There is no question that technology has changed business for the better. And as it has evolved, CIOs have responded by implementing new capabilities and processes across the enterprise, improving agility, focus and flexibility.
But the IT department’s job within a business isn’t always easy. CIOs are often pressured to show quick results from their IT investments, which isn’t always simple or even possible. As a result, CIOs are often forced to push systems into production without a chance to properly pause and ask the fundamental question: why are we doing this in the first place?
Many CIOs want to be more proactive in their day to day roles but as long as daily operations are motivated by only the drive for efficiency against the opportunity to find new solutions to problems, the role of CIO can find itself limited. This then leads to unfair accusations that the IT leader is ‘out of touch’ with the needs of the enterprise.
For too long IT has remained in a position of having to react to business needs rather than being able to anticipate them. So how can CIOs make sure that their IT systems are actually used to the best of their capabilities? And how can CIOs contribute value to the business?
Under pressure from management to reduce cost, IT departments can become siloed in an effort to compete with external providers. But the silo mentality will reduce efficiency in overall business operations and, to be effective, participation is crucial. And it is the responsibility of the leadership teams to create environments for better participation. Buy-in throughout the whole company is necessary in order for proactive plans to be adopted. CIOs can aid in this process by creating a unified vision for its role within the company, and working with different parts of the business to achieve common, overall goals. Many companies would greatly benefit from a more in-depth knowledge of what IT can actually bring to the table.
The belief that IT leaders do not need business acumen is a myth. Proactive IT departments anticipate what’s next, and understand how to improve services and increase revenue. They understand potential outcomes and plan accordingly. To do this, IT leaders must examine patterns, investigate root causes of recurring issues and define goals that have clear outcomes. Installing an IT-system and the occasional update simply isn’t the whole job. IT leaders must break out of the present-day thinking cycle and look towards upcoming business and technology needs.
As technology continues to evolve, the pressure on IT-departments will only increase. Companies depend on reliable IT infrastructures to maintain productivity. But it’s tricky to measure the true cost of an IT strategy that only justifies technical purchases when storage needs increase or equipment breaks down. Focussing attention only on keeping costs low and maintenance of existing systems is hardly a long-term strategy for IT-departments.
Instead, forward looking CIOs need to regularly evaluate system performance so that they can invest in systems intelligently, and ensure that the technology is aligned to the business’ priorities. Ultimately, a value added approach will answer the following questions: How could the current IT set-up support future business plans? Are the resources and capabilities available that are necessary for meeting strategic business objectives?
A proactive, sophisticated IT strategy will pay for itself. The onus is on the IT department to prove that this is worthwhile.