Technology needs and business needs are increasingly intertwined, but whose responsibility is it to ensure your future technology projects are focused on the right things?
CEOs have long delegated the responsibility of defining need to CIOs and department managers. After all, they know best when it comes to the day-to-day, right? Well unfortunately this is a mistake and can lead to narrowly defined requirements specific to a department, or infrastructure based "upgrade projects" that do little for the overall direction of the business. In short, IT ends up building a faster horse rather than conceiving the automobile.
Since technology decisions made today will likely have an immense impact on the business for years to come, it is important to understand how to make the right choices that will get the intended results you require. This is your future, don't just settle for upgrades.
As the CEO you are ultimately responsible for the strategic direction of the business, now is the time to increase your involvement in technology planning and investments.
Here are 3 ways to get involved in technology decisions:
1. Communicate Your Vision, Create a Plan.
Sharing your vision and strategic goals with an intermediary such as a CIO or consultant allows a link between technology and business to form that normally does not exist. Communicating your business and organizational initiatives to someone that understands how technology can support will enable your business to create a forward thinking plan that anticipates the future rather than reacting to it. Mixing IT Strategy into your Business Strategy will simplify your decisions, provide capabilities previously not thought of, and ease issues related to communication and cost.
2. Understand How Technology will Help, and How Long it will Help.
Get involved in the procurement process. When presented with proposals look beyond the financial aspect and understand what further impact the project will bring now and in the future. As technology is constantly changing you want to be sure your investments are going to be useful beyond the immediate short term. Technology no longer runs along side the business, it's fully integrated and you are reliant in every department in some way or another. A big problem companies run into is the promise of doing something better only to find further complexities, training needs and poor performance. To avoid these pitfalls there must be a good grasp on the proposal before it is chosen and implemented. Only you as CEO have the leadership and broad understanding to truly see the bigger picture when it comes to technology decisions and how they will relate to your employees, customers, and profits.
3. Emphasize Innovation.
Innovation is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days but that doesn't diminish its importance. When talking about innovation we are really looking at creating something new that provides the business with a true beneficial impact. This can be employing a new technology, re-tuning a process, or entering into a new market. Building a culture that appreciates new ways of thinking and problem solving fosters the kind of solutions that make big gains. Without the opportunity to do something new, you will be stuck with the status quo which leads to the kind of disruption that threatens your business. Keep innovation at the top of everyone's mind by including it in your communications, running innovation workshops, and holding innovation contests. Just remember, you don't have to create the iPod to have a big impact in your market, uncovering unexplored opportunities can lead to big gains.
My advice for those CEOs that still think IT is best left to the CIO is to think about it from a responsibility standpoint. When technology is involved in every department, how can you not be involved?