The IT-Business Priority Mismatch

Last month,I wrote about being more relevant by basing your discussions with the business on things they already know and care about. If you need to educate people on what you are doing … you are not relevant.

Recently, I’ve come across some data from Gartner which illustrates this issue loud and clear. It shows the top 10 business priorities for the CEO and the board vs. the top 10 technology priorities for the CIO. The punch line? There is no overlap.

Top 10 Business Priorities for the CEO and the Board

  1. Business process Improvement

  2. Reducing enterprise costs

  3. Improving workforce effectiveness

  4. Attracting & retaining new customers

  5. Increase usage of analytics

  6. Creating new products & services

  7. Targeting customers & markets more effectively

  8. Managing change

  9. Expanding current customer relationships

  10. Expand into new markets

Top 10 Technology Priorities for the CIO and IT

  1. BI (business intelligence)

  2. ERP and enterprise applications

  3. Virtualization

  4. Modernizing legacy applications

  5. Collaboration technologies

  6. Networking, voice & data communications

  7. Technical Infrastructure

  8. Security

  9. SOA

  10. Document management

With the exception of BI, these two lists bear little in common. This is the issue for CIO’s trying to build their relevance. If you want to be relevant, start with the CEO’s list. Use their words. Here is a simple shuffling of the lists to put your IT priorities into their words, and show IT projects as supporting the key business priorities:

To make this even more relatable to the business, I have first split the top business into three areas:

  • Cost Reduction

  • Revenue Generation

  • Operational Effectiveness

Here is how the business priorities map into these three areas:

Cost Reduction

  • Business process improvement

  • Reducing enterprise costs

Revenue Generation

  • Attracting & retaining new customers

  • Expanding current customer relationships

  • Expand into new markets

  • Creating new products & services

  • Targeting customers & markets more effectively

Operational Effectiveness

  • Improving workforce effectiveness

  • Increase usage of analytics

  • Managing change

Now with this as your outline, you can show the IT priorities specifically in support of the business priorities, using their words. You are always better off leading your communications with the business by using their words, so you need to find out what they are in your environment. Here is an example of what this would look like just shuffling and mixing the two Gartner lists (Of course, there are many more technologies that underpin each associated business process, but you get the idea.):

Cost Reduction

Biz: Business Process Improvement

IT: Security

Biz: Reducing Enterprise costs

IT: Modernizing legacy applications

IT: Technical Infrastructure

Revenue Generation

Biz: Attracting & retaining new customers

IT: SOA (new apps)

Biz: Expanding current customer relationships

IT: SOA (improved CRM access)

IT: Collaboration technologies

Biz: Expand into new markets

IT: ERP and Enterprise applications

IT: Virtualization

Biz: Creating new products & services

IT: Collaboration technologies

Biz: Targeting customers & markets more effectively

IT: Document Management

Operational Effectiveness

Biz: Improving workforce effectiveness

IT: Networking, voice & data communications

Biz: Increase usage of analytics

IT: BI (business intelligence)

This approach allows you to clearly show that you are working on the things the business cares about most. By using their words, you don’t need to educate them about IT so you are starting from a place of high relevance. Move your language from the cost of IT infrastructure to cost reduction projects. Move your language from virtualization to customer retention. Move your verbiage from the technology to the value it creates.

You don’t need to change how you run IT, but changing how you communicate with the business about what you do is a completely different task. By using their words you get to keep your money.

Today Patty is the CEO of Azzarello Group, a unique services organization that helps companies develop and motivate their top performers, execute their strategies, and grow their business, through talent management programs, leadership workshops, online products & public speaking.