Undercover CIO: IT Belongs at the Table

Undercover CIO in Strategy April 27, 2019

You need leading processes powered by information and technology for your business to compete, innovate, and grow. So then, why isn’t your information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) team integrated within your decision-making process?

To start, let me define information systems/information technology (IS/IT), which consist of people, processes, machines, and information technology. The key word is information, and it is your most valuable commodity.

Regardless of what you call the team—it is ultimately responsible for driving value within your organization. The IS/IT team is responsible for more than just keeping the applications and infrastructure running, it’s the enabler responsible for deploying and ensuring the adoption of sustainable solutions and driving business objectives using the information it manages.

Who Are the Stewards of Your Data?

Data, which provides information, is the bloodline that runs through an intelligent enterprise. Too often it gets tangled up in a mess of who owns it, who maintains it, and more importantly, who decides how to do all of these things.

The simple answer is that the data is always meant to be used to drive the business forward. But each line of business (LOB) is accountable for the data tied to the processes they manage. That said, ultimately, it is your IT team that will maintain data across all LOBs. As information stewards, they will make sure that the data has currency and accuracy to it and that it aligns with business objects and strategy.

If you don’t have the right team facilitating data properly, you’re going to get garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). And what’s even more dangerous, it’s more like garbage in, gospel out. Anything that comes out of these tangled-up systems is viewed as gospel, which is even worse.

Invite IS/IT to the Table

Most conversations that take place in the C-suite involve counts. How are marketing campaigns performing? How many new products did engineering create? How much has manufacturing produced? How much has sales sold? But the only line of business that crosses over all other LOBs is the IS/IT team. This should be the most important count you track.

While all other LOBs focus on their own objectives and how they can run their processes efficiently, it’s IS/IT that keeps it all running smoothly. IS/IT implements the processes and provides the data needed to run an intelligent enterprise.

You need to bring IS/IT into the C-suite to be part of that conversation and overall business strategy early. There needs to be an opportunity for IT to influence decisions and establish itself as a colleague with all other LOBs.

Today’s CIO in a World of Change

Technology moves so fast and is essential to success. So, a chief information officer today needs to be able to change culture within an organization. Those individuals need to get people to change the way they’re doing things by building relationships and understanding business needs. The CIO should help guide other functions and business units to really think differently.

The true value the CIO brings to the table is the ability to prove that the investment you’ve made in change, transformation, and technology is providing value to the organization. A CIO isn’t creating an IS/IT strategy; they’re aligning it with the business strategy.

Most organizations today are starving for guidance and ideas. Today’s CIO needs to deliver both. They need to take your organization through what I like to call a journey management where they get everyone—the IS/IT team as well as all the people it supports—to understand the investments you’ve made, as well how to operate and sustain them over time. Last, but not least, they need to do this all with compliance, risk, and cybersecurity built into everything the company does.

CIO, Pull Up a Chair

Now you’ve made your presence known and you’ve established your value to the organization. It’s time to pull up a chair, because as someone once said to me, “if you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re on the menu.”

You’ll always be tasked with putting out fires and solving immediate needs. But if you’ve planned and aligned your IS/IT road map with the business strategy, and you provide input that goes beyond just your area of responsibility, then you’re now operating as a member of the team. Pull your chair in a little closer and get comfortable. The conversation and journey have just begun.

If you have a question and/or have other suggestions, please reach out to undercovercio@asug.com.

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