Today, technology has a major part to play in the success of almost every department of every business – but many organisations’ goals and technology decisions are far from aligned.
Often, executive teams see IT as an expense they need to manage rather than an important part of the business strategy that will help them achieve their goals.
Are your IT and executive teams on the same page? Here are three questions you can ask to find out.
Q1. Is my CIO involved in strategic planning?
When your leaders get together to update your business strategies and plan for future growth, are they inviting your CIO into the boardroom to participate? If the answer is “no”, you’re not alone. While most management teams involve Marketing, Sales, Logistics, and others in their planning, they often neglect to seek input from IT. Typically, the leadership team come up with a strategy, then take it to the CIO, asking them to put together a plan to make it happen.
This method skips a critical step – consulting IT during strategic planning. When IT is involved in the planning stage, they bring knowledge of the latest technology developments and suggestions on how your organisation can take advantage of them.
“Often, executive teams see IT as an expense they need to manage rather than an important part of the business strategy that will help them achieve their goals.”
Including your CIO in these discussions not only provides the leadership team with valuable insights on the tools and technologies they should be adopting, it also gives the CIO a greater understanding of the real requirements of the business and how different teams relate across the organisation. The end result is IT can provide proposals that more clearly drive your organisation towards its goals, and management can see the value in funding them.
Q2. Does your IT strategy relate to the business strategy?
Today, almost every corner of your business relies on technology, and each department’s IT demands are unique. Your IT needs to keep up, and increasingly, lead the way, and this requires a strategy that is in-line with the direction and goals of your business.
As technology advances at a rapid pace, it’s important for a strategy to show a clear ROI on every investment in this technology. There is often hesitation in investing in new solutions, especially if a significant capital outlay has already been made in legacy systems. But this thinking results in your business ending up with outdated technology and an IT department stuck in a rut instead of helping to grow your business.
A good sign there’s a problem with your IT department can be when people within the organisation engage in “Shadow IT“. This is where users or teams within the business go and sign up with a cloud based service without the IT department knowing about or controlling the activity. Examples of this might be signing up for cloud based services such as Dropbox or Salesforce. Shadow IT is generally a good sign that IT isn’t working well within the business, or that IT is perceived as too hard or too slow to deal with.
Q3. Is your executive team happy with your IT department?
This question is crucial – if alignment is there, the answer will be yes, if not, your leaders will probably feel they are not getting value from their IT investment.
If there is a misalignment problem, it’s critical to get to the reason why IT isn’t aligned. Start by determining if your IT team has a good understanding of your organisation’s strategy. Then go a level down and see if they understand the goals and the business functions that will bring this strategy to life.
When this understanding is there, they can match the right technology solutions to your current and future needs.
The next step is to review your current technology to determine if it aligns with your business functions. Then we suggest classifying two simple tiers:
- Standard – necessary for business functions
- Value-added – supports business goals.
This gives you a clear picture of where your current capability is and where the gaps lie, allowing a strategy to be formed and beginning to work on building these capabilities.
Aligning your business and IT strategies is a continual process. Your leaders should review IT against business strategy at least quarterly and keep a close eye on how technology is helping (or not helping!) your business to grow.
If there is a misalignment, in many cases, it can be helpful to bring in a third-party expert in as a consultant. They will take an objective view of the current situation and guide your organisation through the strategy and on-the-ground processes needed to successfully align your IT with your business.
It can be a challenge, but the value gained when your IT and management teams are working together will immediately bring better investment and more productive teams, and delivers a multitude of short and long-term gains to your business.
Over to You
Are you wondering how to bring your IT and business strategies into line? Or have you already begun the process and have some tips to share. We’d love to hear from you!
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