by Nigel Fenwick

Three steps to becoming a business leader

Nov 01, 20115 mins

For 30 years, we have created increasingly complex IT processes and industrialized IT operations in the hope of driving down costs while at the same time increasing IT and business alignment.

But today’s business realities demand that CIOs move beyond alignment. CEOs can no longer afford IT leaders without the vision and influence to effect business change.

To help CIOs make this transition, from IT to BT (Business Technology), we have collected a set of best practices to help you map your way forward.

The age of the customer requires CIOs to change In the era where the customer has tremendous influence over business strategy, companies must become customer-obsessed to retain customers and dominate markets.

As organisations compete to establish market leadership, customers will develop brand loyalty through technology-enabled customer experiences that convey a perception of value.

As such, the CIO and IT play an integral role in the value delivery process to the customer and this requires CIOs to move beyond simple alignment and toward shared business leadership.

Forrester characterizes the change in how CIOs must think about the emerging role of IT as part of the customer-value ecosystem as a move toward empowered business technology.

Three essential steps of an empowered BT organisation Although there are many ways to measure progress toward empowered business technology (BT). All CIOs making this journey successfully navigate their organisations along a pathway built around three core attributes.

IT teams must typically develop a degree of competency in each step before moving to the next.

While moving to a new step, it is important to maintain proficiency in prior steps in order to reach empowered BT.

Each step is made up of a combination of best practices that move the IT organisation along the road toward BT.

You may not master every best practice at each step, and your progression may not be sequential, but it is important to keep progressing along this path.

Step 1: Build a solid business-oriented foundation These foundational tactics are necessary to begin the journey toward empowered BT and they include things such as building your bench of business-oriented staff, establishing the relationship manager as a pivotal leadership role, and setting up a portfolio management approach to managing projects.

The more foundational elements your team excels at, the more effective you will be in moving into step 2:

Step 2: Rethink IT communications to develop trust and credibility Effective business communications are the most important and effective means of transitioning from IT to BT, as they allow the reliable and high-performing organisation to begin the transition into a trusted business advisor.

A key component of effective business communication involves setting the IT team up for success by shifting IT from having discrete relationship events to becoming part of the conversation; making the end customer an IT responsibility and hiring a marketing expert to communicate professionally.

Step 3: Influence Business Strategy And Drive Innovation The CIO who builds a solid foundation and develops teams who understand how to communicate effectively eventually earns the right to influence and help drive innovation for the business.

These CIOs counsel senior executives on a wide range of business matters, not just technical subjects.

The best practices in this third step center on driving technology into the culture of the organisation so that business leaders consider IT to be a fundamental part of how they operate; there is no consideration for operating without IT at the table, as a part of the business, alongside marketing, HR, and finance.

The successful CIO in the age of the customer will possess equal measures of business competency and technical understanding.

He will be a customer-obsessed and skilled communicator, as well as a passionate leader, equally comfortable meeting customers and executives.

For tomorrow’s CIOs, an MBA will provide a stronger educational foundation than a degree in computer sciences.

And not all of today’s IT employees will feel comfortable moving toward empowered BT.

Some roles, like business relationship managers, will evolve into more pivotal roles for IT’s success, while others, such as some application development and operations, have already started moving out of IT.

While IT will still develop applications within an empowered BT environment, and operations will still maintain server farms and networks, more and more of these roles will shift toward vendor-provided solutions and services.

Just how fast will today’s CEOs embrace the age of the customer and demand changes from CIOs? We may not know the answer to this question, but one thing is clear: For CIOs to succeed in transitioning to empowered BT, the CEO must see IT as more than a cost of doing business that must be minimized.

Rather, the executive leadership team must see IT as an investment opportunity through which it is possible to become customer-obsessed, drive revenue, and achieve competitive advantage.

Nigel Fenwick, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

Pic: Hamed Sabercc2.0