Using Strategic IT for Business Competitive Advantage
We are living in a digital economy. Every business today can see that technology has become a more critical part of their operations and their future success, and the C-suite is pushing for digital transformation. Strategic IT is critical for every business success. In order to remain competitive, companies know they must invest in IT.
But that knowledge is not enough; they also must know where those investments should be made. Simply investing more in existing IT tactics is not sufficient. Enterprise technology has gone through a major shift, and understanding that shift is a prerequisite for a winning game plan.
Consider the case of cloud computing. The first step in cloud adoption is generally the migration of an existing system. By doing this, businesses can learn several lessons about operating in a cloud environment—integration, application monitoring, data security—but at the end of the day, most companies are simply running old IT systems on new models.
For true competitive advantage, a cutting-edge approach involves redesign of both systems and workflow, requiring a different set of investments in technology and skills.
To fully appreciate this approach, companies must ask some basic questions.
How is today’s IT different from an organizational perspective?
Which driving factors are contributing to the flood of new technology trends?
What are the behaviors that stem from this fundamental IT change?
And, ultimately, what steps should a company take to move forward?
Any focus on individual tools such as cloud computing or Internet of Things or artificial intelligence may solve a short-term problem, but the answers to these central questions will give businesses the knowledge and ability to thrive in the long term.
Tactics and Strategy: A New Balance
The critical difference between today’s IT and the IT of 10 or 20 years ago is the degree to which technology is being used to drive the strategic goals of a business.
Certainly, there has always been some mix of tactics and strategy in the directive of any IT function, with that mix varying based on the size of the business, the vertical industry, or the attitudes of upper management. But the shift towards strategy is a general phenomenon that has affected all businesses and driven a new paradigm.
It is an oversimplification to say that IT was ever purely tactical, but that model helps illustrate the organizational perception of IT through much of its history. In this traditional viewpoint, corporate goals were considered the domain of the business units.
Getting product to market and driving customer satisfaction was the purview of the sales team. Geographic expansion rested on the shoulders of the operations team. In turn, the business units relied on the IT function to provide support that allowed them to perform their jobs with greater efficiency.
Constructing a technical foundation, delivering the right endpoint tools, and troubleshooting user issues were all important tasks within a company, but primarily to the extent that they drove productivity. IT was often viewed as a cost center, striving to deliver a specific level of service within the lowest budget possible.
In contrast, modern IT has expanded to more explicitly serve a dual purpose. Along with the tactical support work that continues to be a requirement, IT now has a role to play in directly driving strategic objectives. Customer acquisition happens on digital platforms. Brand awareness is built through social media. Market share is gained through omnichannel experiences.
These initiatives are not achieved simply by building programs on top of technology, but by using technology as the primary mechanism for success. Expansion into a more strategic role creates two new types of interaction for the IT team.
The first is the direct connection to business objectives. This brings IT into upper-level organizational discussions,
where requirements are broader and more abstract. Rather than receiving a request that has been funneled through business units and may map to an individual application, IT must consider the overall needs of the business and construct systems that address many concerns simultaneously.
As an example, a traditional request may have been “the sales team needs a tool that provides more robust information on customers,” and a more current request may be “the business needs consolidated insights into our customer base so we can plan future products.”
The second new interaction is a partnering relationship with business units. In the past, the relationship was primarily one of support. Now the IT team is working alongside the business units as they build systems together or as the IT team guides technology procured by the line of business.
With this activity happening at a level below the overall strategic direction, the challenge here is in building consensus around tradeoffs. This requires some communication of technical details to the business unit, and it also requires the IT team to build knowledge around line of business priorities
Drivers Behind Modern Technology
One of the primary duties of a CIO in a modern environment is to clearly describe technology trends in terms that the business will understand. Business unit execs and employees are more aware than ever of the capabilities of technology, and knowledge that comes from increased consumer use of technology is driving technology procurement within business departments.
But this knowledge often falls short from an enterprise perspective, where the stakes are higher and the architecture is more complex.
Contact Musato Technologies to learn more about our ICT services and solutions designed to boost your business profitability and productivity. Request a quote today and one of our experts will contact you to discuss your business needs and requirements.