Joining an organization as a new executive is an exciting opportunity to better understand the current state of the business, identify the opportunities, risks and gaps facing the organization, and begin to plan for the future.
During the first 90 days, that learning is most often done through meeting with staff, board members and customers.
With fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, a CEO will evaluate areas such as Finance, Operations, Human Resources, Marketing, Customer Service/Retention, and IT. While most CEOs have solid familiarity with most of these departments, it’s frequently IT where they claim the highest level of discomfort and uncertainty.
In a national survey, only eight percent of middle market executives considered themselves to be “experts” when it came to technology strategy.* As a result, it’s not uncommon for the IT department to go unassessed and continue operating as it always has, regardless of the performance and potential opportunities for improvement.
New CEOs Taking A Role In IT: In 3 Ways
Rather than ignoring IT or pushing it to lower management levels, here are three ways CEOs can take an active role in their organization’s IT department and learn how to integrate it into the overall business strategy.
1) Get To Know The Key Players
Not every organization has a Chief Information Officer (CIO) leading the IT team, and some smaller companies may only have one or two people in the whole department. Make it a priority to meet with the IT leader as soon as possible and ask the following questions:
- How does IT integrate and work with the other departments?
- What is a typical day/week for you? How much time are you able to commit to strategic activities and thinking about how we can use technology to achieve our business goals?
- Do you feel as though our mix of in-sourced versus outsourced systems and services are appropriate to the changing needs of our business?
- What business software products are we using, and are we seeing ROI from our investments?
- How are we ensuring that our systems and data are appropriately safeguarded?
- What do you need from me to be successful?
2) Survey Employees
Is IT perceived as a partner to the business? A good barometer of IT health and, ultimately, ROI, is how the employees, as end users, utilize technology to do their jobs. For example, it might be determined that an expensive software purchase is going unused, or that employees have developed workarounds to get their issues resolved that don’t involve the IT department. An outside advisor can act as an unbiased party in surveying employees, whether it is done through a survey tool, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, or a combination.
3) Build Your Team
After meeting with IT and with a better understanding of current technology systems and processes, bring together a group of people who will serve as an IT Investment Committee. This group can include the IT leader, CFO, directors, VPs, a technology-minded member of the board and outside IT advisors. The CEO does not necessarily need to be part of this team, but can choose to attend meetings depending on the size of the organization. Working as a team, the IT Investment Committee can:
- Establish a process for submission and review of technology-related ideas
- Align information management strategies with the overall organizational goals
- Fuse the IT and business strategies, goals, and resources to achieve competitive advantage through IT
New CEOs have the tremendous opportunity to advance the organizations they serve in a big way and getting a handle on technology from the start is a move in the right direction. Technology is far too critical to success, and potentially far too damaging if not managed appropriately, for CEOs to delegate it completely to others. These three steps will help CEOs evaluate the strength, stability and strategy of the IT organization in order to understand if it is positioned to support the vision for the future.
Contact Experienced IT Strategy Consultants
Business leaders can contact Hartman when they’re looking for independent, unbiased help to assess an organization’s IT systems, people and processes in a holistic way. Hartman will also help create a strategic IT road map that aligns with the business goals and overall plan. Reach out to our experienced IT strategy consultants by calling 410.587.0064 or by requesting a consultation online.