Scott Burrell explores ways for IT professionals to make their work more relevant as they strive to support the strategic direction of their companies.
- [Instructor] In the last video, I addressed business leaders and invited them to bring IT perspective into the strategic planning process. In this video, I want to address the IT professionals and describe what you can do to foster a more meaningful relationship, not just with your boss, but with your organization. There are as many different descriptions of the strategic planning process as there are institutions that teach it, but they all boil down to three steps: honestly assess where you are, define where you want to be, and develop strategics and tactics that will get your company from the past to the future.
If your function within the company doesn't directly contribute to positive movement along that path, you're either unnecessary or unimportant. That may sound a bit blunt, but it's the honest truth. As a result of that truth, any money spent to fund your work could be seen as a necessary evil. Does this sound familiar? Let's say a $2,000 router is limping along two years after its projected end of life, and the accountants have already declared it fully depreciated.
What does it take to replace that router? If the answer includes an uncomfortable amount of begging, then IT is not seen as supporting the strategic direction of the company, and that's not the accountant's fault. There's something you can do differently to change it. This change begins in the last video where the highest ranking IT professional participates with the executive leadership in understanding who the company is and where they're going. With those two pieces of information, you are better prepared to design solutions and infrastructure that support the company's strategic direction.
If upgrading a router facilitates the company's strategy to grow the onsite presence of the sales team, then you should bring that up as your contribution to the new growth strategy before they start building desks and hiring new sales staff. The second thing to do is stop trying to impress other managers with your mastery of technical jargon. It doesn't work. A good friend of mine is a senior manager at a manufacturing company, and he advised me once to rewrite a proposal in teams that were, quote, "CEO simple," and he was right.
Next, come to the meetings ready to discuss how you can advance the company's direction in ways that outpace the competition or that improve the image of the company in the public eye. Stay away from trying to sell your ideas based on the negative alternatives. All this approach does is reinforce the notion that IT is all about putting out fires. The reality is that in the 21st century, IT is not just a supporting infrastructure.
IT is your location. It's your competitive edge. It's your public face, your buying power, and so much more. Fourth, and this is a big one, stop telling management what can't be done. This is a common trap, and it usually comes from one of two sources. The first is tied into the point about using extra jargon and technical vocabulary. Don't be too quick to answer based on the exact words the executive said when you know that they're not familiar with the same technical jargon that you are.
Suppose for example a senior manager is talking about the company's mobile website and describes the need for some Flash animation. It's really easy to shut him down by stating the blunt truth that iOS doesn't support Flash, so his idea would never work on iPads and iPhones, meaning for a mobile environment it's a bad idea. You could better support the company by engaging him on what he anticipates the user experience to look and feel like and then formulate your plan that uses the appropriate tools to accomplish those goals.
You could bring up the difference between HTML5 and Flash casually sometime later if you think it's helpful. When you're unveiling his vision brought to life, might be a better time to do that. The second source of the it can't be done excuse is that your IT team is incapable. This should not be a reason to withdraw, even if you're incapable because the very idea has never been done before. This could be a prime opportunity to develop your team.
If supporting your company's vision involves making your teams better, grab that opportunity with both hands. Bottom line, get involved in understanding where the company is going and what you can do to make them successful.
- Including IT in strategy
- What does IT bring to strategy?
- Communicating the big picture
- Selecting and evaluating the effectiveness of training and development activities
- Choosing the right hardware, platforms, and applications
- Who owns the devices?
- Site planning
- External and internal connectivity