Monday, September 5, 2016

How can IT get More Respect from Business

Perspective is always in the eyes of the beholder.

Most IT organizations today are still getting stuck at a lower level of maturity and being portrayed as the back-office cost center only. IT does not get much respect because business partners don’t quite understand what is IT doing besides “keep the light on,” IT does not get much respect because IT leaders can’t advocate their organizations effectively, and a lot of the people associated with the IT function (including the CIO sometimes) are not good at asking questions. Many IT specialists feel that they should tell/assert when asking/probing is often much more influential. From both IT leadership and management perspectives, IT leaders need to look harder upon their organizations through multi-dimensional lenses, how to generate business value from IT, and continue to ask the tough question on how IT can shift from a cost center to a value-added business partner and get more respect from businesses?

Focus on problem-solving: Understand the business first and foremost. Without a C-level knowledge of the business goals and objectives, IT leaders cannot position your IT resources correctly. IT has to proactively work with the business, to ensure that the C level (and other non-IT executives) leadership is appropriately engaged, have the right resources, are paying close attention to customers and partners, and successful in relationship building to identify and co-solve business problems with priorities. Once the business problem has been defined, business and IT work collaboratively, the cross-functional, multi-disciplined, mutually respectful and sufficiently open-minded teams will be able to resolve it effortlessly. The executive leadership must laser focus on business objectives and the success should be defined by accomplishing a business goal, not just a theoretical solution or an IT challenge only.

Doing more with innovation via listening, respecting and responding to customers and adapt to changes: Sometimes, IT can become too reliant on what worked in the past and not challenging approach in the light of new situations and contexts. Due to the changing nature of technology and exponentially increasing information, the velocity of IT is more frequent than some other areas of the organization. It requires IT leaders to proactively listen to customers and do more with innovation. It requires IT leaders to constantly reappraise their skills, knowledge, and approach to organizational needs. Truly believe that the only way to produce valuable, sustainable and adaptable services and products is to have the capability to change. Such as how to differentiate your approach from the past; how to show why this new way offers value. Optimize business processes in order to be flexible and willing to adapt to change; for not being arrogant. Being customer-centric doesn’t mean you only respond to the customers’ request. IT resources must be aggressively proactive in making sure they are not just being seen as order takers, but solving real problems with better solutions. One of the real problems too often is that an IT resource feels that they have to say yes. What the business really needs is an IT group that can say no with good reasons, and offer alternative solutions that meet the goals.

Measure the right things and measure them right: In order to gain respect from business partners, IT needs to build a reputation as a value creator. In order to demonstrate IT value, organizations need to first know wherein lies the IT value. If you understand that up front by doing the right strategic questioning, you can later go back and ask if you achieve the value that had been set out to attain. The value itself is a multi-dimensional concept, a seamless customer experience, an optimal business service, a commercial value proposition, a social value system which deals with and provides context for varying interest and need. IT leaders should well prepare a set of questionnaires for both self-checking and collecting feedback from customers or business partners: (1) How does IT become strategic? and (2) How does IT deliver maximum value? (3) What are the well-selected performance indicators to measure multidimensional IT values and measure them cohesively? The level at which services are currently provided, or the baseline from which improvements can be measured, is crucial to the way in which IT performance will be assessed. Measure IT performance through the benchmark which can reflect IT value to the business, not only for the bottom line but also for top-line growth.

Perspective is always in the eyes of the beholder. Business and IT need to have mutual respect and need to focus more on being objective in approaches and allow for the ever-changing markets and environment. This requires a mind shift to allow for the element of ultimate control to be released in order for the change to take effect and allow for taking calculated risks to do more with innovation, and ultimately, build a solid reputation for IT to be a changing organization and strategic partner of the business.


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