- Published: Monday, March 14, 2022 00:00
By Walter Curd, Associate
About twelve years ago I was brought on as the CIO of a large semi-conductor company with an incredibly complex operation. The company manufactured and sold over $2.5 billion worth of units each year, had tens of thousands of quotes and orders each month, and—perhaps most importantly to me as the CIO—was using over 600 software applications to run their business! It seemed like everywhere I looked there were more software programs, and my IT group had to support all of them.
Needless to say, it was obvious to me that our IT organization, as well as the business as a whole, could benefit from some strategic planning. Others agreed, and the company brought in an outside expert to help with the strategic planning process.
This expert took us through a very straightforward process that gave me the information I needed to completely transform my IT organization…and it was all built upon the concept of “winning.”
This strategic planning process is based on 4 questions
These questions are:
- What is “winning” for your organization?
- What will it take to “win” (i.e., to achieve whatever you have defined as “winning”)?
- What do we currently have?
- What do we need to add or change in order to “win”?
With this strategic planning approach the business goes through a process to figure out what “winning” means to them. For example, achieve $X in revenue, increase gross margin by X%, expand into XYZ territory, successfully introduce a new product line, etc. The business’ strategic plan is then all about what needs to be done/added/changed in order to “win.”
IT strategic planning is not about IT
Once the business as a whole establishes its goals and plans, IT needs to go through a similar strategic planning process as well. But here’s the catch: Most IT people think of “winning” in terms of operational excellence. “Winning” is seen as responding promptly to service tickets, providing high uptime/reliability and acing other tactical activities.
While operational excellence is certainly important, I believe that IT should be measured differently if we want to be true strategic business partners.
As IT leaders, it is our job to help the company win. Which means that “winning” for the IT organization is not about IT per se, it’s about ensuring that the business can achieve its list of strategic things that the business’ leaders are trying to do in order to ensure that the organization as a whole “wins.
Every aspect of the business now involves IT
While IT has always played a key role in helping the business achieve its objectives, IT’s strategic importance has grown significantly over time. If you think about it, every business process is now software-based and flows through multiple organizations and software products. The IT organization is the only group in the company that understands the integrated software and business process end-to-end.
Everything now involves IT, and every group within the company now looks to IT to help them achieve their objectives. In a successful company “IT is the business.”
If our IT organizations are too focused on trouble tickets and minor enhancements, we won’t be available to help the business with its strategic objectives. Then when the executives want to do something, they’ll spend money outside the company to get it done. This is what had been happening in the IT organization I inherited when I took over as CIO, and those 600+ software applications were clearly the result of this!
Instead of measuring our success based on support ticket response, we should therefore measure our success based on how well the business achieves its objectives overall.
There are two pieces to strategic planning
The first piece is the process you go through. The second is the result you get out of this process—what you do with the information learned, how you follow through on making the necessary changes to “win.”
As our company went through the strategic planning process it became clear to me that IT’s focus had to change. “Winning” for the company as a whole had been defined as meaning “X.” “Winning” for IT should therefore be defined as “X” as well. Our IT organization “wins” when it successfully helps sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, etc. achieve the things that will make the company “win.”
What did I do to turn the ship around and get IT aligned with the business’ goals? I changed everything! I reorganized, hired new people, split things up, created a Project Management Office, assigned functional CIO business partners to each executive, and more. In short, I made sure that IT was executing on the things that business wanted, so that there wasn’t a need for them to go anywhere else when they needed help.
The shift to a strategic project focus resulted in a 40% increase in project capacity and measurable business benefits attained with these efforts. Our business partnership was instrumental in achieving the revenue and profitability gains through the years which were reflected by a 10X stock price increase.
If “winning” is doing what you can with what you have, then there is no need to change anything. But if “winning” is doing something different than what you have been doing, and you do not currently have the talent you need to “win,” then it’s time to make some changes.
Need help going through the strategic planning process and then putting the necessary changes into place? Give us a call. Strategic planning that results in business/IT alignment is one of CIO Professional Services’ core competencies.
About Walter Curd
Walter Curd is an established expert in modernizing business functions and adding speed and agility to the IT organization to deliver business results. Walter’s innovative “Business Partner” approach to organization ensures that Executive Staff leaders’ key initiatives are prioritized and executed in a comprehensive and transparent fashion.
About CIO Professional Services
Based in the San Francisco Bay area, CIO Professional Services LLC is a top-rated Information Technology (IT) consulting firm focused on integrating Business and Information Technology. Our consultants are all hands-on executives who are veteran CIOs and Partners of Big 4 consulting firms. Companies come to us seeking assistance with their information technology strategy as well as for interim or fractional CIO / CTOs, and negotiation and program management/project rescue assistance.