A common theme we hear in our discussions with business leaders is that of ensuring the IT department is supporting the business strategy. No matter the size of the company and its respective industry, IT is integral to the efficient operation of the company.
Survival in today’s complex business climate demands effective and decisive action. The organizations that remain competitive are the ones that are able to keep up with the challenges of the new economy; that is, they are capable of continuously adapting strategy, operations and IT investments. While business executives are confronted with new paradigms like cloud computing, big data and the rise of the mobile customer, they increasingly wonder how to fit IT into the equation.
In a nutshell, the challenge for CEO’s, CFO’s and CIO’s is how to best integrate technology into the daily business work flow.
An organization can successfully integrate IT strategy with business strategy if there is:
- A shared understanding of how IT applications, technologies and services will contribute to business objectives – today and in the future;
- A shared focus on where to disburse limited resources, time and money as well as the trade-offs the enterprise is prepared to make; and
- A credible working relationship between the IT organization and the rest of the business, as evidenced by reliable daily operations, responsive problem management and predictable, innovative solution delivery.
This can be achieved if some basic steps are taken.
It’s difficult to fix a problem if you are unsure of a couple of details:
• A gap (problem) exists
• Specifics of the problem
It’s quite all right for different departments to disagree or misunderstand one another; in fact, it’s normal. Operational groups see themselves as focused on the true core competency of the company and many of the corporate support organizations view their role to be critical to operational success. Both are completely accurate in this perspective, but the IT Department is just as critical for company success as any department in the company. Plus, IT is one of the few organizations that can help every organization in the company be more productive and successful.
Gaps are created when IT starts “taking care of business” in a vacuum. There are many IT initiatives that must take place to create a stable and supportable technology environment that are of no real interest outside of IT. However, it’s important to keep your company aware of what IT is doing.
Network upgrades, system installations, etc., take time and often have large expenses associated with them. For the most part, these projects are not something an operational manager or company executive can actually see and touch so they may not understand the real benefit in doing such projects. In other words, it’s just one of those expensive projects the IT department is always asking funding for.
Communication is a skill that will help reduce or eliminate the “IT-Operational Gap”.
As a consultant walking into a new company, we at Litcom have an advantage. We can ask anyone virtually any question to better understand what they are trying to do about their objectives, problems, and issues. No one is put into a defensive posture because we represent someone trying to develop an “objective” evaluation of the company’s IT situation.
Representatives of IT must do the same. They must ask internal clients what their needs are and whether the IT organization is focused on these issues.
We all have the ability to size up a situation and come up with a technology strategy to address that situation. But, the solutions we each develop for an issue can be very different. Both solutions may work to solve the issue, but one of these solutions may be totally inappropriate for the company at the time.
The only way to know this is to develop a specific IT plan, or strategy, that addresses the key technology issues identified in the company. The plan needs to identify the issues being addressed, the IT initiatives planned for execution including the priority, the benefits expected to achieve, resources required, and the cost of the plan.
Once completed, presenting the plan to the senior management team and asking for their validation in at least a couple of areas, is key. Questions to ask include:
• Are the company’s critical needs addressed?
• Are the IT initiatives prioritized appropriately?
• Do the IT initiatives agree with the plan and will they support it fully?
While company priorities often change, it is necessary to verify any IT initiative changes with those who approved the original plan. Otherwise, it will be a significant challenge (or impossible) to deliver both sets of priorities.
The “IT-Operational Gap” is always lurking in the background in most companies. It’s something everyone needs to be constantly aware of to keep it minimized. Periodically, it is important to go back to the operational managers and senior managers and ask how the IT organization is working for them. This doesn’t have to be a formal program. It may involve a walk down the hall to meet with people, a periodic lunch, or a brief corridor conversation about how the IT organization is doing relative to supporting their operation.
Understanding Your Options
It is important for executives to utilize an IT provider that can align their business needs with available technology. Often this process can be effectively facilitated by an experienced third party, such as Litcom. Any consulting organization privileged to help a company work through this process must:
• Be objective;
• Be willing to provide the organization with several options; and
• Have the capacity to discuss and review technology in your language.
Because there are so many options available to senior executives today, the strength of any technology is in how it is properly integrated. It is both important and necessary for an organization to develop a plan detailing how it plans to utilize varying technologies to support its operations.
Litcom’s professional team is equipped to provide comprehensive and efficient solutions for successfully integrating technology into your business. For further information, please contact us at: