“If only the business understood IT, then the company would get move value out of IT.” This statement is a common belief among IT professionals. Understanding begins with the basics, framed in a language that is acceptable to the audience rather than the teacher.
A company has difficulty understanding IT in the language that IT speaks: applications, databases, technologies, etc. But, what language do executives and managers use to understand something and its role in the company. The answer is straightforward, think back to the last time you were at a party and someone asked you/or you asked someone “What do you do?” Chances you talked about your job title, role and position in the organization.
Talking about IT using the language of organization, its role, what it does, position, etc provides a starting point for teaching the business about IT. Using this staring point here are a twelve things that every business leader needs to know about IT.
1. IT is horizontal
Look at any organization chart and you will see vertical oriented vertical organizational teams each with a specific focus and revenue stream. IT may appear as a separate vertical group on the organization chart, but works horizontally across multiple business units (see figure below).
Legal, finance and human resources are other horizontal organizations, often bundled together in a ‘corporate services group.” IT can be organized into such a group, but IT is different because is a hybrid organization which is the next thing.
Recognize the unique organizational capabilities within IT and its role as the only corporate wide function with direct operational responsibilities. Take advantage of ITs ability to recognize and work across the business units to raise performance – for example moving proven best practices between operating units. Invest in IT management capability and business skills to take full advantage of its unique role. Demand that IT raise its business impact and deliver enterprise level performance.
CIOs and IT executives need to stop harping that “IT is different” because every organizational unit within the enterprise is different. If there were no differences between units then the organization chart would be a single blob – everyone reporting to the CEO.
Instead of highlighting the differences CIOs must explain how those differences create unique value and contribution to the company and its ability to execute its strategy. Engage the business across business units because you can and show the enterprise that the sum is more than its parts.
What is the second thing that every business leader needs to know about IT?
IT is a hybrid organization — that is the focus on the next post.