Not every business has the benefit of having a C-level executive that uses their knowledge of technology to identify opportunities that create value for your organization. But when you’re only thinking in the tactical realm of IT, it can be hard to go beyond the day-to-day headspace and wrap your head around the bigger technology picture.
That’s the exact specialty of a chief information officer (CIO), and here’s how you can think like one in order to better your business through technology.
What does a CIO do?
A CIO is a business leader that happens to speak the language of IT. They’re responsible for connecting IT to the business, as well as to vendors and clients. They’re ever mindful of their organization’s business objectives, and help the business meet those objectives with an IT strategy, technology roadmap, solutions and services.
This position also tracks what’s developing in the technology industry and plans and directs implementation of new IT systems.
To think like a CIO, you need to consider the types of information they need to do all of that. Here are three ways to change your thinking so that it’s more in line with the CIO role.
#1 Think about your business relationships and what they can teach you about your organization’s technology strategy.
A CIO must build relationships across the business, not just in the information technology department. Foster both relationships within the company at every level — from high-level executives down to managers and specialists in marketing, sales, customer service, and so on — as well as with others in your field who are outside your organization.
As you communicate with others in and out of IT, be on the lookout for problems, and seek to understand departmental efforts and goals. When you know how every department in the company works to support the business’ objectives, and you know what their pain points are, you’ll be in a better position to offer technology solutions that meet their problems and support business practices.
#2 Think about the long-term, big picture technology needs of the business.
Anyone who works in IT knows that being constantly bogged down with urgent requests comes with the territory. But being in the position of always putting out fires — in other words, being forced to be reactive, rather than proactive — is the opposite of being strategic.
One way to think long term is to create a technology roadmap, a way of strategically documenting the direction your organization needs to go with its IT infrastructure. This exercise starts with mapping out your organization’s current technology, then you expand that map to include technology needed in the future.
It also includes an assessment of skills and capabilities of your IT staff, a customized and prioritized list of initiatives and projects you need to undertake to support business goals, and estimated costs and deadlines for each phase of the implementation.
Importantly, building internal, cross-departmental relationships (see #1) gives you the knowledge you need to start your roadmap and get everyone on the same page.
#3 Think about IT in terms of revenue, profit and business outcomes.
You have likely already experienced that executives in your organization may not see technology the way you do. But when you’re able to articulate to the chief operating officer or chief executive officer, for example, the value of IT in their language (the language of revenue, profit, and business outcomes), you’ll all be that much closer to seeing eye to eye.
Not only do you need to learn to communicate the value of IT in those terms, you also need to ditch tech speak when you’re interfacing with those outside of your IT team. Developing the ability to translate technical terms in ways that non-IT employees can easily grasp will help you think like a CIO.
This ability will come in handy daily, but especially when you are trying to get budget for major technology spend (such as all those projects identified in your technology roadmap).
One of the things we specialize in at AccountabilIT is bringing together your technology with your business objectives. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you be more strategic in your technology planning.