Not What, but How – Connecting IT and the Business

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.
People Behind Us In Hyde Park By rileyroxx on flickrBill Laberis had an interesting article on the Enterprise CIO Forum in late April titled Connecting IT and the business. In the article, Bill points to the latest CIO.com State of the CIO survey and that survey’s two top priorities for CIO’s in the next three to five years.

These priorities, according to Bill are simple: “driving business innovation” and “identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation”

Sounds like great priorities…..and ones that every CIO would agree with but also ask how to get a real handle on how to attack these priorities.

In his article, Bill reports on the response of Ralph Loura, the CIO of Clorox who claims that there are two critical paths to reach these goals. They are:

One is to take the steps necessary to prove IT’s true value as a business enabler. And the other is to move aggressively to embed IT directly into the business.

Both are definitely critical paths…..and both important for any CIO / organization to attempt to undertake.

But…the question still exists.  How?

How do we show the business value of IT?  How do we embed IT into the business?

Great questions.

Loura continues with some excellent (excellent) insight:

“In IT we’ve rewarded and trained people to be risk averse…to build very stable, very controlled systems. Try to tell those same people: Now your job is to run as fast as you can and as be as agile as you can and as creative as you can to help solve some challenges at the edge of the business, as opposed to the core of the business. It definitely takes a different kind of person to really want to run at that front edge, bringing technology to the business.

Emphasis mine.

Love it.  Finally a CIO focused on the real issue at hand…..the issue of the people.  Its not technology nor process…its the people.

IT professionals have been trained to be risk averse. IT professionals have been trained to focus on control.  In order to really create value and allow the organization to use technology for ‘competitive differentiation’, the IT group must become faster and more agile (not necessarily Agile) – which are two things that are hampered by risk aversion and a control focus.

So…before IT can show and deliver value…we have to focus on ourselves and our people.  How can a CIO show value to the organization if they have trouble showing their own people the value their individuality and creativity bring to the IT team and organization?

So…in order to get started down the critical paths of the ‘what’ of “driving business innovation” and “identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation“, CIO’s need to first focus on the people that will be asked to drive innovation and competitive differentiation. Many processes are built into the IT world to do nothing but control individuality and creativity…..finding ways to still have workable processes while also allowing more innovation is the real trick for the CIO.

To do that, focus on your people.  Give your people the freedom to find new ways to do things. Reach out to the organization and ask for ideas on how to improve things.  Focus on the people rather than the technology or process and you might find the road to innovation and differentiation is easier than you thought.

Focus on your people, and maybe…just maybe…the ‘how’ will start showing itself.

Image Credit: People Behind Us In Hyde Park By rileyroxx on flickr

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.