A major part of career success in any field is being indispensable-and to be acknowledged as such. Top information officers can gain clout with other C-level executives by marketing their functions and their teams as integrated partners in business strategy.
In the May issue of The McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Co. principals Jeffrey Hughes and James Kaplan explain "Where IT infrastructure and business strategy meet." The article is a concise yet instructive exploration of the ways IT infrastructure, often seen as a commodity, can create value in an organization.
From a career perspective, however, the last section of the article, under the subhed "Engaging with the business" offers a valuable reminder that to earn respect in the C suite, CIOs must have a sufficiently well-rounded understanding of business to offer and promote value-creating solutions. Here the authors offer the following tips for making executives understand the value of IT infrastructure "without seeming to protect your turf." They are good advice for promoting your value in any context:
Be credible on the basics. Now more than ever, business leaders demand solid execution on costs and service levels before they will seriously consider moving to the next level. They see value creation and innovation as a complement of efficiency, not a substitute for it.
Understand the pain points. Infrastructure touches every part of a business. Use that central position to figure out which groups struggle with analytics, need to open (and close) sites more quickly and cheaply, or have the greatest need to get more value from their development teams.
Be proactive. Go to business leaders with ideas that they can evaluate and refine-before they ask for them.
Retain funds for R&D. Even in tight times, the ability to offer IT infrastructure innovations regularly, before the business demands them, protects you against being seen as a purveyor of commodities.
Invest in talent. Supplement your team's depth in technical and operational matters by adding financial and business analysis skills. To do so, you'll have to invest in working to develop employees who can explain the IT infrastructure's business value and work with business partners to deliver it.
Source: "Where IT infrastructure and business strategy meet," The McKinsey Quarterly, May 2009