How IT can win over management teams and influence boards

This set of key ingredients can help make your entire enterprise IT savvy and let technology leaders align with business strategists.

Business Strategy Concept

I took a leaf out of the famous Dale Carnegie book title: How to Win Friends & Influence People. In the modern technology driven world that title could be: How CIOs Can Win Over Management Teams and Influence Boards.

Most non-IT executives have in-depth knowledge of enterprise operations. In my years as an IT leader, I have had multiple in-depth discussions with executives on order to cash, procure to pay and design to release business flows. Executives understand challenges with manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the complexities of integrating proprietary plant machinery with MES and ERP systems (Oracle and SAP, for example) and supplier collaborations. Most interactions have left me with tremendous respect for their knowledge and problem solving attitude.

I am always surprised to see the initial lack of enthusiasm from LoB owners on upgrading (or re-implementing) currently out of support and aged ERP systems. They are generally averse to fixing systems that aren't broke in their opinions. For them there is a huge perceived risk in upgrades due to past over commitment and under delivery from IT. This to me is a big risk and an opportunity to start a dialogue to turn such projects into anchor projects.

In my consulting days, I brought my past experience and articulated a risk free strategy to migrate to recent versions. Enterprises have a large number of customizations (changes to core Oracle, SAP) that poses a big risk to upgrades and increases total cost of ownership tremendously. My recommendation would be to reassess each one of them and see which can be retired as they are now available in the latest release.

Note that all customizations are not created equal; some are necessary as efficiency improvement enhancements due to the inefficient multi-step process to manipulate simple business objects in the ERP. I will also recommend putting an architecture in place that makes customizations less intrusive. There are many vendor-supported and recommended approaches that IT can bring and let customers carry out strategic customizations to yield competitive advantage.

business success pyramid

Business Value

From a supply chain vice president's perspective on a digitally transformed organization, suppliers become true collaborative partners. IT needs to enable suppliers to collaborate in real time and access their purchase orders (PO), flip POs into invoices, submit advanced shipment notices and handle vendor managed inventory (VMI) using digital B2B platforms. For engineering and high tech organizations, suppliers could become an integral part of new product introduction (NPI) process and would participate in product lifecycle management (PLM) flows.

The IT landscape is changing fast. For instance, cloud computing, where organizations do not need to invest in equipment or skilled IT resources, is becoming mainstream. In my current job, I have implemented the plant equipment management on the cloud without having a single dedicated server in our data center. CEOs and executive management teams need to be in agreement that this required agility is the future direction, and they need to support a strategic cloud computing enablement plan.

Another potential risk that I see is a large number of proprietary systems being managed by shadow IT that are poorly documented, and hence, limit any enhancements. Enterprises carry a big risk of being dependent on a handful of people who carry all the tribal knowledge in their heads with unwillingness to share. Enterprises need outside perspective for a true honest assessment of risk and exposure due to a lack of governance.

Organizations need to have world class business continuity plans (more than disaster recovery) for potentially catastrophic events. Your customers, your suppliers and your employees rely on you to not only protecting their intellectual property and private information, but to also safeguard their data and provide continuous availability of systems.

Executive management teams need to lay out their expectations for their CIOs. For instance, a vice president of manufacturing's number one criteria could be to obtain actionable intelligence in real time from the manufacturing floor. If a manufacturing defect is impacting the quality of the current lot, plant personnel need to know it in real time. This is all about smart and connected factories. CIOs need to have passion for industrial IoT, mobility, big data, and they need to partner with the vice president to fulfill the vision.

Modern, secure, scalable IT platforms are key for enterprises that want to hit revenue growth goals. You cannot have your CFO crunching spreadsheets month after month to input trial balances from different geographies or business entities for consolidated month end reporting. These things like global charts of accounts are a given in a modern enterprises. CFOs should be focused on how to deploy capital in the best possible way and just not get burdened with recording past transactions. The goal need to be providing CFOs with all the tools necessary to shape the future financial performance of the enterprise.

Most organizations are behind the curve in adopting modern collaboration tools, world class information warehouses and data lakes, as well as reporting and modern trends such as cloud and mobile computing. The CIO's goal should be to earn the trust of the management team, roll up his or her sleeves and attack immediate problems, while at the same time putting a longterm plan in place to make IT a strategic and core competency of the enterprise.

A tremendous amount of enterprise brand value can be unlocked. The Wall Street and capital markets now value intangible assets more than the traditional tangible assets. The intangible assets are directly driven by IT adoption and can become part of a go-to-market strategy.

IT can only be successful if it is aligned with business strategy. Other LoB owners need to provide their counsel, vast knowledge and customer intimacy to IT. They need to drive the prioritization and provide guidance in key business architecture decisions. To me technology is relatively simple; it is all about people, processes and respecting the organizational culture.

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