We’re all used to having virtually unlimited technology in our lives – both at home and at work. With all of this access, companies have the opportunity to leverage technology as a competitive differentiator. All this demand leads to increased pressure on CIOs to align their efforts with business strategy.
For your technology strategy to be a competitive advantage, you must have an integrated, holistic approach to architecture, design, and vision that matches your business goals. Leveraging project portfolio management helps you provide structure to decision making – but ensuring alignment also uses the softer skills of communication, collaboration, and caring.
This may seem obvious, but many CIOs underestimate the amount of the communication needed to get and maintain strategic alignment. It may be difficult for someone at an executive level to admit that they don’t understand technology and its role as a component of business strategy. As the CIO, you need to build bridges by talking to business stakeholders in their own language. And you need to take a genuine interest in the business and understand the drivers across the business.
You also need to be open and willing to share information about your department. As a member of the management team, you’re expected to understand other departments while they may not understand yours.
The more you help them, the more they will respect you as a business leader. This kind of communication builds understanding and credibility.
Bring your unique technology expertise to business problems. While it can be tempting to take the approach that technology can solve everything, approaching problems with a collaborative mindset can help your team see how technology advances their strategy. Demonstrate how small technology advances can streamline processes, provide growth opportunities, or save time and money.
Good collaboration goes both ways. While you’re helping to solve business problems through technology, you also need to collaborate on incoming demands. Have open discussions with those requesting new projects to ensure that you have a clear picture of the problem they need to resolve (or opportunity they’d like to capture). This bi-directional collaboration helps you make sure that you’re aligning with key business objectives and that your prioritization reflects those goals.
Finally, you need to genuinely care about your company’s business, not just the latest and greatest technology. This needs to come across to your peers and your customers – the end users of the technology that you’re in charge of. At the end of the day, the business that you’re representing is not technology; it is merely enabled by it.
Open communication and collaboration feed into demonstrating that you care about the business outcomes. You can also demonstrate this by setting priorities that best serve your business needs, not just that are the “cool” projects that make your department interesting. Sometimes investing in an SAP upgrade is more important than developing a new app for help desk tickets.