How to Get Your IT Team to Talk Business
No individual is an island—though at some companies it can feel like the IT team never got that memo. But when departments are run as their own fiefdoms, rather than integrated into and collaborating with the rest of the company, they rarely deliver their full strategic value.
Perhaps because of that realization, more IT chiefs are now playing a substantial role in the bottom-line success of companies than ever before. According to a recent KPMG survey, more than one-third of CIOs now report directly to the CEOs of their companies, a 10 percent jump from just one year before. CIO priorities are changing, too. While keeping systems up and running was a huge focus of the past, that’s receded into the background, with more IT chiefs taking on a more strategic role.
An IT team that’s as well-versed in profit margins and revenue creation as it is in operating systems and application performance speeds is slowly becoming the norm. And to get the most value from your IT team—and keep competitive in this shifting business landscape—it’s time to ask: Are the IT department and business units actually speaking the same language?
If the answer is no (and, let’s be real, it probably is), here are 4 steps you can take to start building a bridge to get both sides talking.
1. Interview the IT team
It’s possible that the IT team’s eyes glaze over every time someone mentions the bottom line because they’re rarely engaged in these conversations. So make an explicit point to include them. You can start by asking which new technologies they believe would help improve profitability, productivity or revenue generation.
2. Play matchmaker
Get business unit leaders and the IT heads in a room together to talk through the pain points on the business side and how technology might mitigate those, as well as whether current technologies are being leveraged across all units. The goal is to play matchmaker, not middleman—so resist the urge to translate between them.
3. Demand for business ROIs on budget proposals
Encouraging the IT team to think in business terms means not letting them off the hook when they ask to fund an upgrade just because it’s “needed.” Speak about technology investment in terms of its potential impact on corporate profitability or cost control, and ask your IT team to do the same.
4. Ask for a strategic plan
Odds are, each of your business units has a strategic plan that spans new projects, market share, and growth. So why are you still thinking of IT as merely treading water? Work with IT to create a concrete plan for how technology initiatives will drive the business forward. As part of that plan, consider whether outsourcing IT functions might affect bottom-line metrics.