How to make IT strategy a key component of your business strategy
Technology is a key component of your business. Are you doing enough to make sure that this key component is helping your company be more productive and efficient and prepare for the future? Chances are, if you don’t have someone dedicated to regularly looking at your technology with one eye on business strategy and the other on the future, the answer is probably no. Below we outline what this role can look like and then we use two recent examples from our clients to show how this role works in action.
What’s a Chief Information Officer (CIO)?
IT strategy is so critical to the future of a business that we would recommend companies have a Chief Information Officer, or CIO. It is this person’s job to strategically ensure your IT is making your business more efficient and productive while also proactively looking ahead to see how improvements in technology will improve your business.
What are the key skills of a CIO?
- Great listening – a CIO must listen to the requirements of the business, hear what the “pain points” are and understand the strategic goals of the business
- Technical knowledge – a CIO must have the technical knowledge to understand the bigger picture of how technology fits into the business strategy and how changes will affect the business
- Communication/Negotiation – a CIO must be able to reach out to a variety of vendors to find the best options and negotiate the contracts that work best for your company. They must be able to communicate those changes at a non-technical level that other business leaders will not only understand, but also see the strategic benefits of
- Oversight – a CIO oversees entire technical projects at a high level to ensure that communication, technology, and negotiation all come together to achieve the best results for the business
Can’t afford a CIO? How about a vCIO?
Not all companies can afford to have a C-level executive in this role. We believe in the importance of this role so strongly that we provide it as part of our service: a ‘virtual’ CIO (vCIO). This is a real person! Just not someone onsite at your business on a daily basis. They have all the skills and capacities of an in-house CIO, without the cost.
How does a CIO or vCIO work in action?
The following examples are taken from recent projects completed with two of our clients. They illustrate how the key skills of a CIO come together to create incredible value for your business.
Client A: A new phone system
Client A had a phone system that no longer met their needs and was in the market for a new system. By consulting with their vCIO, Steve, they were able to acquire a phone system that not only met their complicated needs, but also reduced annual recurring service expenses by 45% over their current outdated system.
How did we do it?
- Great listening: Steve listened to the client’s requirements for the new system. With multiple buildings, mobile staff, after-hours and videoconferencing requirements, they had a complicated set of needs.
- Technical knowledge: Leveraging his prior experience, Steve was able to take each telecom company’s sales speak, and then turn it into business language for our client’s executives
- Communication/Negotiation: Steve worked with 5 different vendors, compared the variety of services, and narrowed down the packages to those needed by the client. He utilized the competition between vendors, along with a clear understanding of his client’s requirements, to obtain stronger proposals from each vendor.
- Oversight: Steve took on the entire project and system selection process: tech overview, pricing, comparisons. He did a 10-year cost comparison considering upgrades and ISP costs as well as the installation and operating costs of the system itself. The 10-year cost comparison was able to equal out the variety of initial discounts offered by each vendor.
Our client was able to evaluate the solutions based on business-value and outcomes-delivered on a balanced field, ultimately getting the functionality they needed while reducing annually recurring service expenses by 45% and the project was delivered 25% under budget.
Client B: ERP System consulting
Another of our long-term clients was ready to scale up their business, but realized their software and infrastructure were not capable of the expansion. They knew they needed a more robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system but didn’t know where to start. Utilizing the skills of their vCIO, Ron, this client found the right system to help their business grow.
How did we do it?
- Great listening: An ERP system provides a company the ability to integrate the processes that are essential to running their business, including tracking inventory and orders, accounting, payroll, customer relationship management (CRM) and more. So, the very first thing Ron did was to interview the company’s leaders in order to understand their business processes from front to back. From those interviews he was able to document the functional requirements of the ERP system – the things it absolutely must be able to do.
- Technical knowledge/Research: Ron put together his technical knowledge and the information discovered during his interviews to compare the functional requirements of the client to ERP solutions on the market to find products that were able to meet these needs.
- Communication: Ron handled the communications with the ERP solutions sales teams to get detailed information on their products, pricing, and infrastructure needs. Working with the client and following IT Direct standard processes, the field was narrowed to 3 strong candidates. Ron had each of them present their solution to our client.
- Oversight: Ron’s interviewing, research, and communications work saved huge amounts of time and resources for the rest of our client’s executive team. His technical knowledge provided them a complete picture of not only the software they would need, but the updates their infrastructure would need in order to meet their business requirements.
Ron was able to give our client a full picture of all the costs of this new system so that they were able to make an informed decision for their organization. Our client received information on the best systems that would fit their requirements and have now chosen the ERP provider the will be the best solution for their company. They have a clear view not only of the functional requirements of the system, but also an understanding of what they can expect as an end result.
Reach out to us today to learn more about how to improve your IT strategy – using technology in new ways that improve efficiency and productivity, help you meet strategic business goals, and allow you to change the market in which you do business.