The pace of change for the tech leader’s role has increased with digital disruption and the emergence of cloud platforms. It pays dividends to understand how to overcome the challenges facing today’s CIO. It’s easy to say, “be consultative”, but to become an essential contributor takes understanding of how to build a business case.

In CIO's Spring 2021 State of the CIO report, 58% of respondents said that in the next three years they would like to focus more on strategy, and 38% plan to spend more time driving business innovation.    

Innovation takes time. So, aligning IT initiatives with business goals means freeing up time for the IT team who are often working with smaller budgets.

Yet, this result also implies that more than a third of respondents are not prioritising the need to focus on innovation and are instead putting their efforts and money towards keeping the lights. So let’s look at how digital strategies can align with business goals.

Start with a plan

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison

Rather than focusing on costs only, tech leaders need to determine what applications, data, and services are needed to support essential business operations. Tech leaders should also address how much time it takes them or their team to support business applications, and how much could be saved by working in partnership with the business to build projects around business needs.

To achieve this, IT leaders will need to develop a strategy, showing the ROI of shifting towards a single solution, how this will benefit the business, and how it will ultimately free up time as an essential contributor to the conversation.

Part of this is identifying and anticipating the moving pieces across three main areas:

  • Your team
  • The IT roadmap
  • Mapping that to the business strategy

How do you align technology to business goals?

In the future, functional activities will position you less as a leader within the business. This is fine if that’s where your passion lies, but if you’d like a seat at the table in driving technology-enabled business innovation, you will need to focus more on business leadership than tech savvy.

You can approach this in a number of ways – all will take time, but it’s important to start now or miss out on potential career progression down the track.

Research

When evaluating new technology trends, take the time to research how businesses like yours have implemented them. Do they use them to gain competitive edge or improve customer relationships, or is it to access new markets or generate revenue? This process is critical to help you evaluate your own position and how to best move forward.

Be the cheerleader of change

Be the cheerleader of change at your organisation.

You don't work in a bubble. Others within your organisation need to understand how technology can help meet business goals and achieve ROIs. This means that you need to become a champion of industry and organisational digital business strategies in whatever form makes sense for your organisation.

Gather additional support

When you're evaluating new vendors, it's a good idea to bring in middle and senior managers so you can get additional input and buy-in on innovative solutions. When managers become part of the process, they become valuable supporters of change and innovation, and ultimately helps you to demonstrate the IT needs that underpin the goals of the business.

Listen & keep an open mind

When you actively listen to business stakeholders, you will better understand their challenges, frustrations, desires and goals. Understanding these aspects will better help you to understand the ways that your role and the strategies you form can better assist those who it will directly affect.

Reduce human capital overhead

To reduce human capital overhead, introduce collaborative tools and self-service portals for your team’s repetitive tasks. This frees up your team to focus on strategy and innovation, and actively driving towards aligning their efforts to business goals.

Educate outside your team

Educating board members and other decision makers will help demonstrate how IT aligns with broad organisational goals.

Take an active role in educating boards, CEOs, and senior executives about disruptive trends and opportunities. When your organisation's decision makers better understand the current IT landscape and how these trends are relevant to the direction and goals of the company, they will see the importance of your strategy and how innovation will lead to organisation-wide success.

Never stop learning  

Even the top-most experts need to keep their knowledge current, so never stop seeking new insights from within the industry. Actively engage with vendors, industry bodies, experts, and thought leaders to understand strategic trends in the industry that leverage innovative opportunities.

Work like a start-up

The reason start-up culture exists is because oftentimes desperation fuels inspiration and innovation. Therefore, by adopting a lean start-up approach to developing new ideas, products, and services, you start to think in an innovation-first mindset.

What to read next:
What startups can teach us about innovation
How CIOs can take technology ROI to the next level
Closing the gap: Digital strategies must be organisation-wide to be effective