SDI Employee Spotlight – Michael Stein

Get ready to meet a true industry veteran and an integral part of the SDI Team—Michael Stein, an exceptional Project Manager with SDI. Michael’s journey is a testament to his unwavering commitment to excellence and his ability to adapt to the ever-evolving IT industry landscape. In our October edition of our Employee Spotlight series, we’re diving into Michael’s impressive career, current role, and invaluable insights into IT strategic planning. 

How did you get your start here at SDI?  

I was introduced to one of the NexLevel leaders by a mutual colleague in 2013. I worked for him at NexLevel Information Technology in California when SDI Presence acquired NexLevel in November 2017.  

What is your current role? 

As a Managing Consultant, I work with our clients to develop realistic, actionable, and forward-looking IT strategic plans and assist them in establishing IT governance processes to respond to new challenges and opportunities effectively. 

What is your current focus? 

I often work on multiple engagements. Currently, I’m working with a particular district in northern California and a city in southern California to develop IT strategic plans. I also work with the Practice Lead for IT strategic planning to train other consultants and continually improve our methodologies and toolsets. 

What significant changes have you seen in the IT industry since you started? 

We talk about this with our clients quite often. Even before the COVID pandemic in 2019, it was evident that the emergence of digital services (“e”) radically transformed the relationship between service providers and their customers. Governments began rapidly moving to a model where community members used the internet, often with mobile devices, to access government services and information. Agencies increasingly depended on automation to meet community expectations, and employees worked remotely rather than on-site. When I entered the IT profession in 1974, information technology was “nice to have”—today, it has become necessary.    

What have been your most significant accomplishments on your team?  

The only accomplishment that counts in the long term is delivering success for our clients. While developing an IT strategic plan for a client gives them an asset, changing organizational behaviors and enabling them to embrace IT strategic planning as a continuing process rather than an event is the ultimate achievement.  

How do you handle unexpected challenges or setbacks during project execution, and can you share an example of how you successfully resolved such a situation? 

Although our engagement planning process is extensive, and we provide experienced consultants with well-proven methodologies and toolsets, we nonetheless sometimes encounter unexpected challenges and setbacks. Often, these relate to client expectations that are inconsistent with the requirements of the statement of work, changes in client staff, conflicts between client personnel, or the delivery of services by a subcontractor. A situation that comes to mind occurred in a city for whom we were developing an IT strategic plan when the City Manager, one of the key sponsors of the planning effort, resigned. With his resignation, the city had significant doubt about whether to proceed with the project or to hold off pending the recruitment and hiring of a new City Manager. 

The first thing to remember in these situations, regardless of your role and responsibilities, is that you are never alone. The second thing, with apologies to the late Douglas Adams and the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” is “Don’t Panic!” I reached out to my manager and to other members of our consulting team to help me better understand the ramifications of delaying the project for the city—our internal resource commitments, potential responses to the situation, and how best to proceed. Ultimately, my manager and I worked with the Acting City Manager and the Assistant City Manager. With their strong support, the project was completed on time and with the full support of the city’s management team, and ended up being one of our most successful planning efforts.    

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? 

On the humorous side, I was told early in my career that “the first rule in the consulting business is never to get stuck in a client’s elevator on your own time.” Still, the most relevant piece of professional advice I’ve come across is that “the objective of consulting is not to predict the future, but to enable client organizations to thrive in a future that cannot be predicted.” 

How do you describe what you do to family and friends for a living? 

My “elevator speech” is that I work with organizations to help them strategically manage their investments in information technology and increase the value they receive. That’s just about all they want to hear in any event!    

How do you wind down after work? 

I have hobbies and spend time with family and friends, plus there always seems to be something that needs to be done around the house, and I like to ride my bicycle. 

What’s something that has surprised you about your chosen career path? 

All the professional changes that I have gone through in almost five decades of working in IT. I started in IT after grad school as an analyst, was diverted to become an application software developer, and had various lane changes along the way. Including serving as an IT executive for a court system in California, a Solutions Director for a systems integrator, and an advisor to the CEO of a software company, all before coming to SDI. I want to think that through it all, I’m still the same guy who was a football player and fraternity rush chairman. And yes, “Animal House” is one of my favorite movies. 

Ready to explore the world of IT strategic planning and learn from the seasoned expertise of professionals like Michael Stein?—Contact SDI today! 


We celebrate diversity; the views expressed above are those of the interviewed individual, not SDI.