3 Key Steps That the Bridge Gap Between IT and Business Goals
We’ve noticed an uncomfortable trend among CIOs we meet here on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Often these talented professionals appear to be C-Suite by title only, unnecessarily (and we think shortsightedly) excluded from the types of strategy discussions indicative of an executive with a title that begins with a capital “C.”
As you may be personally (and perhaps painfully) aware, not having a seat at the strategy table can lead to technology that isn’t aligned with business goals, limiting a company’s ability to perform (read: earn) at levels projected by the CEO and board. Worst yet, technology debt accumulation is often a nasty side effect, burdening the company with inefficiencies and high maintenance costs (not to mention negatively impacting the often already stretched technology team that has to support these systems and applications). This isn’t just a question of desiring more authority or input (happily most of the CIO’s we meet are “we” not “me” people), but treating key technologies as a strategic asset and not just an expense to be managed.
As business-focused technologists we believe it is important for CIO’s to be a part of the overall strategic process. Quite frankly we believe companies that can leverage technology as a strategic asset perform better.
Today we’d like to share with you 3 steps we have seen CIO’s take to help bridge that gap between technology and business goals and earn themselves a seat at the strategy table.
The first step is to inventory the application portfolio. This is not only your routers and switches but more importantly the systems and applications that support the business. For each technology it is valuable to understand its technical life cycle, limitations, capabilities and especially any technology debt that has been accumulated.
Start your portfolio assessment with these three questions:
- Which technologies are going out of support or are being sunset, such as databases or servers?
- Are your applications still working with modern browsers and infrastructure?
- Do you have any technology duplication or sprawl?
Though the reality is more involved than a simple checklist, in assessing your portfolio we shine a bright light on how stable and supportable our technology is and how well (or not) it is holding up.
The next step is to understand where the business is going – its wants, needs and desires. This means sitting with each of the business units to fully understand their world – especially their challenges and opportunities. At this point we are not talking technology yet, just business.
Start your conversations with each business area with these three questions:
- What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that you see?
- Who is your customer and what are their needs?
- What are the main applications that your group uses and what/where are the gaps?
Having in-depth (and consistent) conversations with business leaders will help you truly understand the importance of the strategic goals (as well as the critical tactical ones).
As a CIO who fully grasps your company’s needs and current technology capabilities, you hold a unique perspective and are more valuable to your team as you move to the last critical step of aligning technology with the corporate goals.
Start the alignment conversation with these three questions:
- What are the major initiatives needed to accomplish the strategic goals?
- Which initiatives can be helped with technology and what is the gap between the current and desired state?
- What are the risks, dependencies and swag costs?
Armed with this information we can now help the C-Suite visualize the roadmap and prioritize efforts. Adding value to this process has the ability to forever alter the impression of technology within the organization, likely earning you a permanent seat at the table.
Year-end is a great time to start down this path as current year performance and future opportunities are beginning to come into focus. For CIO’s looking to carve a niche within their organization, the three steps above represent a great jumping off point.
Sounds like a lot to do though, doesn’t it?
Some CIO’s choose to reach out to resources like Integress to guide them through this complex process. Doing so has a number of advantages, not the least of which is allowing you to continue tackling the mountain of tasks that define your typical day at the office. Additionally, an outside partner can help streamline the process, bringing in unique and valuable skill sets and perspectives that will help you and your company build for the long term.
What advice would you give to a CIO looking to earn a bigger role in the strategic process?