The technology department's strategic moment is here; but is it ready?

IT managers and teams carried their businesses through the past two years. Time for a stronger partnership?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The past two years have changed the way business leaders view their information technology teams. Executives leaned very heavily on IT to save their hides, as well as explore new ways to get ahead. It's up to IT teams, then, to be ready to keep holding the hands of their business clients in what will certainly be another turbulent and unpredictable year ahead. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

But who be there to hold IT managers' hands? Keeping things together while holding the business together will prove to be a daunting challenge.  Not only are IT teams tasked with the digital journey, but also keeping their teams together. A survey of IT professionals, sponsored by Ivanti, that found that keeping up with digital transformation (32%) and keeping technology talent (26%) are the two biggest challenges their organizations face today. The study also finds that IT departments are viewed as critical to an organization's growth and business strategy by 61% of respondents. 

The pressure is on IT teams to deliver. "Too many executives today feel they are behind on digital investments, including cloud computing, AI, and other technologies that competitors and tech vendors flaunt," according to Jenny Koehler, partner with PwC, writing in Harvard Business Review. At the same time, they still use "a significant portion of their discretionary investment to keep existing technology up to date."

Thus, IT is having difficulty in its new, elevated role. "Despite large investments, relatively few of these technologies are driving companies toward a differentiating outcome that truly matters to customers," Koehler and her co-authors point out. 

The PwC authors provide six areas IT leaders and professionals need to address to effectively deliver digital capabilities to their businesses:

  • Connect information technology to customer experience: Koehler and her co-authors urge IT leaders and professionals to ask the big questions. "What is the unique value our company creates for customers and stakeholders? What are the few things we need to be great at to deliver that value?"  
  • Investments don't have to be humungous: "Not every problem needs a big tech solution," the PwC analysts point out. 'Often, the solution requires complementing big technology platforms with simpler small tech automation and processes, new policies, and behavior changes.
  • Reuse and integrate: "Don't be afraid to integrate technologies offered by others, in particular from your ecosystem partners. Customize and innovate only where it leads to true competitive differentiation."
  • Involve the enterprise: Delivering the desired outcome will require changes in roles, processes, policies, ways of working, skills, metrics, incentives, behaviors, data, and more. You will most probably find that without a multi-disciplinary team that shapes the outcomes targeted by your technology investments, you won't be able to capture the full value."
  • Upskill, train and educate: "Engaging people who will use the new technology and upskilling them will be one of your most challenging and time-consuming tasks -- but one that is absolutely critical. Show them what's in it for them -- how this will enrich their jobs and allow them to connect to the organization's purpose."
  • Link business cases to the customer experience: "Business cases typically focus almost entirely on efficiency improvements -- headcount savings from performing tasks faster or with less human intervention, or reductions of the technology cost itself. Be more ambitious. How will the investment change success in customer acquisition or retention? How will it improve your insights and help you better deliver your value proposition?"
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