Elevating the Conversation: Advice to IT on Communicating Their Value to the Business and Board

Marian Cook

November 08, 2018

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How can IT better communicate it's value to the rest of the organization? While there will always be issues to address, IT won't be considered partners and peers with the rest of the business if the dialogue is stuck on tactical issues or technical difficulties.

Instead, frame the discussion in terms of strategic business value. For an outstanding example, see Intel's IT Annual Report. The image above is an example from it. The Table of Contents alone changes the conversation:

  • Transforming How Intel's Businesses Run and Grow
  • Advancing Intel's Products and Services
  • Increasing Workforce Productivity
  • Promoting an Innovative Workforce
  • Strengthening Intel's Security Culture

All showcased with outstanding, easy to grasp, executive graphics that support company branding.

To elevate the conversation, consider the topics most IT organizations discuss with the board. According to a McKinsey survey (Elevating Technology on the Boardroom Agenda), current technology or IT-related issues addressed by the Board include:

  • How IT enables broader business strategy
  • Forward-looking views of technology's impact on the company's industry
  • IT strategy
  • Approval/review of large IT projects
  • Security and risk related issues
  • IT talent, succession and mentoring

Gartner Group, in Working With the Board of Directors, has their list of common board-CIO subjects:

  • M&A and divestitures
  • Major program milestone missed
  • Security or data privacy break
  • Financial approval for large IT initiatives
  • Update on IT enterprise performance and strategy

In recognition of the business value—and risk—of technology, more and more Boards have established technology committees. Their roles generally fall into five primary IT governance domains: strategic alignment, value delivery, resource management, risk management, and performance measurement. An excellent survey and summary of board level technology committees can be found in figure two here.

These topics position IT as business-savvy; they are focused and enabled. Board members and the business want to understand the business impact of technology at an executive level, and these topics can be a platform to do so.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

Marian Cook is currently a solutions principal for Slalom Consulting, as well as the head facilitator for MIT's blockchain certification course and a strategic advisor to the Chicago Blockchain Center. Immediately prior, she was the chief strategy officer for Innovation and Technology for the State of Illinois, having moved from the private sector to public service in 2015.

She started as a systems engineer with IBM, re-engineering processes, implementing systems, and creating business and technology strategies. Moving to international consulting firms, she worked globally, developing business growth and turnaround strategies, as well as the client side as the head of IT for a top healthcare organization.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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