Successful technology and business synchronization will never happen automatically. Here is how to get IT strategies and business goals to mesh like clockwork.
In an ideal universe, the IT and business worlds would be perfectly aligned, with IT supplying the leaders of the business with the resources necessary to achieve maximum performance, efficiency, and profits.
Yet seeking perfection can be a somewhat elusive quest. In the real world, IT managers, whether in-house, or outsourced providers, are often left guessing whether the plans they have created and the technologies they have selected are fulfilling expectations, while the Businesses leaders frequently fret that IT is not fully tuned in to actual needs and challenges of the organisation.
Fortunately, there are proven methods that enable synchronicity between the two.
The following suggestions, relevant for businesses of all sizes and regardless of whether their IT department is internal or outsourced to a pro-active provider, show how to build a productive partnership that will satisfy the businesses needs while also meeting the often-rigorous time and budget constraints that IT works within.
Whether it is face-to-face or not, those who manage the IT and those who manage other aspects of the business, should set aside time to meet and discuss important matters across the enterprise.
A key component to a good dialogue is simply to speak in plain English, this is especially relevant for those responsible for It as they may need to explain complex technical issues, but it is equally important for all participants, all of whom will often find themselves explaining role specific concepts that might be alien to their colleagues.
Building close alignment between IT and business requires committing to earnest, insightful discussions. Imagine, for instance, a conversation about AI. In this example, the business leader wants to adopt the technology, but does not understand that AI is primarily cloud-based or that AI works best when fuelled by large amounts of data. By explaining the concepts behind AI in a clear manner, the business leader can be introduced to the building blocks for AI, and the IT leader can develop an acceptable strategy.
To build strong, close ties, IT management also needs to listen to, and learn from, their business counterparts. IT leaders cannot create a plan to enable business priorities in a vacuum, it is better to share plans, removing the guesswork around business needs and intentions. Remember, too, that IT is a key player and successful IT serves as a powerful enabler, magnifying the strategy of the business and compounding its success.
Stakeholders should not be afraid to reach out to each other to better understand each other’s pain points and to brainstorm solutions together.
Ask the right questions
When meeting with business colleagues, it is natural for IT leaders to zero in on questions relating to IT technologies, strategies, and operations. Yet these topics are a strange, foreign territory for many of their collaborators across the business.
By gaining a clear understanding of the processes that each part of the business employs and being aware of the market trends and the key business challenges that each is facing, the IT team can evaluate where technology solutions could be brought online to service those needs.
Successful relationships are built on trust, transparency, mutual respect, and shared goals. Professional connections are no different. Ensuring you have a deep understanding of your partners roles, taking extreme ownership of challenges and being vulnerable are all tenants of building tight partnerships.
Failing to align IT and business interests gradually erodes trust. It fuels scepticism in technology strategies, promotes a culture of blame, reduces patience and forces planning into unproductive levels of detail resulting in a false sense of precision. When the business leaders have confidence in their IT organisation, everything moves faster, decision-making is leaner, and the relevant teams spend more time executing than planning.
Creating and cultivating a culture that supports constant, open communication is another key to building close and trusting IT and business collaboration. This results in all parties acting as one team with shared goals and objectives.
I.T. should be a motivator
Most business leaders expect IT to be the engine that propels enterprise success. But only aiming to meet defined business needs is selling IT short, the best IT teams bring forth their own innovation to solve business needs.
Regardless of whether that team is employed directly, or is provided externally, it is the IT leader’s responsibility to alert the rest of the business to disruptive and transformational technologies with the potential to change the business landscape, as well as lesser innovations that can lead to incremental market and performance enhancements.
As a business owner, it is vital that you find an IT manager, or partner, that will fulfil this function.
Measure with metrics
Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), reflecting the business outcomes of critical systems and processes, are valuable tools that can help both IT and business leaders determine how well IT operations are aligned with business needs.
Examples of business outcome driven KPIs include tracking whether delivered projects have provided business benefits and tracking the downtime of employees because of IT issues.
IT organizations generally set metrics and KPIs for activities they can directly control, such as service uptime, help desk responsiveness and the length of time needed to update systems and fix bugs. These are all valuable and important metrics of efficiency. Being efficient is at the core of success for every business, so open and honest reporting of these metrics is essential.
On the opposite side of the coin, whoever provides your IT should also have the facility to tap into business metrics to assess how well they are supporting essential enterprise operations. For instance, if growing sales is the business goal, IT can then identify if they have provided the tools that the sales team needs to sell efficiently.
Surveys should be designed with the goal of providing deep insights into the overall business vision, including strategy, key priorities and required capabilities. IT surveys have traditionally focused on technology and service quality in areas such as help desk support, delivery reliability, systems stability, and security.
Times have changed, however. A modern survey should also target the ways that IT can help drive the business vision. The goal becomes to capture the outcomes required to generate growth, profit, improved customer experience and innovation.
Survey questions should vary, depending on the target responders. The key is to create surveys that are short and allow flexibility with answers. Qualitative feedback is just as important as the percentages.
It is an on-going process
Like any business optimization initiative, IT-to-business alignment should be viewed as an open-ended project.
Establish processes to ensure redundancy and oversight to determine whether the collaboration is successful or needs improvement, it is about constantly and consistently maintaining a dialogue between counterparts across the company.
Assessing alignment should be a constant conversation within IT management. With consistent and frequent alignment checks, your IT provider will evolve from being reactive to being proactive. A proactive IT team works to fix and address issues before they occur rather than waiting for a problem to force damage control and recovery.
Want more advice?
I hope that you have found this article useful. If you would like more advice on IT for your business, or would like to find out more about how pro-active IT support and managed services can help you, get in touch…
- Visit https://www.supremesystems.co.uk/
- Call Supreme Systems on 0121 309 0126
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About the author…
Julian has over 20 years of experience as a technical salesperson for IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and likes nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chat about how to cure your IT headaches.
Supreme Systems is an information technology company established since 2008.
Leading IT Services provider and Cloud solutions for businesses in West Midlands.