When I graduated from college, I worked as an assembler language programmer for Sears. At that time, Sears was the world\u2019s largest retailer and it was just beginning to use the new System 360 from IBM. IT was looked upon as a group of techies that performed some unexplainable job that was supposed to revolutionize the business. Beyond that, the senior executives across the business knew little of us nor did they want to know.\n\nEver since then, IT has been accused of being too technology-oriented. But much has changed. We have seen more CIOs being recruited from outside of IT to inject business knowledge into IT, and many IT leaders themselves have pursued MBAs for the same reason. Despite this, many non-IT executives still don\u2019t understand how to work effectively with IT, nor do they believe doing so is part of their job. It is up to CIOs to change this narrative so that companies can maximize the value of IT.\n\nTo do my part in helping convince business leaders they must play a role in IT, I stepped directly into the business executive pipeline, volunteering to guest lecture in the MBA program at a local large university. The title of my presentation has been \u201cDigital Transformation Strategy,\u201d subtitled \u201cHow to effectively exploit the IT resource to gain sustained competitive advantage.\u201d\n\nWhen I present to future MBAs, I focus on four central issues that business executives most often get wrong about IT.\n\nWhere IT should report\n\nThe initial point of discussing organizational structure is to educate those most likely to be aspiring for corner offices that the CIO needs to report to the CEO or COO. To often CEOs have positioned IT to report to some other executive, oftentimes the CFO, and according to CIO.com\u2019s State of the CIO survey, 18% still do. This decision is often made because IT is viewed as a cost center. Putting IT under the CFO, the company will likely have financially sound systems but perhaps not the ones the company strategically needs.\n\nWhen the CEO doesn\u2019t think IT is important enough to get top-level attention, that message filters down to the rest of the corporation. IT is not viewed to be as important as Sales, Finance, Manufacturing, Operations, or Marketing \u2014 dangerous in a highly competitive environment where efficient or innovative systems can spell the difference between the corporation\u2019s success or failure.\n\nWho should determine the IT agenda\n\nAll of senior management must be involved in achieving consensus on the IT agenda, not just the CIO. This can be achieved only by establishing a committee of all CEO direct reports whose job it is to achieve consensus on the annual IT agenda.\n\nIt\u2019s a fool\u2019s errand to think the CIO is smart enough to understand the needs of each department in a modern, complex corporation and be able to determine the overall priorities. This must be in the job description of every executive who reports to the CEO. Without this committee, there is a danger that the IT agenda will not be aligned to the corporate objectives.\n\nWhat IT\u2019s role is in corporate strategic planning\n\nNext, the company\u2019s top executives must ensure that the CIO participates in the corporate strategic planning process. In this role, the CIO brings to the table any emerging technologies that could be adopted and what their impact could be on the corporation \u2014 especially with respect to the competitive environment the company faces.\n\nThis is vital input to the planning process that could ultimately affect the entire corporation and must be incorporated from the start.\n\nWhat role the business plays in systems development\n\nSystems development is another important area executives need to understand. The systems IT develops will not be used by IT; rather, they will become integral to the requesting department. It is important, therefore, that management understand the processes involved in proposing the system, estimating the cost, determining the ROI, producing the deliverables, changing the specifications and time frames, and measuring the system effectiveness. After all, the completed system may impact sales projections, departmental costs, and individual incentives, to name a few.\n\nManagement must also assure that the people in the user organization are given the time and recognition to do the work required to develop the precise specifications of the system. Without this understanding, tomorrow\u2019s MBAs will fail to maximize the true value of IT.\n\nAdditional notes for future business leaders\n\nThere are several other areas that the corporation\u2019s executives need to be aware of to effectively understand the IT organization:\n\nOne final thing. I would like to see companies participate in post-implementation studies to determine whether the new system achieved its objectives and ROI and what could be done to do a better job in the future. This would require time on both IT and the end-user departments but it would go a long way to improving results.\n\nThese are the topics discussed with the MBA students to help them understand their role in IT when they achieve C-level status in the corporation. I would strongly recommend that current CIO\u2019s and their senior staff develop plans to present these ideas to their peers. My book The 9 1\/2 Secrets of a Great IT Organization has the subtitle \u201cDon\u2019t Do IT Yourself.\u201d This collaborative process across the business-IT divide, if successful, will go a long way to maximizing the potential of information technology for the good of the corporation overall.