Technology is not only a tool, but also a business enabler that delivers tremendous value for organizations and their customers. To truly take advantage of the technology available, it must support the company vision, and it must be well-managed and controlled.
This concept is known as IT-Business Alignment. We’ve put together some questions and considerations to help you determine whether your IT actions are aligned with your SMB’s vision.
In a blog article, Willamette SCORE, a resource partner of the SBA serving Eugene, shared statistics from a Zoho employee study conducted in 2020. According to the author, the study indicated that up to 85 percent of respondents from US small businesses look at multiple systems to get a full picture of their customer information. Searching through multiple platforms to gain insight into your customer relationship management can significantly decrease company productivity. From the looks of it, at least in 2020, most of those employees were dissatisfied with how well their companies were implementing technology.
Despite how important it is to align your SMB’s IT strategy with its business strategy, it’s possible your organization may be faced with similar issues. Something to keep in mind to help in this situation, is that cultivating collaborative relationships between IT and other business units will help contribute to broader organizational success.
Despite the obvious importance of aligning IT strategy with business strategy, many organizations struggle to maintain effective communication between departments. Getting to the bottom of why these misalignments are occurring and addressing them is one way to make sure your investments in IT are contributing to the company vision. As a company leader, we recommend you remain constantly on the lookout for signs that your IT staff needs some additional support and bring up issues to the CEO as you identify them.
Units working as silos: Rather than collaborating and embracing interdependence, sometimes units like finance and technology focus strictly on their specific obligations. In our experience, it is best to coach your team to think about how their work contributes to the company’s overall goals and how they can serve internal clients —their colleagues— to make sure they are also contributing to overall organizational goals.
Lack of tech-savvy among key staff: When non-IT leadership is not up-to-speed on technical requirements or if they are not technically literate, this may result in unrealistic expectations among business units or failure to consider the impacts of a new strategic direction.
Confusion about company or IT project goals: If the company’s goals are not clearly communicated, or if the scope and objectives of a certain IT project are not clear, this could result in inefficiencies that paralyze an organization.
Lack of enthusiasm from key stakeholders: When one area of the organization is committed to innovating and seeking growth through digital transformation, while the other plans to remain comfortably within the status quo, the strategic plans they produce will inevitably be fundamentally incompatible.
Communication among your fellow leaders is crucial to avoid these important issues. If you’ve identified any of these symptoms, you and your CEO will need to act quickly to address them. While they may not literally be speaking different languages, units that are not aligned often think about problems in inherently different ways, which can lead to major hiccups.
To avoid major issues and make sure IT is appropriately integrated with other business units, those other departments should each be aligned with the company vision first. For this to happen, your SMB must have clearly defined company goals that each member of your key leadership also understands and can communicate effectively to their teams. A lack of clear organizational goals could potentially lead to incorrect assumptions on the part of your technology or operations team.
For instance, IT may refrain from proposing innovations because they assume there is a preference from management for maintaining the status quo. On the other hand, if the tech team is constantly pushing for technology upgrades and updates, but the company goals related to these upgrades are not clear to the business side of the company, they may not understand IT’s motivations, consequently finding their actions to be misguided.
From the financial perspective, just as non-IT folks can have gaps in their technology knowledge, it’s quite common for staff who are not directly involved in the company finances to lack the knowledge required to fully grasp how certain goals and projects fit into the financial area of your business.
For this reason, we believe the first step towards aligning IT actions and all other business units with the company vision, is to ensure that all staff has insight into how the company makes or loses money. In our experience, leaders in operations and finance who work together with their CEO to communicate this bottom line to staff, are the most successful in aligning each unit to the company vision and to each other. This understanding is important so that money is not carelessly poured into the IT department or any other department.
As a second step, we recommend creating the spaces for leaders to communicate with each other on how technology can be used strategically to align with business goals. Clear lines of communication will guarantee open conversations take place and align strategies among the team.
This year, Oregon was named a finalist in the Government Experience Awards, an annual competition by the Center for Digital Government (CDG). The competition and awards acknowledge the outstanding efforts and overall best practices of government agencies that seek improvements for the citizen experience and how they deliver services. In the competition’s 5th year, CDG is rewarding quick, yet strategic, moves to improve business goals by the government in the second year of pandemic challenges.
If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that regardless of what your business does, you’ll need technology to run it. Whether it forms a part of your business continuity plan, helps you to keep in touch with your customers, or both, your technology is the backbone of your business. For the most part, technology has become a normal part of our lives because it facilitates many of our daily activities.
Developing a strategic technology plan can sometimes overwhelm SMB leaders. Often, companies struggle with core business challenges, and managing technology on top of it all can become cumbersome. Even small IT departments can become overwhelmed as they try to keep internal systems and operations up and running, so they may put strategic planning on the backburner while they tend to immediate needs.
If your team is overwhelmed with the day-to-day and finds themselves letting strategy go, your SMB may not be using the right technology. If this is the case, there’s a chance a chunk of your budget is simply going down the drain.
You may consider the benefits of having a vCIO overlook IT strategy for your SMB. Virtual Chief Information Officers, or vCIOs, are outsourced professionals that have a higher understanding of tech needs and how they should align with business goals. They have the advantage of having seen various other companies struggling with many of the same challenges as yours and will know which technologies are best for solving specific problems.
When considering hiring a vCIO, you’ll need to make sure they will successfully guide your IT team to where your business wants to be. So, if you’re interviewing a vCIO, what should you look for? Aside from having deep technical expertise and being on top of the latest industry trends, a vCIO needs to have a good understanding of business management; make sure to have your key business personnel with you during the interview.
Digital is key to long-term business success, and the path to digital transformation runs through your IT department. A vCIO knows how to align IT to your business goals, as well as how tech could potentially revolutionize your operations. You may consider bringing this option to your CEO, as this may be the perfect opportunity to maximize growth for your organization.
Want to talk to us to see how we could help you align IT with your business goals? Contact us today.