Five Ways to Make IT More Strategic

By Chris Scaglione, VP & General Manager, TierPoint

If you’ve been reading anything about IT leadership in the last year, you’re familiar with the drum beat of advice to “be more strategic.”  But that’s easier said than done.  Many c-suite executives still view IT as a service provider, not a strategic partner.  How do you persuade your peers, your CEO and even your Board to embrace IT’s strategic role?

To get traction for transforming your role, begin by laying the groundwork with these ideas, which CIOs nationwide identified as some of their highest priorities at the WSJ CIO Network earlier this year.

1. Begin with operational excellence.

If you are engaged in a traditional organization that values IT (primarily) for operational excellence, your performance against those expectations must be consistently of the highest quality to play at a higher level.  Simply put, operational excellence equals credibility.

If your service reputation is poor or middling, your journey towards playing a more strategic role starts by focusing on achieving operational excellence first.

2. Map your capabilities to business outcomes.

The speed of change in business technology leads to services that are either outdated or not on target for the business at the same pace of change.  Legacy services get buried, making them hard to see.  Because IT can deliver so many capabilities, you need to be vigilant in weeding out those that don’t support a larger business goal. Visibly map your capabilities to show how your work ties directly into broader corporate strategy.  Share this with the team during your next strategic planning meeting or board meeting.

3. Build trust vertically.

It’s not enough for the CIO to be a trusted advisor to senior management.  It’s also important to align the second and third layers of the IT organization with their business peers.  Building relationships at all levels between IT and the business provides deep understanding of the business issues to IT, while building trust throughout all levels of the rest of the organization.

4. Drop the tech speak.

The days of mystifying others with tech talk (and secretly liking to) has given way to the priority of being understood.   Especially at the executive level, your ability to translate complex solutions into plain language is critical.  People won’t trust you if they don’t understand you.

5. Identify your allies.

While it may be a challenge to gain a more strategic role for IT, you won’t be doing it alone.  Not only will you have internal champions, but support from your outside partners.  To free themselves of critically important but less strategic work, more and more mid-sized companies are relying on trusted partners to design, support and manage top quality IT services.

When you work with a managed services organization, it doesn’t replace your existing IT team.  Instead, an IT services partner such as TierPoint, can serve as an extension of your business, freeing up your strategic team members to further collaborate and drive key business initiatives.

Chris_Scaglione headshot

Chris Scaglione is VP and General Manager at TierPoint where he leads business operations and client engagement. Tapping a 23-year career in IT strategy and management, Chris guides clients through the rapid evolution of business technology and IT services with a focus on helping companies apply the right technologies that drive value, cost savings and market opportunity.