The growing focus on the future, from developing shared vision to budgeting for growth and strategic planning, are all signs that an organization is going through a significant change.
What follows is are guidelines how IT can use this knowledge to transform from a functional cost center to a key strategic player with a seat at the executive table.
Transforming from cost center to difference maker
The CEO needs help more than ever at this moment (this can be said of mature organizations as well today). As we have said, most entrepreneurs have outstanding skills in at least one key area, and that is how they were able to create and develop the success which all of their staff share in. But not all entrepreneurs have developed the skill of collaborating with a dispersed leadership team, nor that of accurately gauging their performance and managing toward strategic goals.
By anticipating these needs and recommending business solutions (i.e., software packages and the appropriate delivery models — cloud, on premise, SaaS, etc.) that are catered to them, IT leadership can have a remarkable effect on the success of the company. Consolidating applications into systems that provide forward-looking intelligence will be crucial to effective strategic planning. And the ability to measure progress and tweak tactics accordingly will enable the CEO and functional leaders to be nimble even as the company reaches its growth goals.
IT’s ability to unite thought and action from the executive level throughout the company is a lasting strength. Mature organizations entering any new market or growth challenge need this advantage like never before. Global organizations coming out of the Great Recession are seeing major business growth in emerging markets. These businesses need to approach that growth in new ways; ways that mesh with the cultures and economies of the communities they are selling into. New challenges like these tax the flexibility of large organizations. Strategic use of technology can not only help meet those challenges, but transform them into opportunities.
In all of these cases, from growing entrepreneurial companies to global corporations, the IT function transforms into the architecture of the executive function itself. The infrastructure must be reliable and fast. The systems must be integrated and easily accessible onsite or remotely. More importantly, the applications must enable those same abilities we struggled to grasp in middle school. They must provide executive leadership with information that helps them collaborate, assess, prioritize, and organize while providing the CEO with the ability to better coach and delegate. In this way, vision, strategy, and tactics are easily translated from the top down through all levels of the organization.
The CEO can no longer be everywhere at once, though they may deeply wish they could. Their vanishing sense of control can cause real grief. Having reliable systems that keep interdependent functions running smoothly can be an enormous gift at this moment. Moreover, the ability to easily access performance metrics from these systems greatly aids in both tactical and strategic decision making. From process automation to collaboration, unified communications and decision support intelligence, IT must deploy the solutions that the new organization is going to need to truly thrive at this stage of its life.
The best IT leaders will recognize these signs and effectively introduce solutions that empower the organization to succeed. They will consult with leadership from the top down, creating business solutions which are instantly recognized as such, instead of technical solutions which may be less accessible to the C-level audience. And by focusing these solutions on the adolescent organization’s new need for analysis, planning, communication, and control, they will reveal their own strategic value in the vision of the future.
Dave Ramsden is chief intelligence officer at Atrion Networking Corporation, where he is responsible for the Information Services team. His focus is on applying technology, process improvement and business intelligence to drive strategic execution across the organization. He has over 16 years of leadership experience working for companies such as Eastern Telecom, Data Comm Systems and Dimension Data. Dave can be contacted at [email protected].