Communication, collaboration, and creativity are the keys to run IT as a better business partner.
Many IT organizations are at transformation journey, from an industrial model to digital leap; from a cost center to value-added; from 'T'-technology driven to 'I'-Information focus, from alignment to engagement. But more specifically, how shall IT leaders run IT as a better business partner?
Language influences perception: Without a clear strategy and a way to communicate it in the language of the business, CIOs will always have trouble getting even "aligned," not mention of reaching higher IT maturity level of proactively enabling and engaging with business, The key challenge is to find a way so that both sides, even though they speak different 'languages' can communicate effectively. Some IT organizations have been perceived as a service provider, that is based on the assumption that the language of finance is the closest thing to a universal language among the different functional types. Services are said to be one of the keys for aligning IT with corporate priorities for a number of different reasons; as it is easier to calculate TCO around services rather than at a resource or asset level, they improve demand and cost modeling, support more rigorous IT service investment analysis and set up the ability to do more service provisioning optimization. However, internal IT has struggled to do so because they are stuck at a cost-centre maturity level, from a financial management perspective, if they have even made it that far.
The partnership is of course built over time, experiments more creative common language to communicate: One has to be able to demonstrate in very tangible ways that IT understands business, and, fortunately, there are ways for doing so. Besides finance language, there is a different way to communicate, and that is the key to becoming a better business partner. Visual representations provide a neutral language that is not laden with technology terms and allow an effective conversation to happen between the two parties - in fact dramatically accelerates consensus. Analogies are also a powerful tool for communicating between technical IT professionals and non-technical business units. As “lost in translation” is the key issue to separate IT from the business, it is worth the effort to take better communication approaches and be both create and critical in enforcing business and IT collaboration.
It needs to create an alternative IT value index: It is comprising of value lenses such as strategic imperative, operational excellence, and business agility. The information that IT delivers is what gives executives, managers and general staff details that every employee needs to make the correct decisions in their position. In the end, most business leaders do not care about the technology. The CIO must learn to coach his/her language thinking into business first. Technology happens with his/her team but is almost never helpful in the executive boardroom. Triangulate value from different value lens in building a more comprehensive IT value proposition. There are tangible (cost saves, efficiency, etc.) and intangible (brand equity, sales enablement, etc.) components of value. Each organization has a set of capabilities that enable it to achieve successful outcomes, whether financial, brand or double bottom line, IT plays more significant role in orchestrating such unique set of business capabilities.
The CIO must position him or herself as a mentor to the business: The exponential growth of the “digital transformation” opportunities is creating new innovation opportunities for the business. The business must begin to see IT as an integral part of the business and not just as an enabler. The role of the CIO continues to evolve rapidly in the midst of the information or digital transformation and the accelerating changes in technology. While it is assumed that the core of a CIO is to manage the IT organization and systems that support ongoing business operations, CIOs must have a higher level of influence on how businesses change. CIOs must not preoccupy themselves with operational platforms and process improvements only, but this culture must be transformed into creativity, collaboration, and innovation. For CIOs to be invited into the boardroom, they need to speak to the business about the strategic imperative of organization. For that, he/she needs to very aware of what top people have in mind on the strategies/tactics binary and give them all required information. Technology must be left in the server room with the team. What the executive boardroom need is "how that server room" is going to assist transform that business.
Business and IT have to work together to achieve their goals: The CIO has to work with the senior executives to understand the business, the business drivers, long-term objectives, and strategy and then ensure that he/she is providing input to support these. This, in turn, will lead to the development of related IT strategies / initiatives. IT is not just part of the business; it is a critical, integral component of the business. The CIO sits in a unique seat of having the opportunity to see across the entire landscape of the business. Ultimately, what the CIO and IT, in general, must truly understand the business visions and goals. The method that is used must deliver the results that are consistent with the business values and goals.
Therefore, at the digital age, in order to become a better business partner, IT value-based management needs to be driven by concepts like collaborative value or collective advantage and multi-layer ROIs. IT and business have to speak the same language and communicate more creatively, and IT leaders must be both business strategist and technology visionary, always think in terms of the value-add to the business, and IT is the business.