Dear CIOs: It’s time to get your board psyched about IT

January 8, 20185 Minute Read

Both CIOs and boards of directors ultimately want the same thing: to achieve digital workplace solutions with the potential to save money, make money, and transform the business. But many CIOs are finding themselves in a position where energizing the board about office tech is something the future of their department depends on.

IT’s more important than ever to businesses, and CIOs are now spending more time in traditional leadership capacities. A 2016 survey by Harvey Nash/KPMG shows that 57 percent of CIOs sit on the board, and 64 percent think that communicating with stakeholders more effectively is the best way for their strategic influence to grow. But how do you shape your conversations with your board to be productive? We set out to discover what your board needs to hear from you in order to start productive conversations.

McKinsey recently released a list of questions for boards working to achieve digital fluency. These questions were designed for non-tech leadership to guide productive conversations with IT pros:

1. How well does office tech enable the core business?

2. What value is the business getting from its most important IT projects?

3. How long does it take the IT organization to develop and deploy new features and functionality?

4. How efficient is IT at rolling out technologies and achieving desired outcomes?

5. How strong is our supply of next-generation IT talent?

But what if your board doesn’t know the right questions to ask? How can you demonstrate value and win sufficient resources? By answering these five questions your non-tech leadership doesn’t know they want to hear, you can be a full step ahead of the game.

1. Turn to tech for business transformation

The IT department isn’t in the business of providing solutions for business productivity anymore. Digital business transformation is now at the core of how companies compete and innovate.

Take a proactive approach to defining how your organization has shaped your business, inside and out. To help shape your understanding of how far your team has brought your business, McKinsey’s analysis of IT-enabled business transformation trends includes:

  • The social matrix
  • Competing on big data
  • Deploying IoT tech
  • Shifting to “as a service” business models
  • Automating knowledge work

Don’t be afraid to give answers on what’s holding your team back from business transformation. Research suggests that some IT teams spend 70 percent of their time maintaining legacy applications. How can the board provide you with the resources you need to invest in smarter tech and innovate?

2. Value important IT projects

IT value isn’t as simple as the cost of assets or digital workplace solutions. CIOs and boards will need to collaborate to develop project metrics that can speak to operational value, or the value derived by customers for external initiatives. Measuring the value of IT projects in dollars or percentage points can be notoriously tricky. If you’re reporting on the value of projects aside from—or in addition to—defined goals, it may be helpful to consider developing measures of “value-in-use:”

  • Return on investment
  • Innovation
  • Transformation
  • Security and resilience

3. Honor time to deployment

You can’t achieve digital disruption if you’re consistently the last in your industry to deploy new features or functionality. Time to deployment is no longer just an IT issue—it’s become a business issue. A recent Gartner study highlighted that 91 percent of IT pros are certain of their importance to business transformation, but 59 percent are worried about delivering.

When speaking to the board about your track record of time to develop and deploy new features, highlight the ways you’ve accelerated your processes through agile, open collaboration, design thinking, and more. Don’t be afraid to speak bluntly about the skills or resource shortages that are standing in your way, either.

4. Get the outcomes you want

Efficiency in achieving desired outcomes is closely related to your time-to-deployment, but it also relates to the quality of your IT team’s efforts. How has your IT department contributed to business growth? What’s standing in the way of achieving even higher user satisfaction and impact with your next project?

For one anonymous CIO, positioning his IT department as a revenue-generator was crucial to developing strong and lasting business partnerships within the organization. “I do realize that we have the propensity in IT to become an order-taking shop,” he told TechTarget. “What is urgent for me is to make sure that I am really leveraging my partnerships with the business around discussions about bringing business value from the IT side,” he said. By demonstrating the success of your IT team in exceeding expectations and driving real value, you can secure freedom (and budget) for the future.

5. Talent succession

Boards and CIOs are both worried about the IT skills gap, and the impending wave of baby boomer retirements isn’t putting anyone’s mind at rest. Currently there are 54,000 IT jobs unfilled in Canada because of the skills gap. Your board doesn’t need to hear that you’ve solved the skills gap, but they do need to hear the steps you’re taking to secure your IT team’s future.

Tech Analyst David Foote calls the concept of future talent preparation “people architecture.” For many companies, building a groundwork for the next decade is going to require a heavy combination of employee education initiatives, strong leadership development programs, and a willingness to tap into the contractor economy.

As IT becomes increasingly important to core business goals, CIOs must learn how to inspire their boards to secure the future of their department. By answering these core questions, you can ease your transition from order-taker to business-driver.

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