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SmartAdvice: Driving Business Value, Enhancing Your Career

The Advisory Council suggests you consider new approaches to managing these initiatives: driving business value (and your career), PeopleSoft's viability, and Wi-Fi hot spots.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a new weekly column by The Advisory Council, a Westport, Conn.-based business-technology advisory service. Each week the column will spotlight TAC's advice on two or three issues of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. We encourage you to write to TAC and request answers to pressing business-technology issues. They will not solicit you unless asked, and will respond to you here or directly via E-mail at

Topic A: After three years in my current CIO position, I still find myself out of the loop when it comes to strategic business decisions. What can I do about this?

Our advice: If your input and opinions aren't being sought at a strategic level, chances are you're not spending enough time with senior business executives. Make a systematic effort to get out of your office and begin to engage the business through informal exchange, at scheduled meetings, and over lunch.

There are five key areas to building and maintaining a strong relationship with the business:

  1. Assessment
  2. Vision development
  3. Planning
  4. Execution
  5. Measurement

The companies leading the way out of the recent recession take a disciplined approach to each of these areas.

1. Assessment
The first step in repositioning yourself and your organization is to demonstrate the value you have to add, not just as a manager and a techie, but as a strategic partner. Begin by taking inventory and assessing the circumstances that have led to your devalued position. Create a list of strengths and improvement areas. Conduct a high-level analysis by business unit and assess the value delivered by your department--the technologies, processes, and relationships already in place.

Next, assess your company's utilization of technology--especially where you are in your technology's life cycle--and take a close look at the competition and the current level of executive support you do have.

Remember, you'll be viewed as valuable when your plan and leadership are seen as supporting and promoting the CEO's and CFO's vision for the company.

One important initiative would be to assist or drive the process of defining and documenting the business-technology vision. World-class organizations leverage technology, focus on core strengths, outsource non-value-add areas, and expect their IT leaders to demonstrate leadership skills, initiating and building strong relationships with the business.

2. Vision And Alignment
Engage the business and co-develop a technology-enabled business vision. Be warned: This can take months, be painful, and require strong leadership and change management across the organization, including business process, behaviors, and beliefs. Technology can and will be a competitive differentiator, if applied smartly. Your job is to be part superman, part change agent, and part spiritual leader.

Companies that really "get it" set up a technology executive council to prioritize and report on initiatives and projects. This council provides you and your colleagues with greater visibility and a forum to discuss the business and technology linkage, alignment, and other ongoing issues. Then cascade this same model down to the business-unit level and throughout the organization. Success will vary. Don't be discouraged by incremental progress and some setbacks.

We recommend that IT executives create a vision that applies to three levels: the external market, across the enterprise, and within the IT organization.

To co-develop your vision, help your partners focus on the market and on the competitive landscape. Ask where your company can move beyond the competition through a new technology, or through utilizing an existing application. Present various scenarios of how the business might use a new technology to its advantage. Once a vision is agreed on, plan how it will be rolled out.

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