Bridge the Gap Between Business Leaders and Tech Teams

Based on my experience overseeing enterprise-wide engineering, delivery, and technology operations, I have developed some best practices and fresh ideas that can help put companies on the right path in each of these essential areas.

Tyler Derr, Chief Technology Officer

January 17, 2024

4 Min Read
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JP Ruth

Business leaders often expect technology teams to work wonders. Technology leaders want business leaders to better understand their world. It’s no secret that business and tech professionals need to improve their relationships. The question is how.

According to in Broadridge’s 2023 Digital Transformation and Next-Gen Tech Study, half of all business leaders say they don’t have a clear enough picture of IT’s role in digital transformation. At the other end of the spectrum, more than a third of technology leaders say business leadership needs to learn more about the capabilities and limitations of tech.

Many businesses try to bridge these gaps by changing titles and responsibilities: Product managers become product-owners and go-betweens. IT process managers and business requirement managers become intermediaries for business and technology. These changes are a good start, but they’re working at the margins.

In my role as chief technology officer at Broadridge, I think about these issues every day. The success of any technology transformation project depends as much on understanding and cooperation between functions and individuals as pure technical execution. Achieving that understanding and cooperation requires a deft blend of the right goals, strategies, communication channels and organizational structures.

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Based on my experience overseeing Broadridge enterprise-wide engineering, delivery, and technology operations, I have developed some best practices and fresh ideas that can help put companies on the right path in each of these essential areas.

Goals: Focus on Business Outcomes

Leadership teams and technology teams approach to issues and projects with different perspectives based on their unique roles. Those differences can cause internal friction that slows transformation efforts and undermines results. The best way to overcome this challenge is to align both camps around the same broad goals.

To some extent, we focus too much on the costs and return on investment (ROI) of major technology programs. Both are incredibly important to track, of course. Yet in the end, it is the impact on business outcomes that counts the most. Framing transformation projects in terms of improved business performance provides a goal that everyone in the organization can rally around. Setting clear, quantifiable, and achievable business goals for technology projects aligns the interests of every function in the organization. Leadership teams then have more patience with any disruptions from technology development and implementation if they understand how the changes will directly benefit the business. Technology teams become more sensitive to the needs of business units when they know the success of the project will be determined mainly by how well the new technology helps improve specific business results.

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Strategy: Prioritize Impact

Projects that improve business outcomes build momentum for future transformation. When everyone in the organization sees the positive impact one technology initiative has on business results, the entire workforce becomes more enthusiastic about additional innovation.

For that reason, it’s usually smart to build technology transformation strategies as a series of shorter-term initiatives that deliver relatively fast, tangible results. It’s much easier to align business and technology teams around short-term projects and goals. Disconnects between the two groups become more prevalent and pronounced when it comes to long-term planning and large-scale programs.

That said, the size and scope of the initiative cannot be the only deciding factor. When you’re prioritizing technology initiatives, you have to consider which ones will have the greatest business impact. Look at legacy environments, for example. Digitizing legacy platforms is expensive, disruptive, and often takes years of work. But it also has a major business impact and generates significant cost savings by getting rid of technological debt. The trick is to break up the larger goal of upgrading the legacy platform into a series of smaller initiatives in which technology teams can partner with business leaders to systematically attack each challenge and deliver quicker, incremental value along the way.

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Communication Channels: Encourage Agile Feedback

Basing transformation strategies on short-term projects that deliver high-impact business results provides another key benefit: it creates opportunities for professionals from both the business and technology side to provide feedback that can guide future development efforts. Creating a culture that incorporates elements of agile design allows for a constant flow of input that helps identify and solve immediate problems, and to make critical course corrections to long-term strategy.

Organizational Structure: Two-in-a-Box

Broadridge has utilized some novel solutions to help break down barriers between business leadership and technology teams. Among my personal favorite is the “two-in-a-box” model. With a two-in-a-box approach, projects always include two managers: one on the tech side, the other on product. This applies at all levels of the organization. I share a “box” with Martin Koopman, Broadridge’s Chief Product Officer. In recent years we’ve taken the concept more literally by building physical boxes in our North American offices in which team members can pose for “two-in-a-box” photos. We are now rolling them out internationally. It’s fun to see the product and technology teams taking pictures in the box and sharing them across the organization. But beyond the lightheartedness, these photos play a more important role by illustrating to everyone in the company that business and technology are in this together.

About the Author(s)

Tyler Derr

Chief Technology Officer, Broadridge

As the Broadridge’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Tyler Derr is responsible for overseeing Broadridge’s global technology teams including software engineering, product delivery, architecture, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and technology operations. He has been at Broadridge for 10 years, firstly as CTO of Broadridge’s global technology and operations (GTO) business, and later as chief administrative officer for the same department. Prior to joining Broadridge, Derr worked at OppenheimerFunds. He has also served as the CTO for the global tax business of H&R Block.

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