Driving IT changes from the top: 5 keys

Most companies now realize that IT can’t be seen as separate from top-level management. But there’s a real challenge when it comes to integrating IT into a leadership role.

Misinterpretations of the role of IT in a company are well-documented: It’s a cost-center, not a profit-generator. It should focus on maintenance of legacy systems, not drive decisions. The primary job should to put out fires and fix problems, not to make changes.meeting

But a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey shows that for companies to have success, digital savvy is a must. According to the firms sixth annual Digital IQ survey, businesses that had a strong Digital IQ – or mastery of technology at the company’s highest level – were 2.2 times more likely to be top-performers in revenue growth, profitability, and innovation.

Furthermore:

  • 81% of top performing companies rated their organization’s IT department as having technical architecture proficiency
  • 78% said the IT department was experts in quality assurance, and
  • 77% of departments had excellent project management skills.

Getting to the top

Despite evidence that giving IT a decision-making role can boost the bottom line and performance, some last-generation thinking persists when it comes to bringing IT pros into the fold.

Here are five keys to getting IT more involved at a high level.

1. Get the CEO involved

You need as much help from the top as possible when getting your agenda heard and understood. That starts with the very top level, the CEO.

According to PwC, 81% of top-performing companies had a CEO that championed the use of new technology whereas 68% of companies that weren’t top performers said the same.

When you’re selling IT’s goals, strategies and initiatives, tailor your message specifically toward the business outcomes it could have. Rather than focusing on the technology itself, start from the results you can expect to see, then work backward to explain the underlying technology behind those results.

2. Partner with the C-level

Companies that had strong relationships between IT and other C-level partners also showed a positive correlation with high performance. When CMOs, CIOs, CFOs, CTOs and others got together, it led to a better overall company.

In other words, it isn’t enough for IT to be brought to the table on important decisions. You also have to work to make connections between the rest of the participants.

Find out what some of the challenges your colleagues are facing in their own departments are. Chances are there’s a technological solution you could help them implement and plenty you can learn from their experiences as well.

3. Look outside

Companies that innovated from outside of their own organization did especially well in the study.

While you’ll obviously want to get your own people involved in coming up with new ideas and solutions, other industry contacts, open-source solutions and consultations with outside pros and vendors can also pay off.

Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes on a problem helps boost performance.

4. Infrastructure and technology improvements

One of the hardest things for an IT pro to do is to win funding for new projects and initiatives. But according to the PwC study, it offers a solid return on investment in performance.

The biggest areas of investment for companies included:

Obviously, that covers a lot of ground, and significant investment in each area might not be possible (or in fact worth it). But these key areas are a good place to start when narrowing down decisions.

Find out which areas your company values the most. Then target projects that can be easy wins for each. The best route to future funding is initial successes you can point back to.

5. Spread it out

The long-term strategy: Keeping IT from being perceived as a department that’s off and doing its own thing.

The more cooperation you have with other business units and their leaders, the better this will work out.

A big part of this: keeping your own people in the loop. That shows them how they fit in with the organization and prevents them from seeing IT as an island unto itself.