IT executives are rarely given a seat at the corporate table when strategic business decisions are considered. In most cases, IT is not viewed as a strategic business partner by internal leadership. We recently researched various companies’ IT environments, and after talking with more than 200 IT executives, we have determined three ways to engage IT as a strategic partner.
Establish a Governance Model
Companies have a history of overloading their IT department with implementing and supporting new technologies to support growth. How your IT department handles these new projects depends on their inclusion or exclusion from the corporate table.
Non-strategic IT executives react by acting as a project traffic cop when presented with project requests. They often say projects will have to wait until IT capacity becomes available. Leadership then considers IT the “no” police and executes projects around IT.
Strategic IT executives never say no to projects. The strategic IT organizations establish a clearly defined process for working with leadership to plan, cost, evaluate, approve, prioritize, execute, and complete projects. This process allows leadership to prioritize projects based on realistic costs and benefits. The governance model includes a virtual IT Steering Committee—leaders across the business who work together to manage this process on a regular basis.
Underneath the governance model are strong IT processes that define decision making and prioritization. For example, strategic IT creates a clearly defined intake process for demand. The intake process quickly determines whether a support request is an enhancement that should be treated as a new project or a quick fix. New projects are driven through the governance model while true support requests are addressed based on priority, but never ignored.
An effective governance model allows IT to work with leadership to ensure critical projects are executed on-time and within budget. The IT governance model should allow the business to better understand IT and more importantly, trust IT’s advice.
Create the Right Support Structure
IT organizations should be structured to balance support (keeping the lights on) and development (implementing new technologies) activities. Non-strategic IT tries to do it all in house and creates a large structure where neither are done well. Development projects become delayed and over budget, and the IT executives are dragged into day-to-day support issues.
Strategic IT starts with perfecting the support model where IT almost becomes invisible. This might start with moving certain applications to the cloud where system downtime is nearly eliminated, or considering a BYOD (bring your own device) model for phones. On-demand IT support technologies can also be implemented to make IT more responsive to support needs. Once the support model is perfected, IT executives can focus on the “net new” and grow into a strategic business partnership role.
Collaborate to Increase Efficiency
Collaboration is an overused term and is the gray area between “control” and “concede.” Non-strategic IT either concedes to all leadership’s demands or takes control-of-systems away from the business. Leadership either receives everything asked for, or IT seems to have protected the business from itself. Leadership then considers IT irrelevant and operates around IT.
Strategic IT leverages the governance model and support structure to clearly understand what drives revenue growth. For example, IT staff visit with operations personnel, shadow sales people, and talk to suppliers and customers to determine how systems are supporting revenue generating activities. IT and the business work together to better leverage existing systems to support day-to-day operations.
Tactical business issues are proactively resolved, and new solutions are identified to plug gaps and increase efficiency. Collaboration between IT and leadership ensures the portfolio of IT systems provide maximum value to the business.
Trenegy is a non-traditional consulting firm helping IT organizations become strategic business partners. Trenegy works with IT to establish the right governance model and support structure to ensure collaboration. Our clients obtain immediate benefit to the bottom line as businesses take better advantage of the tools provided by IT. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.