A 2018 Capgemini study on the alignment between business and IT uncovered a sobering reality: the relationship between the two groups has deteriorated over the past several years, even as IT has become recognized as a strategic part of the business. Thirty-seven percent of respondents in last year’s report believed that business executives and IT leaders had the same understanding of the latter’s role—a 43 percent decrease from Capgemini’s 2012 study.
This downward trajectory is puzzling, given how technology has revolutionized every industry and elevated IT concerns to the C-suite. As CIO contributor Minda Zetlin put it in a recent article, “Over the past few years, business leaders have come to value IT as never before. At the same time, their trust in the people who manage IT has plummeted.”
So what can IT leaders do to reverse the trend and repair the relationship with the business?
Here are a few tips:
- Be transparent: When in doubt, over-communicate. To sow the seeds of trust, it’s critical that business leaders understand what IT is doing and the drivers behind such actions. Today’s fast-paced environment makes it all too easy to skip over explanations, but IT risks derailing the relationship further without complete transparency.
- Establish clear reporting lines: With every organization highly dependent on technology, the CIO role has grown increasingly strategic. As such, IT individuals should report directly to the CEO so that they are on equal footing with the rest of the C-suite and not viewed as a supporting function.
- Focus on consultancy, not order taking: In today’s business environment communication skills are a must-have for IT leaders. Communication is important not only for IT to translate technical problems and concepts into layman’s terms, but also to grasp fundamental business challenges and offer solutions as consultants to the business.
- Work at it: Like any relationship, ensuring alignment between business and IT takes work. It’s easy enough to follow the steps outlined above and other tips when a new technology is being deployed. The trick is to do it all the time and not default to old habits due to a demanding workload or other distractions.
We’re barely into a new year, which makes it an opportune time to mend your business/IT relationship. Regardless of which camp you belong to, a strong, mutually beneficial relationship is key to success in the digital age.