Want to get more out of your IT group? Get them aligned to your business.
Sounds too easy, right? Yet most businesses are challenged now with how to get more out of IT; I have heard this repeatedly from many CEOs/CXOs and top-tier consulting firm partners. And it’s an interesting puzzle into people, personality types, and communication styles because IT wants to help the business, but, all too often, they’re at a loss as to “how”.
Here’s an example of what I mean by IT needing to be more closely aligned to the business.
Recently a senior IT guy avidly told me about an enhancement to the ITIL methodologies that he admired. He was sure that a more thorough implementation of ITIL would solve his problems with the business, who viewed his organization as “guys with wrenches”. Yet his IT management team, to a man, was at a loss with how to fix the relationship with the business stakeholders.
So, here are the 3 steps for you to use to start getting more out of your technology group – driving the business forward by aligning IT to the business.
1. Get a business-savvy leader to head up your IT organization who has a good business background combined with some hands-on and technology management experience. This is not an IT mechanic or IT operations role – it’s about bringing the business and technologies together.
This person should be a problem-solver, possess outstanding leadership and management skills, have a background of building dynamic, high-performing teams, and be a strong communicator. He (or she :)) can talk clearly in business terms with the business stakeholders – executives, management, line employees – and can talk with the techies in their tech lingo. This leader should possess some significant hands-on background in technologies, ideally, with special emphasis on business applications for your type of business.
2. Re-align your IT organization by having your IT business project leaders and business analysts, all of whom have some business experience, reporting on dotted-lines to key business units.
In other words, group your project leaders and business analysts (one or several, depending on the size of your firm) by functional areas of the business, such as sales/marketing, customer service, manufacturing, etc. Ideally the analysts work closely with programmers who focus on specific functional areas to carry out business-technology initiatives (BT).
Having them report on a dotted line, building a matrix-oriented organization, will support their being well immersed in that business area’s specific needs and goals – helping in bringing more value from IT to the business.
3. Organize your core IT operational services by IT operational functional area, reporting to a company-wide IT services leader under your CIO.
IT operational services would include end user computing (workstation provisioning/support and end user support), network/server operations, database backups, server and data center operations, and telecom/voice. Any outsourced service (e.g., you’ve outsourced your server/data center operations to a hosting vendor) would be managed by a specific IT vendor manager within this group.
While these steps don’t include process improvements, if your IT is organized right you’ll begin enjoying some results sooner than you’d expect.
When IT is well-aligned with the business, synergies result from improved communications and shared goals – all benefiting you.
Businesses with well-aligned IT teams get better results in terms of profitability from less churn, better understanding of business’ real needs, and, frequently, lower IT expense.