As a CIO are you and your organization prepared to succeed in 2013? What will you do differently than last year? What strategies should you focus on to ensure success in 2013? You need to be prepared because IT organizations are now positioned to dramatically change the dynamics of the business enterprise. If you employ the right strategies you can impact business outcomes and gain a seat at the executive table. Be forewarned. If you are not prepared your successor will have a great opportunity.
A Little History
The traditional business model focused on scale to achieve market share, but has now evolved into a model based on reach. The model based on scale focused on companies gaining market share using print, media, and television advertising to build brand and brick and mortar factories to supply products. The model based upon reach is all about leveraging information technology for strategic advantage.
The advent of the internet opened up a whole new arena that changed the paradigm of the business enterprise. Consumers now connect to your company through a digital pathway to search, and order, products and services. Your suppliers and distribution partners are now alliance partners and integrate into your enterprise value chain. The name of the game today is about how to reach your customers and alliance partners leveraging information technology to achieve business outcomes. If you don’t recognize this trend and act appropriately your business could be overtaken very quickly.
Look at Brit Morin who started britcvo.com and has 2 1/2 million customers in less than a year. Morin provides tips on arts and crafts as well as recipes. She also has a social wedding tool that the bride and groom can configure to plan the event. Her goal is to teach people innovative ideas for simple, beautiful and creative living.1
The digital age has even entered professional football. The San Francisco 49ers team president and co-owner, Gideon Yu, is a former Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo executive. He has filled executive slots from Silicon Valley who focus on leveraging information technology on areas such as “streamlining the draft scouting process” and “finding out how fans in different parts of the stadium can organize chants with their smart phones.” 2
We have all heard the expression “Business runs on IT.” Think about how true this statement is. In your company almost every business process which involves the development, creation, production, and shipping of products and services, across the entire value chain, is enabled by information technology. And the same holds true in our personal lives. We use mobile phones to communicate, tablets to read books, and a slew of other electronic devices for entertainment. Automobiles are even controlled by information technology. Technology is all around us in everything we do. The days of the information technology organization viewed as a support department or cost center are gone. Today your information technology organization is an integral part of the business, and you, as the CIO who leads the organization, needs to work with the CEO and other C-level executives to develop, monitor, and maintain the business direction of the company. In short, you needs to become more strategic if you want a seat at the executive table and become a member of the executive leadership team.
In today’s global marketplace, CEOs are looking to the CIO to partner with business executives to develop business solutions in the form of products and services. They are looking for a partnership that results in increased revenue- sales through existing markets as well as new markets-while optimizing costs. So although technology experience is an important competency for the CIO, you need to add business experience coupled with the ability to collaboratively partner with the business to develop strategic solutions. This is how you will achieve business outcomes, a primary requirement for the new role of the Strategic CIO.
The age of digital information is upon us and it is the engine that drives the business enterprise. You need to be prepared. So what are the strategies you can employ to be successful in 2013.
Four Strategies to Achieve Success
Following are four strategies you can initiate to become a strategic CIO and collaborate with your C-level executives to achieve business outcomes.
1. Understand Business and Competitive Environment
Every CIO wants to effectively partner with the business. But to “walk the talk” you need to understand the business environment, opportunities and challenges, and also enable business processes that support the enterprise. Meet with you C-level peers and business unit executives to learn about the business. It will pay handsome dividends in the future.
– Business Environment: You need to gain an understanding as well as the ability to articulate the business enterprise strategy, objectives, culture, and internal environment. You will also need to identify the competitive challenges and opportunities. Understanding the business is fundamental to align IT services to the needs of the business.
-Opportunity and Challenges: As the CIO you need to understand value of your company’s products and services as well as the challenges that impact enterprise growth. If you don’t grasp the value you will never succeed and participating with your business peers in working together to identify market opportunities.
-Enabling Business Processes: Your organization provides the technology for all the business solutions used by business units to create the products and services sold to your customers. You need to understand the process flows, associated information points, and opportunities to improve value. Identify the commodity and business services in priority sequence so you can focus on delivering these services exceptionally well.
2. Build a Business Oriented IT Team (Upskill personnel in IT and Business Units: walk in the shoes of ….)
Your IT personnel need to understand and speak the language of business. Too often IT personnel meet with business teams and each speak a language of their own. This is sometimes referred to as business and IT speak. If the two groups can’t understand each other how are they ever going to work together? So to facilitate this process you need to develop an education program for both IT and business unit personnel to learn the basics of each other’s function and understand the user experience.
– Understand the Business: Educate personnel on your company and the competitive environment so they gain an understanding of the business.
-Identify Business Processes: Every key person in IT and other business units needs to understand the underlying business processes that support the business enterprise across the entire value chain. Just understanding a segment represents a myopic view of the enterprise. Personnel need to look horizontally across the entire enterprise to truly understand the business processes.
-Focus on User Experiences: Every business executive wants to ensure that the company’s products and services provide value to customers. But to do so requires an understanding of how customers use the products and services. IT and business teams need to understand these user experiences to effectively collaborate and work together to create value.
3. Focus on Initiatives that Innovate Value
CIOs are traditionally measured on adherence to budget objectives and service level agreements. But if you want to be strategic you need to think more like a business person and less like a technology engineer. You need to partner with business executives to drive revenue as well as optimize costs. We’ve all heard that IT activities need to align with business goals and objectives. But actually partnering with the business on a joint project that drives revenue is really rewarding. Every initiative is a project so it has to be managed as a project for you to derive the true benefits.
-Analyze you Project Portfolio: Evaluate your strategic, tactical, support initiatives to determine if there is alignment to business objectives. Other than regulatory projects all other initiatives should be scrutinized for value.
-Optimize Project Execution: Assess your project portfolio applications to determine if you are optimizing you project schedule, cost, and resources assets. Freeing up dollars, resources, and time enables you to invest in projects that innovate value and drive bottom line results
-Measure Results: Frederick Winslow Taylor is often credited with the quote, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” As a seasoned executive you know that metrics are the key to measuring success. To be successful you must measure what you manage. Therefore, make sure that you identify the right measurement criteria to determine if the projects are achieving the desired goals.
4. Leverage Social Media, Mobility, Cloud and other Emerging Technologies
The rate of technology change increases each year and it has never been faster. At the same time the amount of data that needs to be managed by a business is growing as well. So the combination of technology change and massive amounts of data that needs to be managed is a real challenge for IT organizations.
-Leverage Emerging Technologies: The use of social media, mobility, and Cloud are finding uses in today’s business enterprise. Make sure you are abreast of the latest technologies in these and other areas as well as how companies are successfully using these technologies for strategic advantage. Applying learnings from other successes and failures will save you a lot of time in the future.
-Manage the Right Data for Strategic Advantage: The proliferation of data is almost unmanageable. Identifying the right data sets and determining its value and using predictive analysis will be the key to success. Leverage the successes of companies like Proctor and Gamble who have digitized and data mined huge amounts of data for strategic advantage.
– Skill-up Your IT Resources: The demand for skilled IT talent has never been greater. Look for people with skills in mobility, social media, Cloud, and other emerging technologies as these competencies will be heavily relied on in the next few years.
As a CIO you are ideally positioned for success. Today, business runs on IT and if you focus on the four strategies identified above you will:
1. Understand Business and Competitive Environment
2. Build a Business Oriented IT Team.
3. Focus on Initiatives that Innovate Value
4. Leverage social media, mobility, Cloud, and other Emerging Technologies
Please let me know what subjects you would be interested in reading about as well as any comments.
I wish you a successful 2013.
1 Silicon Valley start-up Brit + Co. aims to rival Martha Stewart / September 28, 2012|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times / http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/28/business/la-fi-next-martha-stewart-20120929 /
2 Silicon Valley Straps on Pads / San Francisco 49ers Aim to Change the NFL by Poaching Talent From Tech; ‘Open Source’ Scouting? / Wall Street Journal , Kevin Clark San Francisco Dec 10, 2012 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324478304578171690940069794.html
Phil Weinzimer is president of Strategere Consulting working with clients to develop business and IT strategies that focus on achieving business outcomes. Previously Mr. Weinzimer was Managing Principal-Professional Services for IT Business Management at BMC Software. He has also held Managing Principal positions in the Professional Services organizations for ITM Software, CAI, and Sapient.
Mr. Weinzimer has written a book concerning customer value entitled “Getting IT Right: Creating Customer Value for Market Leadership” and has a forthcoming book, “The Strategic CIO: Creating Customer Value, Increasing Revenue, Enhancing Shareholder Wealth”, will be available in 2013.
Mr. Weinzimer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org