IT Must Have a Seat at the Strategic Table

March 31, 2017

IT Must Have a Seat at the Strategic Table

If you’re reading this blog, you already know that IT is very important to your business. Your business processes are connected to IT services and systems, making your day-to-day operations dependent on your tech. Business operations cannot continue without a strong and robust IT presence (or at least, they won’t go smoothly without it).

When the business changes (new business process, acquisitions/mergers, an expansion, etc.), IT is already involved at almost every step of the way during implementation; bringing in IT after the fact is usually too late and can be disastrous and costly. However, because of the vast array of technology capabilities today and the way that the IT landscape continues to change rapidly, IT must be involved in key strategic business decisions affecting the business from the start, not just brought in and informed after a decision has been made.

For example, if you are exploring an acquisition opportunity, you would never do so without working with your attorney and CPA right from the very beginning. However, rarely do businesses involve IT before such a transaction is executed. Rather, they’ll bring in their IT team after the fact to integrate the newly acquired entity. What is the risk of doing it this way? Actually, there are many risks: Systems may be incompatible and require significant changes to communicate, IT capabilities in the acquired entity may be severely lacking and need immediate attention and investment, new IT staff may need to be hired, data centers and hardware may need to be consolidated, and more! Technology due diligence is too critical of a step to overlook and leave to tactical tasks after the transaction.

So, if it is now clear that IT should be involved in the due diligence phase of a merger/acquisition, why not for a business process change as well?

The Challenge 

Due to the gap between the executive level and the IT team, IT does not usually want to be strategic. They don’t fully understand the business (which is not entirely their fault) and, therefore, do not believe they can add value. Plus, it is easy and safe to stay in their comfort zone of technology. The result is that most IT teams don’t actively add new business value — they just keep the status quo by implementing necessary tech when they are told to (tactical order-takers). This means that on the strategic side, the business goes it alone without technology input and expertise when making new strategic decisions.

IT has historically been viewed as a tactical function, and that is where most IT is comfortable: You provide the direction (what needs to be done and when), and the IT team will execute without asking questions. It is both easier and safer for IT to operate this way, but it actually hurts the business by increasing risk and disrupting or preventing needed change. Getting IT’s perspective from the start of any new business initiative will ensure you get the most out of your technology and maximize your chances of success for new undertakings, but how can you get your IT to the point where they are able to contribute at this level?

The Solution

Quite simply, business has to change the expectations of IT when it comes to understanding the business. IT must be able to speak the business’s language and consider the business results that are required for new goals and initiatives so they can then translate the business needs into the technical requirements and deliver on those requirements. Now, of course this doesn’t mean that the entire IT department should be brought into the boardroom whenever a major decision is being made. Rather, you should have at least a manager-level designee who can be part of the decision-making process and provide much needed IT perspective on potential business changes.

Keep in mind that this cannot be a one-sided effort: IT has to play their part, but leadership also has to commit to involving IT early and often in discussions about business changes that will be made or are under strong consideration. Check out this recent article for our top tips to get IT involved on a strategic level, and for IT to understand their broader role and value to the organization!

David Townsend

President and COO - David is a Business and technology leader who drives innovative change, and has an exceptional talent for connecting people, process, and technology to meet the demands of the business. Above all else he is committed to the success of the team, helping Awecomm optimize performance and deliver exceptional results.

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