Achieving business transparency

How can CIOs achieve business transparency? What is required for them to succeed here?

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Today’s CIO need to achieve many things to be relevant to their business counterparts. At the top of this list should be establishing business transparency. The question is how do they achieve it? And what things are needed to put transparency in place? These are the questions that I posed recently to the #CIOChat. Their answers should be relevant to all CIOs and key members of their management teams.

Transparency matters

CIOs believe transparency matters. They say that transparency is about trust—without transparency you do not have trust. Simply put, you go nowhere when your customers and employees do not trust you. In terms of achieving business relevance, CIOs believe that transparency provides the foundation for translating strategy into execution. With it, CIOs believe there can be common understanding, vision, and even purpose. Transparency for these reasons can move the business forward. CIOs say as well that monitoring and measuring progress along the journey matters. In sum, CIOs believe that transparency is critical to creating a healthy company culture and to ensuring that other business leaders are on the same page and can make better decisions.

Relating the IT strategic plan to the overarching business strategy

CIOs claim that business strategy is the destination and IT’s plan is the vehicle to get the enterprise there. For this reason, CIOs say that the business plans need to happen prior to an IT strategic plan. However, CIOs believe with the pace of change in the age of disruption that more and more business strategies should be developed in conjunction with IT strategy—otherwise misalignment can occur. IT strategy should be part of business strategy in forward thinking organizations. CIOs are clear that only when this happens is IT considered part of the business.

CIOs believe that leadership must review the tactics of the strategic plan regularly to ensure an organization adapts to market changes. It has become clear that strategies no longer work for 12 months. Relating IT expenditures to business initiatives is critical to achieving business transparency. At the same time, individuals and teams need to understand how they contribute to the organizational vision. Doing this creates the engagement and employee satisfaction that is essential for strategies succeeding. Clearly, when people care more, they work better together.

Relating IT expenditures to business initiatives

CIOs believe that it is important to associate IT spend with the strategic impacts to the business. Too often IT organizations that I have worked with associated spending with the technology that enables them. All IT spend should be related instead to corporate business initiatives. It is essential that IT leaders be able to relate IT spending to how it moves the business forward. Additional, CIOs suggest that IT plans should be evergreen and agile, just like business planning. CIOs believe that relating IT expenditures to business initiatives creates budget transparency, confidence in innovation, and goal alignment. Finally, CIOs say that IT organizations need to expose expenditures that are out of alignment—this will uncover either unrecognized business priorities or inappropriately created expenditures. Every IT expenditure today must have business impact.

Key elements CIOs need to business transparency

When asked about what CIOs need to do to create business transparency, I got a long list. Here are the items that I think CIOs and other IT leaders should consider.

  1. Link IT strategies to business strategies and share the connection points
  2. Share how budget is aligned with and supports business strategies
  3. Do executive check-ins on spending that unearth hidden or unannounced priorities and agendas
  4. Ensure company strategy is illuminated by the IT spending data. Know a strategy that’s more expensive than anticipated might not be the right strategy.
  5. Explain how expenditures are making the organization better, improving customer experience, improving satisfaction, and most importantly, helping the business execute its overall strategy and vision.
  6. Ensure people, processes and technology are tightly aligned to achieve transparency and organization growth and success
  7. Know to be a part of the business means IT is linked to business strategies and can share the linkages. Don't assume as my wife sometime does that someone else will "get it."
  8. Constantly ensure overall IT and technology goals are aligned back to the business strategy
  9. Put in place proper implementation and tracking of regulation and compliance and IT infrastructure and security measures

As you can see, CIOs feel that achieving business transparency really matters. It is critical that CIOs put time and energy into achieving it. Otherwise, they can be replaced. A good friend was appointed CIO at his insurer because the business did not understand what IT was spending its money on. He searched for language that made things transparent and found it in the language of risk. This search should be the goal of all CIOs.

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