There was a time that IT services played little more than a supporting role in the overall success of an enterprise. That’s no longer the case for today’s digitally transformed businesses. At this point, it’s fair to say that IT has become central to almost every company in every industry. With that shift, though, there has also been some drift away from the core purpose of IT within many organizations.
What has happened is that the integration of technology into the modern economy has often created a sense that IT is an end unto itself, rather than a means of achieving business goals. That has led to a measurable disconnect in how technology staff and management see their work in relation to their company’s overall strategy. According to research firm Axelos, even though some 70% of information technology service management (ITSM) professionals report having a clear understanding of their company’s strategy, only 41% believe that the work they do is aligned with that strategy.
That lack of coordination can prove costly to any business if allowed to continue unchecked. The job of correcting it lands in the middle of the C-suite – right on the CIO’s desk. Here’s what they need to do.
Strive to inform
The first goal of any CIO when seeking to create better alignment between corporate strategy and IT initiatives should be to take on the role of chief technology educator for the executive level. After all, decision-makers can’t evaluate what they can’t understand. In order to make sure that IT is delivering value and continuing the furtherance of strategic goals, the CIO must work to help executives understand the technology that’s in use (and what’s coming next), as well as what the limitations of that technology are. This top-down educational approach will allow the CIO to shift from the traditional reactive position (responding to organizational priorities as they arise) to a proactive stance where they can help decision-makers formulate strategies based on a clear understanding of what is possible.
Empower the organization
Beyond the C-suite, CIOs must realign their organizations back towards the support role that was once central to the IT mission. That doesn’t mean abandoning their new role as a driver of innovation within the business – far from it – but rather reflects the realization that technology works best when the entire organization is empowered to use it. Today’s workforce tends to be more technically adept to begin with, so the IT support role can still coexist with other initiatives. Sarah Lahav, CEO of ITSM leader SysAid Technologies, makes this point:
“Empowering end users is the main purpose of SysAid’s help desk platform. We’ve put quite a bit of effort into the self-service functions of our software because we know that modern users are better informed and more willing to seek solutions rather than simply deferring to IT support staff.”
Choose the right metrics
CIOs must realize that aligning IT with business goals and creating the underlying organizational structure and strategy to support those goals is meaningless if the results aren’t appropriately measured. While most CIOs know that metrics to gauge process effectiveness are crucial, they may not be measuring the right things. The reason has to do with yet another holdover from the days when IT was a more self-contained and narrowly focused endeavour.
Back then, costs were king. That meant that efficiency metrics were all that mattered. The typical goal was to prioritize lower budgets, often at the expense of agility and quick turnaround times. Those may no longer be the priorities of the modern digital enterprise. To get it right, CIOs need to bring together key stakeholders from all relevant business units to gain a consensus on the outcomes they expect IT to provide. These outcomes are what must be measured, and agreeing on specific measurable KPIs (rather than focusing on cost) is the new paradigm for the modern IT organization.
An ongoing evolution
It’s critical to remember that maintaining close alignment between IT and business goals will always be a work in progress. Making educational efforts at the top, empowering employees at all levels, and measuring the desired outcomes will only serve to point the organization in the right direction, not keep it there. As modern digital transformation accelerates through the 21st century, the addition of new technologies and priorities will continue to shift the role of IT in the enterprise in ways that cannot be forecast. To stay focused, CIOs must continue to adapt their long-term visions to what’s now, what’s new, and what’s next.
To learn more about the role of IT in digital transformation, check out Striking The Right Balance: Digital Transformation Versus IT-Led Transformation.