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Let’s Talk Business: How the CIO Can Enable Corporate Growth

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by Christopher Pflum

Today’s top-performing CIOs are fast gaining a prominent voice in top-line business conversations. Formerly seen primarily as a cost center, the technology Center of Excellence (CoE) now has a seat at product, marketing and operations tables. How so? These IT leaders are making business customers and corporate growth their top priorities. Instead of simply working to manage costs, they are aligning their goals with corporate strategy and building an IT culture based on business acumen and market expertise so they can co-create with – and not just support – the business.

This shift represents a long-awaited unencumbering of relationships between IT and strategic business units (SBUs) as leaders begin to recognize that IT can open doors for SBUs seeking to grow their business. Formerly relegated to the back office, IT is now key to market domination. Technology leaders should take advantage of this trend by adjusting their emphasis accordingly. 

So how can IT expand and orient the conversation in a way that helps it create maximum revenue growth opportunity?

  1. As co-creators and technologists, IT leaders should come to the table knowing the corporate growth strategies and objectives. Bring specific ideas about how technology can contribute to these objectives, and be prepared to brainstorm new business opportunities. Don’t shy away from conversations about how technology may shake up existing business models. Think of Netflix, which disrupted itself by quickly turning a mail-order media business into an online content provider. Similarly, outsourced call centers are remaking themselves with process automation. And both small and large-scale manufacturing enterprises are using the Internet of Things to turn what used to be products with a single point-of-sale into products with attached ongoing subscription-based services. The primary catalyst for changing the way these corporations do business? IT.
  2. Consider how you can better serve your customers and more quickly enter new markets with strategies based in IT. Today, the name of this game is feedback. The faster you can collect and analyze high volumes of feedback on specific topics, the faster your business will understand the marketplace. Perform a market study to find out exactly what investments might help you realize the potential of harnessing IT and how long you’ve got to make it happen.
  3. Engage early in projects so you can help meet both the corporate objectives and the end-user requirements. Consider yourself a collaborator, not just a support team. Apple has long been known for its innovative approach to design; instead of innovating at the margins, it goes to the heart of the matter and designs with the end in mind. Only by engaging early can IT leaders build from the genesis of the objective and avoid having to rely on cascading translations like a corporate game of telephone.
  4. Articulate to the business how technology advancements can enable business advancements – in practice, not just in theory. This positions IT and business leaders to design, implement and operationalize solutions that will maximize return on investment. The reality is, IT’s business customers expect the same experience inside the office as they do from their consumer tech outside the office. Be user-focused. This is where the IT rubber meets the road for business users who might otherwise consider what IT does as hard to understand and irrelevant. IT leaders who bring the spirit of productization to their internally focused solutions by looking to tech in pop-culture and understanding user expectations will win many fans. Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies like Amazon and even traditional business-to-business (B2B) companies that use strategies from social media like Salesforce show how effective focusing on the user can be.

ISG helps enterprises design and implement IT strategies that deliver operational excellence and enable corporate growth. Let us help you maximize your conversations and business impacts as you “imagine your future.” Contact me to discuss further. 

About the author

Christopher is an analytical technologist and corporate strategy professional (MBA) with experience leading and managing fast paced Network Operations teams in the advanced energy sector.