to let somebody else handle this type of work." So when you start talking about the approach, those are all of the areas that you look at in order to come to a decision and then what you end up with is a hybrid approach around cloud and on-prem.

Joe Toste (27:04):

Yeah, that's really great and you're right. Most pieces might not be ready for prime time in Atlanta. I live in Santa Barbara and there's a hundred thousand people. There's not a hundred thousand people in Atlanta, got a couple of zeros under that. So let's talk about IT, public sector versus private sector. I'm curious what makes the public sector so fascinating to you, so appealing to you versus working in the private sector?

Gary Brantley (27:32):

Yeah. They're both appealing. Now, what I will say is this, early on when I started out in the private sector, most people don't know because of the age gap, but I worked for MCI WorldCom. And so that's where I started is there in the private sector. What I will is different is in a lot of cases you're driving for humanistic impact, like positive impact, improvement for your residents and your way of living and your life. I think a lot of times in the public, in the private sector, I'm sorry, especially when I was working, everything was working and everything was driven around money, sales, those things you don't hear. Now, you do hear it in some cases, because the one thing people forget is the city has a lot of areas that they collect revenue and for services. You collect revenue for water, parking, parking tickets, airport parking. I mean, it's so many, I could go down a list of where... You have sanitation services. So you're collecting revenue all across The City of Atlanta. So is a hybrid approach on that end, but I will say you are really focused on people.

Gary Brantley (28:58):

And in the private sector, you do have companies that focus on people but most importantly, it's about the bottom line. And I don't care what they say, how they try to make it seem right? They're looking at their numbers in the bottom line so they're looking at the sales, they're looking at their effectiveness across their customer base. And in a lot of organizations, especially the successful ones, they care about it. They care about community impact too. A lot of them donate, a lot of them give their time so you do have like a cross connection with that as well. I just think the difference is with the city, that's your focus a hundred percent of the time. I'm not sitting in meetings and they're saying, "Gary, how many sales do we have this week?" Or, "The engineering," I remember being at Goodyear with IBM and we were talking about defective tires and then the bottom line on defective tires from the engineering side of things. It was just completely different, the conversations are completely different.

Joe Toste (30:09):

Yeah. That's really, really great. I think most of the times, maybe 98% of the time, it's, "What are the results? What's the bottom line? What does it look like?" And then that public sector is kind of how you can really serve the people in that community. So I listened to your podcast with Logan, Logan Lyles on the QA Show. Shout out to my guy, Logan. I really like him from Sweet Fish Media. So if you're starting a podcast, definitely connect with Logan at Sweet Fish. He's the man. Also shout out to James Carbary who wrote Content-Based Networking. Have you read James's book by chance?

Gary Brantley (30:48):

No. It sounds like I need to that's a-

Joe Toste (30:50):

Oh, no. I'm going to send it to you. Don't buy it. I'm going to buy it. It's going to be in your gift box for all my podcast guests. So I'll send you a copy. It's great. This is basically the playbook right now for content-based networking. I had no idea who you were two weeks ago, zero clue, but I've known Logan. And then Logan's like, "Hey, you run this podcast, this technology podcast, let me connect you with Gary." And boom, boom, boom and now we're on the podcast, that's content-based networking right there. Also second shout out, this is the playbook right here. So Brian, I'm blanking on his last name, he's CIO of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Gary Brantley (31:26):

Brian Benn.

Joe Toste (31:26):

Yeah. So he makes a comment on your post. I just look at his profile I'm like, "Oh, he's got a great photo." I'm like, "He's got a great picture." I connect with him and I'm like, "Hey, do you want to come to the podcast?" He's like, "I'd love to come on the podcast." So I'm going to get him on the podcast next. Which is a reminder, I got to email, Brian.

Gary Brantley (31:43):

Cool. Shout out to Brian.

Joe Toste (31:44):

I'm on him next.

Gary Brantley (31:47):

And I just got a chance to really meet him over the last couple of months, man and he's such a great guy. You don't find too many people that you can say like, "These are just great guys. He's really, truly a great guy."

Joe Toste (31:59):

Now, that's always great to hear and actually in addition to his photo, he used the word apropos, which I haven't heard that word since I took the SAT or I saw that word since I took the SAT, maybe like the economist, but it doesn't get floated around that much since like college, basically. So I was like, "That's a really great word. I love that word." So you spoke about the 5-5-5 Principle. I try not to take too many questions from other episodes, but I just loved the 5-5-5 Principle, it was so easy. So what is the 5-5-5 Principle and talk about how you were implementing it with The City of Atlanta.

Gary Brantley (32:35):

Yeah. Of course, you know I don't make these things up. You steal them then you keep them, right?

Joe Toste (32:40):

I do it all the time.

Gary Brantley (32:43):

Yeah. You not only keep it, but the other thing is it was something that stuck with me. And it really focused you on what it is that you had to get done. When you first hear that you're like, "What in the world could you really get done in five days?" I mean, and I think when we were charting it out with my staff, I know that sometimes people hate when I say my staff, my team, right? Let me correct that, my team. We were out at a Chick-fil-A on a retreat and if you've ever been in there man, it's pretty amazing.

Joe Toste (33:17):

I love Chick-fil-A.

Gary Brantley (33:19):

Yeah. You got [inaudible 00:33:20] quarters. If you ever get a chance to take a tour, go ahead. I mean, you will be like trying to get hired there. But anyway, long story short, we were sitting and we were talking and we came up, we were discussing, "What could we get done in five days, five weeks and five months?" And the biggest struggle wasn't the five weeks and five months, the biggest struggle was five days. And we were like, "What could you get done in five days?" And so we started kind of putting things down. A lot of it was research-based, it's coming back with decisions, a lot of it was really making calls to who we needed to make calls to, having the proper meetings to really set the agenda forward for the goal. And I think what that taught us, especially the organization through our transformation efforts, is that every day counts. And if you have a focus, you can get a lot of things done in a day and we're not good enough to waste a day. I wanted that to be clear. We are nowhere near good enough to waste a day.

Gary Brantley (34:32):

And with what we had to experience and take on, the whole security incident, we had a short amount of time to make a huge impact and to really make sure that things were great for the city going forward. And what I mean by that is we didn't have a lot of time to sit down and write this long strategic plan. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Diana the other day and we were laughing about it. We were having a communications meeting call and we were talking about the strategic plan. I said, "Just throw them out the window." I said, "We'll just be on like 12-month roadmaps for this time, because the way things are going right now, I don't have months to sit down and draft a strategic plan that will probably be outdated, the way things are going, before the ink is even dry or the digital signature." How about we say that.

Gary Brantley (35:27):

But I'm just saying, it is now the mindset of having these long plans and some people will say, "Well, three years isn't a long plan." Well, right now I'm interested in short sprints and what do we need to complete right now and how do we need to finish this? So we'll keep using that on the things that we need to do. We'll repeat it. We'll say, "Hey, where we're at right now, what do we need to get done in five days, five weeks, and five months?" And then what we start to do is at the end of that we turn it into a roadmap. And we say, "But in 12 months, these are the things that we will expect to get done." And a lot of them could be future state-types of projects. It doesn't mean that it's a right-now thing. But you're looking right now and you're seeing something in the future that you want to take care of right now and that's what we're focusing on.

Joe Toste (36:21):

Yeah. I love that. I had a friend come to me who started this basically, a bread shop and he's like, "I didn't take anything in school, no classes in business. I need to come up with a business plan." And I was like, "Forget the business plan. You need customers. That's the business plan." So same thing, forget the strategic plan, we need to go execute and then, "Hey, look, we just made up our plan right now." I think a lot of time and effort and energy gets wasted, but it's when the rubber meets the road. When you really have to go out and make it happen, that's when you start to figure out how you're going to get it done. How you're going to move forward and I love the sprinting. Yeah. Your three-year plan died in a week when COVID was here. I mean, however much time you spend on that.

Gary Brantley (37:07):

[crosstalk 00:37:07] like that. I mean, it's pretty much true. Everybody's plan just blew up in front of them. There is no way you were following your plan. If someone says they were still following their strategic plan they just came from heaven. All right. That's what we're going to just say. This is the bottom line.

Joe Toste (37:26):

You made a joke on a podcast I was listened to, it was so funny. It had to do with the topic where you basically were like, "Oh yeah. If you had a pandemic in your strategic plan, then you're just better than me." And I was dying when you said that because I was like, "No one had a pandemic in their strategic plan. They're all liars if they said they did. No one had a pandemic."

Gary Brantley (37:47):

No, not at all. And a lot of the organizations that help you with these, I'm not going to say any, that help you with these plans, they didn't have it either. It wasn't in there for blocker. I'll leave it like no one really knew this was going to take place and at the scale that it took place was just... These are one in a lifetime things you're experiencing.

Joe Toste (38:12):

Yeah. A hundred percent. So lastly, before we hit what I call a 60 seconds "TechTables" segment, which is three questions in 60 seconds. But I always joke, for season two, I've got to change the language because no one ever gets it done in 60 seconds. So your book really reminded me of "How to Win Friends and Influence People," But for organization and IT leaders. When it comes to pushing your transformation journey through to decision makers with budget. They have their own agendas, you talked about the city council. This is hint, hint, Chapter 3, Politics, very real. What advice do you have for CIOs meeting with procurement, senior leadership, board members, you're obviously very experienced. What advice would you have for CIOs in the public sector?

Gary Brantley (38:56):

Yeah. I mean, most of what you're operating as an IT organization is on behalf of your business units. And I think the biggest sometimes question that you have to be able to answer is, especially from the budget side of things, this isn't really keeping IT from operating, that's the bit. This is how you operate and most business units don't really understand that a lot of times the things that we are supporting are services that they deliver. And so when you really start to have the conversations with them around service delivery and how the IT division is supporting that for you, it's really simple. It's not this magical process that you have to go through. You really just have to bring an understanding to the organizational units around how they're operating and how technology plays a huge part inside of that and then you'll start to see the budgets start to open up.

Gary Brantley (40:07):

Most C-suite leaders say, "Well, we gave you money." And when they say that there's thinking that they gave you money for you. And the conversation is really, "No, you gave me money for you." And so you're not understanding these areas that we're putting in for you are critical to your ability to operate. And once that starts to resonate, because they're not thinking about that every day, they have their own focus. I think that's where you really start to see yourself making a lot of headway around shaking loose a lot of areas that were kind of tied up before.

Joe Toste (40:50):

Yeah. And that's actually a huge growth leadership piece that I'm going through with my own company. When I wanted to launch the TechTables podcast I didn't realize, and I have a really great boss, and he was like, "I'd really need you to internalize How to Win Friends and Influence People, because I didn't realize that everybody wanted to touch the podcast. And I had to really kind of sit down and there were just a lot of people, marketing wanted a piece of it, we've got 7,000 people at our company. Everyone was like, "I want to come on the podcast. I have an input about this." And so I really had to listen, seek to understand first is like the big thing. And so I had to sit down and it was a really great lesson for me as far as being able to get people together, get people on board. And it was just a huge undertaking, especially when you're like, "Hey, I have the vision for this, but really I've got to figure out, Hey, what do these people care about and how can I put all that together?"

Gary Brantley (41:51):


Joe Toste (41:51):

Okay. 60 seconds TechTables podcast. Three questions, 60 seconds. I'm super excited about this. So number one, what do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your own personal transformation journey?

Gary Brantley (42:04):

Me personally, I just, consistency. I wish that I knew how consistent you really had to be in order to transform anything and I wish that I had known that.

Joe Toste (42:20):

That is a great one. Number two, how do you feel about LeBron James? So first off, I know you're wearing a Cleveland Indians or Browns hat, no Indians hat, totally match Browns, right?

Gary Brantley (42:31):


Joe Toste (42:32):


Gary Brantley (42:32):


Joe Toste (42:32):

Sorry. I've got so many sports in my head that I just scroll through ESPN and there's no baseball, no football, no basketball right now. But you're originally from Ohio. How do you feel about LeBron James?

Gary Brantley (42:45):

You know, I have to have a truthful moment here. All right.

Joe Toste (42:50):

This is great.

Gary Brantley (42:51):

I'm a huge Cavs fan. So I loved the Cavs before he set foot in a uniform, but the problem was I felt like he was going to help transform our organization, right? He did for a time and when he left I was upset I wanted him to fail, just like all of us, but I wasn't that upset. I remained a Cleveland fan. I didn't hate him, but I didn't want him to win and I had a lot of reasons for that. The second time he left, I didn't really care because he did what he said. And I think you saw a different feeling the second time. I felt like the first time he quit on us and he didn't stick it out and he came back and finished what he started and so I was good, but I... Listen, I knew Mark Price, Craig Ehlo, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, the whole John "Hot Rod" Williams. I'm a huge, from Tarrell Brandon on like type Cavs fan so it was good. He's gone, but I'm still rooting for him.

Joe Toste (43:59):

Okay. Yeah, him leaving, I think the delivery of the message was poor, but I think it's what needed to happen for him to experience a little bit of a different culture to win and then kind of bring that back to Cleveland.

Gary Brantley (44:19):

That's a good point. One of the things I always used to say is, and I think I talk about it in the book. I may not, but I'll have to add it if I, because I don't remember every single word. But I do know that seeing success and being in a winning culture, it matters because a lot of times when you're doing transformative efforts, a lot of the team that you're working with, they haven't really seen success. They don't know what it looks like. And so if you don't have that vision in your head, it's hard to get it done. And then you have to stick around long enough to get it done, right? Because that's the other piece that you got to navigate through, but yeah, you're right.

Joe Toste (45:07):

Did you watch the last dance at all?

Gary Brantley (45:09):

Yes I did.

Joe Toste (45:10):

Yeah. I really liked it. It was good. It was fun. I think the other piece that I was thinking about right there was with success. I mean, it's so personal too, because if you don't see what it's like to win with money, if you don't see what it's like to win in a lot of different areas, it's going to be a big struggle. And expectation, I think is a huge one, especially in organizations and in families, like I'm wearing a Stanford hat but I didn't go to Stanford, my wife did. Her expectation is, we have two kids, the expectation is just different. I'm like, "That's so interesting." Her expectation is like, "We're going to be great." And not like in like a tiger mom kind of way, but she's like, "Yeah, we're going to be great. And we're going to work hard and we're going to do our homework and it's not when it's done, but when it's done with excellence." And if you don't have that in the organization, you can often get lazy and slip.

Joe Toste (46:08):

But as far as LeBron, I think going there, getting together. The hardest one, I mean, seeing that win and then heartbreaking. I'm throwing this out here for the podcast. I'm a huge Golden State Warriors fan.

Gary Brantley (46:19):


Joe Toste (46:21):

I know it's painful.

Gary Brantley (46:23):

But you guys got a lot, you went and cheated and you got Kevin Duran and I knew we weren't going to win another one. So I'm glad we were able to get one in before... I mean, you got to think about this. You guys played a huge part in him leaving. Just really understand that because if Kevin Duran wasn't there and we won. So he might still be playing in a Cleveland uniform.

Joe Toste (46:50):

Yeah. I debated to bring my Steph Curry Jersey today, but I didn't want to be that guy. Okay. The last one. What's your top three personal development or leadership books that you'd recommend right now?

Gary Brantley (47:04):

I would say, Malcolm Gladwell's book on David and Goliath. I love that book. It really addresses the underdog and that's really been kind of what I've been clinging onto as I go through these journeys is really being that underdog to really slay a bunch of Goliaths. So I love that book. What You Do Is Who You Are, that's a really good book and I can't think of his name right now, but he's a big Silicon Valley investor. I can't think of what his name is, but I'll have to send it to you. And then the last book is, I'm reading a book on Leaders Asking Questions, and that book just constantly reminds me of the questions that I need to continue to answer. It just says, "Good leaders ask good questions and a lot of questions and aren't intimidated to continue to ask questions to get to what they really need to be able to understand." And so those are three books that are always books that I would recommend to anyone.

Joe Toste (48:16):

That's awesome. And where do you hang out? I know you hang out on LinkedIn. Actually, I'm not going to ask you where you're hanging out. I wrote this on my board. You've got the best Twitter handle, trendycio. That's right. I have that down on my whiteboard, trendycio. You are super trendy. I've seen you in suits. I like it. I resonate. I've got multiple pairs of glasses that are different colors.

Gary Brantley (48:37):

Yeah. I got some glasses too.

Joe Toste (48:40):

I love it. Okay. So Twitter and LinkedIn, they can find you there?

Gary Brantley (48:45):

Twitter and LinkedIn. Yeah.

Joe Toste (48:47):

Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on today, Gary. I appreciate it.

Gary Brantley (48:49):

Thanks for having me. This is fun.

Speaker 1 (48:52):

If you're interested in seeing what Nagarro, a high-end technology solutions company to some of the world's leading organizations, can do for your business, you can email Joe at joe.toste@nagarro.com, J-O-E.T-O-S-T-E@nagarro.com or message Joe on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, check out nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com.

Speaker 1 (49:16):

You've been listening to the TechTables Podcast. To make sure you never miss an episode subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you have an iPhone, we'd love for you to open the Apple Podcast App and legal review. Thank you so much for listening. To catch more TechTables Episodes, you can go to techtablespodcast.com. And to learn more about our sponsor, please visit nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. And, of course, you can find Joe Toste, your podcast host, on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. That's Joe Toste, T-O-S-T-E. Thanks for listening.

Joe Toste
Joe Toste
Host of TechTables Podcast

Host of TechTables 🎙- Conversations with Top Technology Leaders