Ensuring your Seat on the Leadership Table
By David Otte, CAO and CIO, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
A literal interpretation of an IT title signifies that IT professionals are only responsible for technology systems (and perhaps data management) which is a very limited, micro view of how IT professionals support the business. Information and Technology are two different concepts that have somehow become fused together. Unfortunately, this generalization of IT professionals is a simplification of an IT professional's role in supporting the business.
“More than ever, all functions, departments, processes, products, and people within a company are deeply impacted by technology.”
The role of Information Technology leadership is no longer simply about managing applications, infrastructure, and data. IT leadership has expanded to include managing critical processes, costs, clients, revenue streams, growth, and more. Management of technology and the associated cost drivers - although imperative if an IT leader wants responsibilities outside of traditional IT - is now an assumed deliverable at base level services if you want a seat at the leadership table.
There is a big difference between serving the leadership and serving as leadership which many IT professionals either fail to understand or perhaps lack desire to achieve. It is the difference between being asked to set the table and being asked to sit at the table with the executive leadership team.
Today's organizations desperately need IT professionals to evolve and lead (with their peers) the entire business on a holistic approach. IT's function should not be viewed to only provide technical support, but rather IT leaders should be viewed as essential to drive business processes that enable the business to excel. This more progressive view of IT leadership should be embraced by the CIO, by their direct reports and the entire IT organization. A top-down culture change needs to be facilitated by the CIO and embraced throughout the IT organization. The CIO needs to shift the entire IT mindset to embrace value creation beyond tradition IT by leveraging proven and established service delivery methodologies which have allowed IT to take the next step of leadership beyond traditional IT.
This new role of IT leaders within an enterprise is very different than a "supporting partner" supplying commoditized technology services that can be outsourced to the most efficient and economical provider. This new type of IT leadership serves as an equal peer with the executive leadership team. This is not just an academic distinction. More than ever, all functions, departments, processes, products, and people within a company are deeply impacted by technology. Effective IT professionals should not be merely supporting businesses with technology. Ideally, they should be at the table as peers and leaders, leveraging information and technology to drive the business at all levels. This goes well beyond the traditional management of applications, infrastructure, data, and cloud technologies. In many cases, the business has become the technology, and vice-versa.
We've seen this enhanced role of IT leadership in progressive and highly-competitive organizations, especially with the media's increased focus and appreciation of emerging digital strategies. Although it may take time for many traditionally non-technology based organizations such as law firms and professional service organizations to adopt this new model, since many of their clients have already done so, I anticipate even they will eventually follow suit by necessity.