I think sometimes IT organizations and executives lose sight of the fact that they need to develop an ongoing relationship with the business. If you are in the IT organization in most businesses you are in the service business to large degree. In case you haven’t noticed there are a huge number outsourcing and servicing companies vying for the work that used to be part of the internal IT organization monopoly. Recognizing this new reality and the requirement to compete for the “business” of your business is critical if you want to retain your share of the organization’s work and your relevancy to the business.
Here are 5 ways to start engaging the business:
1. Get an elevator pitch
If you can’t succinctly sum up your value statement to the organization you probably won’t get the resources you need. Remember that you are competing for dollars within the organization in the same manner that most organizations are competing for dollars outside the organization. If your technology organization already suffers from a lack of access to senior executives you cannot afford to flub the few opportunities you have by not having anything shorter than a 45 minute brief to show where you bring value. If your only chance to get in front of an executive is while he is getting issued a new iPhone you better make the most of that 5 minutes.
2. Get a business case
Executives love dollars and cents; it is the language of business. Trying to explain things in technical terms isn’t helpful. Frame it in the context of the business. Will it save money? Increase time to market? Say it in those terms. You should be able to easily draw a line from your technology spend to the business of the organization, if you can’t expect to eventually lose those projects. This is an area of increasing awareness in IT with more and more solutions available that are focusing on enterprise portfolio management with solid financial analysis tools in addition to looking at relationships and modeling that has been a staple of many IT management tools for many years.
3. Get more relevant more often
People use what they know. If you want to be in the decision stream you need to be seen as relevant to making decisions. Many enterprise architecture organizations pride themselves on their grasp of the business, technology and data architectures. How do you leverage this information on behalf of the organization? Are you serving as a compiler of information or as a catalyst for change? I have spent an incredible amount of time in meetings with IT and EA staff while they talk about how the business doesn’t realize how much they know. If you really know things go out and be relevant, force the action and push the action to the business. This doesn’t have to be an in your face confrontational action. It can be as simple as delivering insiteful reports that are relevant to daily decision making. Think about this, do your dashboards tell a story about the information you have access to or one that is relevant to real decision-making. The fact is that most executive decisions are still made based on excel workbooks compiled from various data sources. The business is still having to take it the last mile in order for the information to be relevant and until that changes I doubt IT will be seen as highly relevant.
4. Get marketing
If you don’t market to internal stakeholders you won’t be successful, it is that simple. I’m not saying you have to take out full page ads or buy radio time, but you do need to make a concerted effort to appeal to those parties that should be using your information, leveraging your technologies and most importantly conferring with you before making major strategic decisions with huge implications for the technology infrastructure of the business.
5. Get proactive
I’m not sure how IT organizations got so passive aggressive, but I feel like some of the issues could be solved by simply taking the fight to the business. If you want to be relevant and you have real insight push the issue. Most executives are open to high value inputs, they know better information leads to better decision making. Just don’t expect them to be wowed by the size of your presentation or the complexity of your diagram. It is your job to get your insight into the language of the business, not theirs to become technology experts.