CXO

The most important skill of the IT department is also the most ignored

The IT team has a great understanding of how an organisation really works: it's time for business leaders to recognise that.

I have long maintained that while the C-Suite can see the business strategically across all levels, only IT is positioned to understand the business at an operational level.

No department has as much cross-functional interaction or expertise to understand the processes, flows and integrated relationships of the business.

But this perspective is lost on our business leaders who see little point in affording IT any opportunity where it can provide value based on this unique positioning.

Truth be told our input is rarely asked for and often rejected as misinformed if offered.

What a shame, because our knowledge and experience offers a different perspective on how things operate - and more importantly on how they can potentially operate better and more innovatively.

There are two schools of IT thought.

One is that IT is not in the 'solutioning' business, and that it is neither our place nor is it our function to interfere or participate in generating business requirements or future strategic imperatives. This is what I call the 'The School of Not'.

The second is that IT should participate in driving business innovation through knowledge sharing and a seat on the executive board - where we are an active versus passive player in the evolution of the business: the School of Thought.

Those in the School of Not that don't allow techies to be more than order takers are propagating the marginalization of IT and its ability to shape and improve businesses. But those in the School of Thought still have a challenge, as it is likely that while the business accepts their position it probably does not respect their input.

The paradox is that as long as IT sits by as a bystander versus being an active participant in business execution, its ability to do its role successfully is impacted. We are ultimately accountable for failed projects and initiatives or least partially so. This drives the business to continue to distance itself from IT and see it as a combative adversary, further perpetuating the issue.

This is no easy obstacle to overcome as credibility needs to be earned and playing an active role in innovation for the business requires a proven track record and executive respect.

The first thing we can do is transfer from the School of Not to the School of Thought and become a vocal presence within the business.

One easy way to start achieving the credibility we need is to advocate the benefits of projects and technology beyond the business unit.

In many cases, development requests or software platforms can be applied beneficially across multiple business units that may not be the driver of the business case. Getting more value and benefit out of enterprise applications which then have a higher return will allow for respect to be forged.

While any journey to garner more respect will be a long road to travel what I know for sure is that businesses fail to see the value of our view of the business and it is hurting businesses and IT alike.

Our ability to understand processes and inter-workings between departments is the most underutilized IT capability in businesses today.

Changing this would improve efficiency, value and any businesses competitive advantage.

How to change it, without alienating business leaders who still think of us as 'techies' without any functional business knowledge, is a challenge we must rise to - and a battle we must win.

The Naked CIO is an anonymous technology executive.

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