Focus on the Mission

By Clint Carter, President/CEO of Advanced Data Spectrum

Early in my career, I had a passion for not just technology, but operational enablement using technology and positively impacting an organization and its mission. I realized that purely focusing on technology is limiting as a leader in the technology space. That mindset change also dramatically shifts the way you interact with your customer in very positive and meaningful ways.

When I was promoted to my first leadership role as a young lieutenant in the Air Force providing IT management for our squadron, I quickly saw the extreme of not focusing on the operational mission in delivering technology to your customers. My predecessor had run the IT shop with tight controls on workstation and server configurations and required squadron personnel, even senior to him, to prove that they really needed the IT resources they requested before taking any action. Needless to say, the squadron would try to work around him whenever they could, installing software themselves (sometimes exceeding our purchased copies) and going through other channels to avoid dealing with him just to get what they needed to get their job done.

Our squadron’s mission was focused on flight and laboratory testing of critical aircraft systems. Not stated, but implied, was the fact that the lives of the crew flying on that aircraft depended on our success. Technology was an essential tool to accomplish that mission. I realized that my job was to help the squadron achieve the mission, the REAL mission, not just to manage the squadron’s IT resources and enforce IT rules, such as licensing. I needed to focus on the bigger picture – the squadron mission – and not be constrained by a limited view of the role of IT.

When I took over management of the IT department, I knew that communication, collaboration, and alignment with the rest of the squadron would make the IT department a contributing part of the squadron successfully achieving our mission. I spoke with the different department heads and their teams to ensure that we were aligned with their needs. I shared our department’s commitment to help them get their job done. We streamlined the IT help desk request process. We allowed certain departments some flexibility in installing their own software as long as they reported the installations to us for licensing compliance. We focused on helping our squadron accomplish the mission using technology. We were better able to align with their goals and provide technology options to meet them. I was included in senior staff discussions about operational issues and contributed to the discussion at both an operational and technology level. The change created a dramatic improvement across the department and the rest of the squadron. The alignment meant we were equal members of the team. The attempts to obstruct or avoid IT compliance stopped.

That experience helped me grow as a leader and shaped my future as an entrepreneur in a technology business. I started Advanced Data Spectrum 21 years ago and established our company’s core value of being Stakeholders, committed to our customers’ success. The core value helps our team remember that our mission is not delivering technology solutions, but to help our customers achieve THEIR mission. The WAY we do that is to help them solve their operational problems and improve their operations using our technology solutions. I believe that philosophy has given our team a customer focus and a mission bigger than meeting the next deadline.

We have been successful in our mission through our products. We deliver operational enablement through the way that our automated data capture product, Advanced Capture Spectrum, works within an organization. We streamline getting data from paper and electronic documents by automatically capturing typed and handwritten text from those documents using optical character recognition (OCR), intelligent character recognition (ICR), and field-level capture techniques. The captured data is automatically updated into key business systems. Rather than require an IT level person to constantly tweak and manage the system and configuration in order to capture new documents that come in that might not fit the current rules, Advanced Capture Spectrum is designed from the ground up to be a business solution used and managed by business users. This approach helps to eliminate IT staff costs and bottlenecks to the process, which become hidden costs in using the technology. We feel that the operational department understands the documents and process best and is best positioned to manage the daily use of the technology within the department. Using a wizard-based approach, the operational team member can review documents that do not fit the current capture rules and train the system to capture the data from the document. The entire process is owned by the operational department as it always has been. The technology simply helps them do their job more efficiently.

As the leader of our company, the mission keeps me energized to look for new ways to meet the changing goals and needs of our customers, to find opportunities for our company to expand our technology solution offerings, and to grow our company. We started over 21 years ago as a one-man consulting company. Today, we are a multi-national data and document solution company helping our customers transform their data and documents into actionable information to drive business success and profits.

I find that my focus on our mission and our customer’s mission continues to develop me professionally. I get to have conversations with business leaders – company executives, department heads, and innovators – about their mission – what they do, how they do business, what challenges they face, and how it impacts their bottom line. We discuss options to address those areas of the business, and we align with their company mission and goals. We work on solving the business problem, not just delivering technology. In the process, I get to share my knowledge and experience with our customers and broaden their perspective on the business challenges they face, but I learn and grow as well, because my business knowledge, experience, and perspective is also expanded. Moreover, I get to share in the personal satisfaction of helping them accomplish their mission and being a part of something more than myself or my company.

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