Thursday, August 20, 2015

Digital IT Tuning: How to Harness IT-Business Collaboration

People tend to have a high expectation of digital flow, very little patience with technology issues.

It is a thorny journey for IT to transform from a back-office function and cost center to a digital champion and value creator. What’s the reality of your IT organization? How do you get the non-IT stakeholders to recognize and support the notion that IT and Business are not separate or independent departments? How do you get all stakeholders (IT and non-IT) to encourage the notion that IT and business need to work together to be successful? How do you get non-IT stakeholders to focus on collaboration, transparency, respect, and providing clear leadership, scope, responsibility and performance metrics?

The CIO must be a partner with every aspect of the business: The supporting IT budgets must reflect business priorities and urgency. Too often IT claims success when they have delivered a technological solution, and the business responds 'so what.' Business cares more about the delivery of a viable business solution than the technology that supports it. Often IT fails to demonstrate value through the gathering and use of metrics long after the solution is deployed. IT budgeting is not done in a vacuum. The CIO's greatest challenge is to educate the business on the cost/benefit for each of their alternatives, and together they make the best-informed decisions they are capable of. Business units that want it all and want it now will do whatever they can to expedite new technologies to gain a competitive advantage in their respective markets. With cloud computing and web-based technologies readily available, it is easier than ever. If the internal IT department can't deliver the capabilities, the business will go outside. The CIO can embrace it by setting down rules and guidelines and working with the business to get it done correctly.

Educate non-IT professionals to get buy-in and acceptance of the pain of digital transformation: Business managers and professionals need to have a new way to look at perceived problems and to gain understanding about the direction of corporate IT departments, they can also help with buy-in and acceptance of the pain of transformation. One of the greatest challenges for the business is benefits realization from the investments they make. It is the responsibility of the business to take ownership of their investments and use it to its full capabilities. This becomes difficult as it often involves a disruptive change to the business, or reductions in force with significant impact on all aspects of the business production departments, all of which business leaders loath doing. In the cases involving IT investments, it is too easy to point the finger at the CIO and claim the new system doesn't work when the business leadership has not taken the time, nor made the effort to put the organizational changes into effect that it had agreed to when the new system was first envisioned and approved.

Well define the IT scope and refine the CIO's influence: Some IT gurus suggest to extend the role of CIOs to go beyond Information Technology to encompass all information and knowledge. While others suggest, the CIO is a misnomer as the CIO should handle the technology while business owners should handle the business processes and information. What are the ideal relationship between business and IT: competition, collaboration or “coorpetition”? Who are the better data steward? What are the most effective and efficient way to manage information, technology, knowledge and wisdom holistically? Does the CIO compete with the CFO, internal/external audit, or the board of directors all of which have compliance, governance, or oversight responsibilities, or do they work collaboratively and cross-functionally to achieve the outcomes of the organization? CIOs' broad influence is based on their vision, communication, and creativity to not only broadcast the messages but to make solid IT deliveries.

Organizations rely more and more on technology and the IT department has more and more to overcome to running at digital speed. People tend to have a high expectation of digital flow, very little patience with technology issues. Only through mutual understanding and cross-functional collaboration, business and IT can work as a whole to manage a smooth digital transformation, with an ultimate goal to build a high-intelligent and a highly mature digital organization.


Our firm conducted research earlier this year that shows the disconnect between IT and Business. According to our survey respondents, CIO’s and their counterparts within IT departments clearly have an uphill battle in building bridges and executing business-oriented solutions for their customers. Get a copy of the research report here.

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