How do you get 'the business' to 'get IT'?

One of the ever-present themes in IT management is how on earth a CIO gets his/her counterparts in other parts of the business to “understand” what information technology can do for them. But how do they do that?

What I have noticed in all the years I have been covering IT and the management aspects of it, I have met countless “techies”, the guys and ladies that actually like to get involved in the actual technology nuts and bolts and get very excited about things like the latest in PHP programming. Don’t get me wrong, that can be exciting for some, but one of the things that I also have noticed is that, in recent years, the CIO has become a much more social kind of animal.

Because end users and managers in other parts of the business are much more familiar and knowledgeable about technology, CIOs have had to raise their game and use other weapons to not only secure their jobs, but also explain what is reasonable and what is not to colleagues who may think that rolling out an ERP platform is just as simple as buying an iPhone app.

But that requires some degree of emotional intelligence, or social ability, especially if the CIO in question has that much-coveted seat of the board. So IT decision-makers are having to distance themselves from the old geeky stereotype and become much better at human interaction, finding allies in other parts of the business, having drinks with people outside IT after work more often, investing more time in getting to know people on the ground who make the business “tick”.

Of course, this is always easier said than done. The technical concerns are still there: the issue of legacy (you may be still trying to clean up the mess of your predecessor),complexity of the IT set-up and many others. But what the business wants is faster time-to-market and increasing demands for product/service innovation at a lower cost.

It is true that, in this day an age, most people will agree that IT is essential for any business to function, and yet IT bosses continue to complain that IT is still considered as a service and end up jumping ship, for many reasons including reduced budgets and “airtime”. This is despite herculean efforts by CIOs to position themselves as a business partner.

The question that lingers is: how can you ensure that IT is positioned as an essential factor for business success? I will discuss the methods CIOs have been employing to try and make that happen in my next post. 

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