In my prior post, Great Expectations for Corporate IT, I put forth the opinion that many CEOs don’t expect corporate IT to contribute to business growth, profitability, or marketplace dominance. The post ended with the question - how does an enlightened CEO demand more and an enlightened CIO contribute more to the success of the business? Addressing this issue begins with a change in mindset;
- Corporate Mindset – the view outside of IT that it can be strategic to the business
- IT Mindset – the view inside IT that they can and should accomplish big, impactful things
How do you help the rest of the business to view IT as a strategic contributor and not simply back office or overhead? Granted, IT is charged with keeping things running. While that’s important, how that’s accomplished is critical. If so much time and budget is absorbed by running in-place that it leaves too little available for business-driven initiatives, then IT has hamstrung itself into being a burden. Rationing out the resources remaining available or petitioning for budget increases is not going to win any supporters. IT has to change the way it delivers core services so that it can devote attention and talent to the business itself. That means being bold – playing that trumpet for all its worth.
Depending on the nature of the business and its customers, IT’s “strategic play” may be inward- or outward-facing. The critical factor is that IT is providing value that directly ties to top or bottom line growth. In the context of a nonprofit, the equivalent would be growth in funding or increasing the percentage of income spent on mission. Companies exist for one of two reasons – for the profit they generate or to serve a mission-based purpose. Being strategic, in its simplest form, means supporting the fundamental reason that the organization is in business.
Business executives should regard IT as an investment, not an expense, and should expect a return on that investment. Not all returns will be exciting and transformative, just as an investment in new manufacturing equipment or attendance at a trade show may not bring immediate returns. However, every investment carries with it a justification based on contribution to the business and the same should absolutely be true for IT investments.
Watch for the third and final post in this series where I’ll discuss approaches to putting these concepts into practice.
A tip of my hat to Betty Lou English, author of You Can't Be Timid With a Trumpet: Notes from the Orchestra, for such a wonderfully evocative title.