With very few exceptions, Information Technology is just one of many tools available in a business’ toolbox. Yet it is one that is often elevated to the point that it begins to drive decisions of what the business will or will not do, instead of business goals dictating how IT will be used to move forward. To keep a business focused on long-term success, it is vital that your IT infrastructure aligns with, and helps deliver on, your business goals rather than driving your business based on the capabilities of your tech.
Plan vs Tech
You no doubt have a business plan. It may be a 10, 5 or 1 year plan, but you know what you need to accomplish in order to be successful. While things change, and you have to be nimble and react to the market, your overarching objectives usually do not change dramatically. Technology, on the other hand, changes dramatically, frequently! Trying to drive business results based on the latest whiz-bang tech is definitely putting the cart before the horse. Technology is a great supporting tool, but it makes a horrible leader.
Good Technology Drives Business
In today’s marketplace, most businesses thrive by doing what you do better / faster / cheaper than your competition. In that pursuit, Information Technology can support your business goals by automating and enabling many tasks. From order processing to HR record keeping to your web presence, IT can be an enabler. But it is imperative that your IT department understands what the business is working to achieve, and aligns systems and applications to support those goals. It is also vital that IT remains actively engaged so they are able to respond to changes and adjustments in direction. Planning performance improvements or capacity expansion for an application that is about to be retired would be foolish, but this is exactly the type of problem that can arise if the IT department is not partnering with the business leaders.
Information Technology Leadership
This is not to say that IT just lays down at the door and does whatever the business wants. Your IT department needs to be actively engaged with your business leaders for two very key reasons;
- As already stated, understanding the goals in order to align resources to achieve them
- Also to bring knowledge of IT capabilities to the business to help drive and define goals
It really does need to be a partnership. Business leaders may have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish, but IT leaders can guide decisions on methods and quantities based on what the technology tools can deliver. For example, a task of delivering printed marketing material may appear to be cost prohibitive until the IT department brings a solution to use electronic document delivery instead of hardcopy print.
While each business is unique in some ways, there are common business practices that need to be performed which often utilize infrastructure for automation. But beyond that, your business will have it’s own set of issues and requirements. If not already done, begin now to lay the groundwork to ensure your IT department partners with your business leaders. Both can collaborate and maximize your IT capabilities to drive toward your business goals, and not wind up with IT dictating your business goals. After all, technology is a great servant, but a terrible master!