A while back, we wrote that the biggest technology mistake a CEO can make is deferring technical decisions to a non-strategic role within the organization. Technology can’t just be focused on the tactical (keeping business operations afloat); it must be part of your long-term strategic plan for success as well. The failure of both the CEO and the IT team to recognize this creates a gap.
We feel it’s crucial to provide you, as an executive, with tips on how to close the IT gap, because not closing it is impacting all areas of the business: employee churn and morale, financials, profit margin, competitiveness, organizational efficiency and more! Closing the gap means better understanding between IT and executives, as well as integrating IT as a crucial part of your business strategic plan, which has a positive impact at every level within the company!
So, how can an executive board focused on business strategy and an IT group focused on tactical operations understand each other and the needs of the business? Here are our top five tips for both sides to work together and close that gap:
Top 5 Executive Tips
- Define and communicate goals: Your company’s vision, value, purpose, mission and goals/objectives for this year must be well-defined and communicated to your whole team frequently. For IT to understand their importance and define their own goals, they have to first know the business goals.
- Set expectations around business goals: Operational goals like SLAs are important for IT, but they shouldn’t be the only benchmarks used to measure IT’s performance. You should also set expectations that relate directly to your business goals by changing the language for IT to focus on productivity, ROI, market differentiation, or whatever they need to contribute to your overall success.
- Put IT under a strategic role: Have a member of your IT team be accountable and report to the CEO. This could be a CIO, strategic COO, or the Director or Manager of IT if your organization doesn’t have a full executive team. It’s crucial to ensure this person isn’t lost in tactical functions — thus, someone like the CFO or operations manager would be a bad fit for this role. These roles may have been able to provide IT accountability back when IT played a supporting role in the business, but with IT’s current crucial strategic importance, this is an outdated way of thinking and it will negatively impact the business.
- Be involved in the discussion: As a CEO, you simply cannot afford to pass off and delegate all the technology conversations. Actively participate in the conversations around the IT priorities and results that are needed for success. It will mean more coming from you, and you’ll have the chance for open conversation so that you can understand where IT is coming from and what they need to be successful.
- Believe and communicate that technology is vital to your success as a business: Finally, it’s vital that you truly believe how essential IT is to the success of your business. You need to lead by example — embrace it, live it, and communicate it, at all levels.
Top 5 IT Tips
- Seek to understand the business: To fully understand their role and what their priorities should be, IT has to comprehend the key aspects of success and competition in your industry. They can do this by asking lots of questions, attending a new sales call, spending a day shadowing an operations/client delivery role and much more.
- Recognize that the IT role can be strategic: IT may be used to their tactical role of helping the business function from behind the scenes. However, if IT is focused on how their services directly impact the business goals and results, their role becomes strategic.
- Role–play scenarios: IT has to provide solutions to the organization, but they can’t do that without understanding where the ultimate IT decision-makers are coming from. IT’s discussions with decision-makers when considering new initiatives need to revolve around the business impact of new additions rather than simply cost. For example, if you were to ask management if they want to implement two firewalls or just one to serve a redundant internet connection, the business will generally answer, “One” to save money. However, if you paint a picture of the impact of a second firewall and what business needs it will meet, management can then make a more informed and conscious decision.
- Get out of their comfort zone and refocus on what is important: The role of IT is about so much more than resolving support issues; a critical component of it is to share, communicate and elevate technology understanding through the solutions they provide. IT should not be closely guarding their “secrets,” but should seek to increase the overall understanding of technology within the organization. This will help the whole organization understand the IT team’s role and impact, in addition to better understanding the technology they directly and indirectly use every day.
- Find more time to focus on understanding the business: The rest of this list may seem out of reach for a busy IT team that is just struggling to maintain the status quo. However, IT can find the time to do these crucial tasks by approaching operational responsibilities with a mindset focused on streamlining, automating or eliminating. With better efficiency, IT will have more time to spend on understanding the business and the impact that IT could be having on the business goals.
Technology is essential to be successful today no matter what industry you’re in; it’s why Fortune writes that every company is a technology company. That’s why it can be a disaster when executives and IT teams don’t understand each other and are on radically different pages about the role of IT in the business. Integrating your IT and your business strategy is a must to be successful today, and following the tips above will ensure that IT and the organization as a whole understands the vital role of technology in achieving business goals. Start having these conversations today, before it’s too late!