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Business-led IT Decisions - How to Survive and Thrive

By Paul Harapin, SVP & GM, Domo, Inc.

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Paul Harapin, SVP & GM, Domo, Inc.

“Being a CIO is the toughest job out there."This line from Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd's speech at the Open World keynote 2014  got me thinking.

It's difficult not to agree to what Mark stated. As the consumerization of enterprises drives business-led IT decisions out of the hands of CIOs and into the hands of line of business (LOB) execs, being a CIO can be utterly vexing at times.

LOB execs are increasingly making purchase decisions about IT. IDC had predicted that in 2016, 80% of IT investments will directly involve LOB executives, and 50% of all technology decisions will be led by LOB executives. Consumerization is the overarching reason why LOB managers understand more, expect more, and demand faster results than ever before.

"Decision-making could be improved if the IT department and business have a strong working relationship"    

Logical is third annual Global CIO Survey revealed that 31percent of global CIOs are routinely bypassed by LOB executives in IT purchase decisions, while 90 percent are not included in decision-making at least some of the time.

This is a shocking reversal for anyone who remembers the old enterprise, in which IT had absolute control over purchase decisions. Also, technology-related business decisions are no longer happening in the shadows, if they ever truly did.

IT leaders think LOB execs may not have the required skills to make decisions about technology investments, and they want to retain control. But business decision-makers have the goals, budget, and imperatives to make it happen.

This disconnect between IT and LOB execs leaves you – as CIO – in a bit of a quandary: How do you deal with these new demands by business managers? How do you give them what they want, and enable them to leverage the tools that meet their needs, without giving up security and control around enterprise data?

To run a successful enterprise, you need to trust the IT department, but you also have to listen to LOB execs, because they're proactively thinking about solutions that might bring business value. Hence, you need to be a strategic partner—or you risk losing relevance in the business.

So, instead of trying to shut the business down, work with business executives to ensure that they value input from the IT department in the strategic purchasing and decision-making processes. Below are some measures (nothing magical or mystical) you can take:

Get regular feedback from LOB managers: To minimize the IT-LOB disconnect, have periodic conversations with business executives to get feedback on how the IT department is working for them. Do they have the tools they need? Are there things that IT needs to do differently? Are there any areas that could be prioritized? By engaging in open communication (even water cooler conversations) with key executives, you'll gain insight into which IT operations are focused on their needs.

Clearly communicate when and how IT needs to be involved: Decision-making could be improved if the IT department and business have a strong working relationship. For instance, if your company recently acquired a smaller enterprise, then data governance requirements need to be timely and correct for information to be secure. In a scenario like this one, you can convey to business managers how they can effectively safeguard business data, but this is also an opportunity to tell them that IT needs to own the processes to ensure the incoming data is safe and made available where and when the business needs it.

Avoid total IT shutdown: Just because you have a full toolbox, don't assume existing technologies meet the needs of the LOB. Most business executives have a very short list of critical capabilities. It's important to understand what those requirements are and be honest about what tools best suit their needs.

In today's modern enterprise, it is essential that the IT department and LOB execs work in harmony to address business challenges. Organizations that thrive and survive have this alignment down pat. By making the right decisions, you can ensure your role of CIO is about enabling business success and not holding it back.

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