The days of IT hiding behind the help desk are over. Period. Chalk it up to digital advancements, the need for every department to drive strategic business decisions and, just as importantly, the changing nature of IT leaders themselves. Today, the best IT leaders are those who focus less on pure technology and more on communicating and collaborating across the company.
Based on research with 150 IT and line-of-business (LOB) leaders across mid- and large-sized enterprises nationwide, gyro identified four key steps that IT leaders can take to optimize their organization’s strategic use of technology.
Step One: Determine Your Goals
Think about where you’d like your department to be a year from now, two years from now, even five years from now. How do you want the IT department to function? What role should the department play in the larger organization and in relation to other departments? How can you foster communication between IT and LOB leaders? What goals or objectives should the team be focused on achieving?
Look to organizations you admire and find IT department role models. Using their successes, determine how you can incorporate those ideas into your transformation blueprint.
Step Two: Rethink and Restructure
The next step is to restructure. It might sound scary, but the truth is, the LOB leaders we surveyed ranked “find new ways to apply technology to improve the customer experience” at the top of their IT department wish list. Is your department structured in a way that can enable this? Start by getting an interdepartmental group going to hear everyone’s goals. After aligning on a vision for the future, work together to outline a new structure for your department based on the goals you’ve established.
Finally, since you have a captive audience, take this opportunity to ask how other departments would like IT to communicate and collaborate. Our research shows that, even when IT leaders say they are communicating, LOB leaders wish they would speak up more.
Step Three: Change the Culture
Any culture change — whether it’s one driven by external forces like digital advancements or internal forces like the need to drive efficiencies by attracting and retaining the best talent — requires a strong leader.
As you lead your team, focus them on the exciting role your department is expected to now play within the organization. Examine the various strengths of your employees and look for ways to nurture their interests and make use of their unique abilities. This is also the time to rethink how IT should recruit in the future. A new role for IT means new types of talent are needed. Consider how hackathons and other non-traditional tactics might attract innovators with fresh ideas and diverse talents.
Step Four: Spread the Word
Remember way back in 1997 when Fast Company proposed that we must be head marketer for “The brand called you?” It’s true. As the head of IT, you lead the charge in how IT is seen and, most importantly, heard.
It’s a completely different way of thinking from today. Our research shows that less than half of IT departments actively communicate on any subject other than tech upgrades. It also found that less than half of IT communication takes the form of anything beyond an email or a newsletter.
For people to fully embrace your IT brand, you must consider creative alternatives for the internal positioning and advertising of your remodeled departmental identity throughout your organization as well as ideas on how it is communicated. One gyro client that appears on the FORTUNE 200 list turned to us to do just that. Was email part of the branding effort? Yes. But so were a logo, technology work-life persona choices, break room posters and video monitor screens that broke the mold of how IT was perceived and gave the department a relatable brand voice and personality.
With the rise of social media, text and chat as forms of customer communication, IT can no longer play a reactive role in any organization; it must become a proactive player. LOB leaders want increased input from IT to help them deliver a more tailored customer experience.
This is the time for IT departments to take the opportunity to play a strategic role in their organizations – to move away from a tech-only role to having an active voice in how the organization grows.
Judy Begehr, SVP Account Planning, gyro