The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds
Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer Retail & Vision Care Services
Business and technology can seem incompatible at times. How do you bridge that gap?
We receive a number of requests for technology capability that from a business acumen perspective, are unnecessary. The challenge then becomes how to enter the dialogue of what our business is really trying to achieve and how we support that desired outcome. At the end of the day, a major part of an executive’s role is to prioritize investments within their organization. To do this effectively, you must have an educated point of view as to what technology investments will deliver the greatest impact in support of the overall needs of the organization, both now and in the future.
How do you see your role with other business leaders in your company?
It is common to categorize IT professionals as order takers and ask how IT drives the business. In reality, it is disingenuous to suggest that IT “drives the business.” While IT may facilitate increased revenue and growth, that capability is sponsored by business leaders who make strategic decisions. In today’s business environment, IT professionals live in a difficult middle space where they are unable to survive by acting as order takers or by constraining other leaders by simply saying no. Instead, we must view themselves as partners with business leaders and work to build strong, lasting relationships. Critical for a successful business relationship is the ability to negotiate and successfully gain alignment. Each technology request represents an opportunity to either educate or provide perspective. A substantial part of our role is to educate our peers as to what is possible and what their choices are. Over time, I’ve learned that while everyone likes the concept of education, no one likes to actually be taught. It is a skill to provide other leaders with context and insight without lecturing or being perceived as someone who is dictating terms to them.
What do you find is the best way to approach change?
As an organization, we’re trying to become more adaptable and build a culture that doesn’t resist change. However, no one likes change and even though we’ve gone through six years of evolution and change education activities with our associates, we still dislike change. I’m probably the chief evangelist for change in our organization and while we must acknowledge that we don’t like it, our true competitive advantage is that we are going to continue reinventing ourselves by evolving our mix of services, structure, and mindset in order to successfully deliver against market and business strategies. As IT professionals, we must adapt what we’re doing and how we’re doing it at all times to ensure that we’re prepared to support what may or may not happen to our businesses in the future. This requires a commitment to application and infrastructure choices that value both flexibility and scalability. As long as we continue to grow and envision new opportunities, we will position ourselves for greater success.