Business · CIO

Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

IMG_3184The Information Technology (IT) organization is going through a significant transformation. The transformation itself is not only disruptive, but confusing for many of the stakeholders including IT leadership, IT staff and those outside of the IT organization. Three years ago, I wrote about this in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race. The path through this tumultuous time is fraught with confusion, misdirection and significant potential for failure.

But fret not. As the top IT leader, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the organization through this transition. There are three things that will help turn the corner.

  1. REMOVE ALL REFERENCES TO ‘THE BUSINESS’

It is very common to hear IT staff referring IT and “the business” as if they are two different organizations. Unfortunately, this creates a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them’. As I discuss in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race, how IT refers to non-IT organizations is just as important as how non-IT organizations view IT. Today, they are seen very differently. That needs to change…and now. The CIO should see themselves as a business leader first, that happens to have responsibility for IT. Just this one mental change starts to create a waterfall of differences in both language and culture.

  1. DISCUSS VALUE IN MONEY TERMS…NOT TECHNOLOGY

Too many times, IT focuses on the value of change in terms of technology. And many times, IT staff find frustration in why business leaders do not understand their pitches. At the end of the day, the official language of the business is money. How does a change impact the organizations ability to change their financial picture? In the past, the focus for IT was on cost constraints (save money). Today, that has changed where IT provides greater leverage to business agility and economic growth. Note that both of these significantly leverage technology, yet neither mentions technology terms.

  1. FOCUS ON THE VALUE CHAIN OF THE CUSTOMER

There are many ways in which to discuss business agility and economic growth. However, neither are particularly important unless you first understand the value chain of the customer. To be clear, the customer here is the customer of the company…not internal users. When the CIO and IT starts thinking of itself as a business organization, so changes the perspective of who the customer really is. The customer, after all, is the one that provides said economic growth for the company. Ironically, IT is one of the few organizations in a company that historically has had limited interactions with the customer. That must change. In order for IT (and company as a whole) to succeed, the CIO not only needs to understand the customer, but also be engaged with the customer.

These three things provide a unique, but foundational shift in the way the CIO can impact change in their language and culture. Are these the only changes needed to impact transformation? No. However, these three represent a significant shift in the communications for the CIO and IT with other stakeholders.

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