As IT expands its reach into every facet of business, the CIO still struggles to align the IT organization's efforts with the business' strategy. This post by Malini Balakrishnan provides three tips to help the CIO fast-track alignment between both strategies and prove that IT has business strategies at the top of their list. The first tip is (not surprisingly), to communicate. Keep in mind, however, that the CIO isn't simply expressing what they plan to do and how they're going to do it: they need to speak in a way that business will understand, this being strategy and value. The CIO also must keep in mind that there is often an iron curtain around what happens in the IT department. Making sure that transparency is always present in conversations can help the CIO make bridges between business and IT.
Next, Balakrishnan suggests collaborating intelligently. When business has a problem, don't step away because it's out of the CIO realm or claim that technology will solve everything; instead, offer that the IT department could help in a specific way. This makes you seem like you aren't just throwing suggestions around without giving it much though, and it likewise helps the business think of IT as a strategic partner rather than a necessary expense. Finally, caring about the company's business is essential. This sounds a bit soft handed, but it's true: CIOs can easily forget to understand how their actions effect the bottom line, and keeping that in mind can be one of the most effective ways of aligning IT to business:
Spend a lot of time out in the locations where the rubber hits the road in your business instead of being sequestered at “Corporate.” Going “out there” and understanding the business gives you credibility. You may even surprise your non-IT colleagues by being more current in your knowledge of people, processes or conditions in the field than they are. One of the pitfalls that IT folks have traditionally fallen into is that we believe in technology so we think that it can solve a lot of problems. At the end of the day, technology is operated by people. So if you care, and you get into that space where you try to understand what's really going on at the people level, then you will be able to appreciate where they're coming from and suggest things that make sense to them. You'll also earn their respect.
The article ends with this clever caveat: alignment isn't just on the shoulders of IT: the CEO and other business stakeholders must also chip in to help. This means the CEO having meetings with the CIO to determine how much of the business they know, how to help them understand more, and pointing them in the direction of how IT can be the most beneficial with certain problems.