October 25, 2016
In my previous post, we laid out the foundation for what to consider when you are embarking on a technology transformation initiative specific to the pricing function. One of the typical challenges—and biggest risks—to a successful project is the friction between IT and the business side. Both are crucial to achieving your goals, but who should you blame when these initiatives fail?
Nowadays, a clear functional delineation and an increasing relevance of IT as a business enabler have widened the misalignment gap between the two functions. Even though it might sound cliché or exaggerated, stereotypes have been hindering most technology initiatives:
- Business executives have regarded IT as a socially awkward coven of introverts with zero or limited business knowledge.
- IT is still floored that tech-illiterate executives are actually able to power up their PCs—let alone recognize the importance of data integration, security, or scalability.
Regardless, business leaders have not been held accountable for the value realization of technology-driven projects and IT hasn’t been responsible for ensuring the new platforms are actually used to impact the bottom line.
The truth is, modern business leaders are better equipped to leverage technology, but IT leaders are still at a disadvantage when discussing market dynamics and product and service value, for instance.
So keeping this perspective in mind, how can you overcome the alignment gap when so many projects depend on IT-business alignment? You redefine IT’s role in the process.
The Integrated Role of IT in a Business-Led Initiative
Historically, IT-led projects invest an enormous amount of time and resources while returning intangible value in the eyes of business owners. To remedy this perception, IT must be integrated in the process to help them engage with the business leaders. Here’s a checklist to implement some best practices.
- Align IT and Business Agendas: IT and the rest of the business must be aligned on how technology initiatives are being used. Tight collaboration can lead to innovative uses for the technology that lead to increased value realization.
- Communicate Technological Needs: Too often, IT finds out their business partners are pursuing duplicative technologies, which put strains on integration requirements and scalability, among other things. Make sure everyone’s needs are met in an efficient, streamlined manner.
- Explain Risks from Both Sides: Business partners can underestimate the negative impacts of their projects, while IT can frequently be considered too cautious or skeptical. Explain the risks for both sides so no one is left in the dark.
- Rework the Budget: IT budgets are traditionally made without business-led projects included. IT will need to be on-hand for various stages in the solution lifecycle; incorporate that into your annual budget considerations.
- Rethink the Relationship: For IT to be involved in business-led projects, they must take a bigger role. They can be used as advisors or coaches to help keep the project running smoothly.
- Involve IT from the Beginning: Business leaders often conduct initial testing before going to IT with their project plans and ideas. Involve IT from the beginning to ensure they are able to prepare their resources to optimize project execution.
- Change the IT Mindset: Processes and policies are not enough to change behavior. CIOs must promote a new climate in IT that is risk tolerant, collaborative, adaptive, and guided by business value outcomes.
With these proactive steps, you have the chance to increase IT’s impact and the company’s ability to obtain full value from technological investments.