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Driving in the right direction: How CIOs can ensure activity maps to overall strategy

Mon 9 May 2016

Learning plate

ULLMO_JP Executive Portrait 4x3 H-6907.jpgJean-Pierre Ullmo, VP EMEA Sales at Changepoint, discusses how CIOs should ensure activity is mapping to overall strategy in order to steer their business in the right direction

When learning to drive a car in the UK, you need to first learn the rules of the road and pass a written/video theory test before you can tackle the practical part of the examination. When the time for a practical driving test comes, the examiner monitors and checks many individual parts of the driver’s skill set to ensure they all add up to the achieve an overall strategic goal: a safe driver.

When you step out of the car and take a seat in the boardroom, this model should be mirrored, with the CIO assuming the examiner’s role. Individual actions and project activity must contribute to the overall strategic goal of the company. But with the advent and continued emergence of technologies such as cloud, Big Data and the Internet of Things, control—and more specifically efficient and effective IT management—is becoming increasingly difficult.

Regardless of industry, businesses need tools that provide automated, unified management control and visibility across all critical IT functions—from R&D through to implementation and support. Without this, it is difficult to complete IT projects on time and on budget—time is wasted and money disappears. Additionally, what you’ve achieved may not fit with wider business needs and strategic roadmap.

Eliminating the blind spots

Of course most businesses will have their own existing way of tracking IT activities and projects, but what’s missing is an overarching view. You will not pass your driving test if blind spots are not addressed, and CIOs must be similarly unsympathetic to blind spots within their own organisation.

Traditional approaches to IT portfolio management offer little if any correlation between IT initiatives and organisational objectives to deliver enough insight on the value and outcomes businesses receive from their IT dollars. As a result, activities around governance, risk, compliance, business strategy, business performance, and operational delivery of that stated strategy remain siloed and dispersed within most organisations.

This poses challenges in three critical areas for businesses:

– A decentralised view of risk and compliance limits management’s visibility and decision-making ability

– Potential duplication of activities and overlapping efforts increase cost and risk—draining staff time and company resources

– Emerging and future risks and business scenarios take organisations by surprise because they do not have the overall view of an IT project that lets them predict future trends, risks, and other insights that can be the difference between a successful IT project and a costly waste of IT funding

More importantly, without complete visibility over internal IT projects, CIOs struggle to ensure everyday activity moves in line with business strategy. They also fail to miss warning signs that a wrong turn has been made, and the vehicle is travelling down the wrong road.

Taking the wheel

The key to managing the link between strategic vision and operational execution is to have an effective IT strategy that is a seamless part of everyday business management. That strategy cannot be plucked from thin air based solely around the budget available for a particular IT project, for example. It must draw on information from an accurate business model and insight from business management. Only then can the gap between vision and goal setting be closed along with the physical activities that are completed in the organisation to accomplish these stated goals.

In reality, many organisations currently have a chasm between the C-suite’s strategic vision and activity carried out on the ground on a day-to-day basis. It shouldn’t be about ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ approaches, because organisations need to work more fluidly than this. Aligning strategic vision and activity is one of the core objectives for any business strategy, IT or otherwise, so ensuring it is in place is vital to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Any tool in place should ensure that elements such as strategy, policies and procedures, processes, structure, measuring, monitoring, systems, and data are reported in a realistic manner. Each of these elements is interdependent on each other and any changes within a single or multiple elements have a direct, as well as a cascading effect, on the other elements.

Whether it’s a single IT project, or the ongoing management of day-to-day IT systems, management of IT can make or break a business. Without being able to detect when activity is not mapping to overall strategy, CIOs will not be able to take action to steer the vehicle back in the right direction. As such, it’s critical that they are able to have a live view of all activity.

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