IT in the modern enterprise has evolved from a sheer component of the business to a core necessity that can improve business performance and add to the kitty of the shareholder’s ROI.
Good CIOs now use great technology to improve on many revenue critical processes, thereby enhancing business value over traditional approaches. IT plays a central role in many ways:
1. Data management and the delivery of advanced analytics – to enhance competitive advantage and profitability.
2. Customer service solutions – to improve the ease of doing business.
3. Solutions for procurement – to optimize economies of scale and enable better expense management.
4. Process automation for sales, marketing, support, communications etc. – for business operational support
In fact, IT today is central to an organization’s success by providing critical day-to-day operational support and enabling enterprise wide business change.
So can any employee really shy away from IT and wish it away? Can anybody rise to become an effective manager of a unit or of a product or of a larger region without embracing IT? The answer is obvious.
The personal development initiatives of an average employee however have not evolved beyond getting familiar to some social media or some multimedia applications. Many times, I confront my colleagues and ask them this question: What new automation have they planned for their units? The answers are mostly in the negative. This forces me to push a formal agenda in the organization: Think. Think. And find ways to use IT in your professional lives!
There needs to be a hidden CIO in each of us, who guides us in dealing with our professional lives with a lot of IT added to it.
To truly gain a fast career path up the ladder and maximize IT value, each employee needs to focus on three areas:
1. Demonstrate executive-level leadership by taking a business-first approach in determining technology use in his/her are of work and demand from the CIO that the need gets serviced.
2. Balance strategic thinking and long-term planning with sound operational execution.
3. Push the CEO to run IT as a business within a business, taking a service-oriented approach that empowers all constituents to drive their own IT agenda – but in a centrally guided cohesive manner.
The bottoms-up approach in IT has many compounding effects at the level of the CIO.
Just as a firm’s CFO uses financial expertise to drive enterprise strategy, the CIO is forced to leverage technical expertise and lead from a business perspective and would gain credibility from C-suite peers and from the CEO.
The CIO is compelled to understand the business and build on the ability to make difficult business decisions — as well as anyone else in the organization. This means that the CIO is expected to know the company’s products and services, profit drivers, competition and organizational dynamics.
In a nutshell, the CIO develops the ability to drive a technology vision based on the company’s business vision. A strategy grounded in a business-oriented vision provides direction and motivation to the entire IT organization. Strategy is not enough, however. A strategy is only as good as the execution capability of the organization and the key to execution is facing reality. Hence the role of an average employee is again important and vital.
A great executive is easily distinguished from a merely good one on the ease with which he / she confronts the facts of an organization’s current situation. One needs to develop this ability to accurately assess circumstances, such as the organization’s capacity to execute on projects etc. This honest assessment of the status quo serves as a frame of reference for all decisions.
Leadership is not only about posing questions as seeking answers. It’s about encouraging dialogue and debate, building mechanisms to raise red flags early, and learning from mistakes. Such abilities require discipline, attention to detail, and a structure for addressing issues and managing risk. Every employee needs to understand and fel the presence of these within the organization. No one can afford today to be a ‘floating’ employee – oblivious to the environment about him / her.
The bottoms-up approach in IT has many more effects at the management levels. The business integrated vision of the CIO increases the CIO’s level of influence in the C-suite.
Harnessing IT individually in a business unit or operation provides several benefits: It creates an entrepreneurial environment for the employees, creates more business awareness for tomorrow’s leaders; enables benchmarking of costs; and positions the CIO as a true game changer.
Therefore, it is without any doubt that every employee at every level in any organization should embrace IT and use it as an integral part of corporate operations and strategy.
Today’s employees are in a unique position to assume a leadership role at the executive level, but that individual needs to overcome both perceived and real weaknesses. I have always been a proponent of use of technology in my day-to-day work and have seen it helping me immensely as I move up my corporate ladder.
Can you afford to neglect IT?