The Big Three For Delivering Value From Technology
I have recently had the privilege of talking to a large number of non IT executives who have responsibility for their organisation’s technology. While all of these people are very capable, talented executives none of them have specialised in the management and use of technology. At some level (while they won’t necessarily admit it) most of these executives are a little intimidated by technology and consider it to be quite opaque. They also often wonder if they have the skills and experience they need to lead an effective technology function.
With this going on in the background for our talented non IT executives our conversations often get to the point where what they really need is to be able to answer one simple question which goes something like this:
“…..The problem is I’m not a technologist and I don’t really want to be a technologist, but what is it that I need to know to be able to ensure we have an effective IT function?”
The good news is that you don’t need to be an IT specialist to be able to lead an IT function, but you do need to be IT literate in much the same way that you need to be financially literate. Non financial executives don’t need to be financial and accounting experts, but they do need to be able to: (1) read and understand a set of financial statements, (2) manage a budget, and (3) understand financially how the organisation creates and captures value.
The IT literacy equivalent of this is that a non IT executive doesn’t need to be a technical specialist, but they do need to be able to (1) understand IT service quality (and whether this meets the organisation’s needs) (2) manage and shape the way IT interacts with their colleagues (3) understand how technology shapes and contributes to the organisations strategy and competitive positioning.
Collectively these represent the “big three” when it comes to delivering value from IT and none of them are particularly technical. Rather they focus on the outputs required from an IT team, an understanding of how technology adds value to the organisation and the mindset required to bring this to reality.
So, if you are a non IT executive in charge of IT and you are committed to maximizing the value that your organisation receives from technology, then begin by asking and answering the following questions:
Is the quality of technical delivery from IT appropriate for your organisations needs? In answering this consider:
- Are the systems stable so that the users can use them when they need to use them to complete their work?
- Is the performance or speed of the system acceptable and appropriate for your organisation?
- Does the team deliver priority projects in a timely fashion?
- Are projects consistently on time and on budget?
- Do projects consistently provide what was wanted, expected and needed?
- What risks does technology introduce to your business and have we effectively mitigated these risks?
How effective is the collaboration between the technology team and their colleagues across the business? In answering this consider:
- Does the IT team see themselves as an enabler and provider of services or as a manager of technology?
- Does the IT seek to operate primarily through influence or through “mandate and control”?
- Does the IT team prioritise service over technology when interacting with their colleagues?
- Does the rest of the organisation engage with IT in an effective and positive manner?
- Is innovation seen as a collaborative joint effort between IT and a host department?
- Does IT actively facilitate IT decision making or do they mainly wait for decisions to be handed to them?
What role do you expect technology play in the overall business strategy?
- Do you expect technology to differentiate you from your competitors or to simply maintain competitive parity? Are we investing about the right amount to make this possible?
- How technology might be used in your marketplace to change customer offerings?
- How might technology be used to enhance organisational efficiency and improve your overall competitiveness?
- What new business models might technology enable? How would that impact your business? Do you wish to pursue these new business models?
As you answer these questions and define ways to observe and measure performance you will become a very effective leader for your IT team as you will create clarity on what it is that they need to achieve to support the business. Indeed you may even have a competitive advantage over the classic IT leader because while technology skills are critical to delivery, business relevance is critical to value from technology and business relevance is your strength.
If you’re a non IT executive in charge of IT and you’d like to find out more you can message me via Linkedin our visit my website owenmccall.com.
P.S. This blog focuses on non IT executives in charge of IT and their need for technical literacy. The truth however is that in 2017 technology is one of the most important levers of corporate performance and because of this technology literacy is important for all executives. It is as important as basic financial literacy, a working knowledge of health and safety, strategy development and fundamental leadership skills. With this in mind I suggest you ask one last question:
Does our executive team have the technology literacy you need to be successful today and over the next 5 to 10 years?