How can IT leaders juggle seemingly competing agendas: to meet the business’ demands for increased innovation, while cutting costs and slashing budgets?
Step 1: Stop taking your stakeholders' two-speed requests at face value.
Before you slice your IT organization in two—and sacrifice critical services so you can invest in one-off techno-buzz implementations—first take a step back and reconsider your stakeholders’ competing mandates that are driving you to that conclusion.
- Produce new innovative, strategic technology-based capabilities.
- Do so with reduced resources.
Taken at face value, these requests to “do more with less” form an immature demand. They are without context or strategic intent.
But it’s not IT’s job—not now, not ever—to take new development requests or blanket mandates at face value. It’s IT’s job—now and always—to first listen and then dig in to uncover what stakeholders really want. And finally, it's IT's job to translate true needs into meaningful technology mandates, strategy and development.
Step 2: Translate your stakeholder’s competing requests into meaningful mandates.
How does your business' demand to "do more with less" stand up to scrutiny?
1. Produce new innovative, strategic technology-based capabilities.
Taken at Face Value: IT’s stakeholders want you to invent or purchase the next iPad.
The Reality: It’s unlikely you have the budget, time or R&D competency to develop truly first-ever technology. Nor is that what your business desires.
Translation: Your stakeholders want you to continually scan the external landscape and be aware of what’s applicable to your business context. They want you to have a process for vetting these capabilities and determining what will truly drive business benefit.
2. Do so with reduced resources.
Taken at Face Value: Your leadership wants you to slash all IT budgets.
The Reality: Organizations are spending more on technology than ever before. But they are allocating increased budgets for certain types of technology and spending less on others.
Translation: Your stakeholders see basic technologies becoming cheaper and easier to use. They want you to “consumerize” basic IT technologies like the internet, network connectivity, user support, etc.
At heart, these are the same mandates IT has always faced: Keep up with new technology, make it work flawlessly and continually cut costs.
The speed of technology changes requires IT to be more proactive than ever before, and more present with stakeholders. IT leaders can't afford to remain in the server room—they must get in front of the issue to demonstrate the real value of IT.
Steps 1 and 2 of our methodology reframe stakeholders’ competing requests, and uncover the real requirements underlying them. If you can accept that these are not new demands, but are actually exciting opportunities for IT, you can bring new meaning to conversations with your business partners.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, which will cover steps 3 through 5 of our practical framework. These steps cover the nuts and bolts of how to use the technology lifecycle for prioritizing demand with stakeholders.)
Lee Reese has 20 years of experience in corporate communications, process and program development. As a partner at Rain Partners, she oversees delivery of the firm’s consulting engagements and program content. Reese translates high-level strategy into real-world operating frameworks and tangible metrics, and she drives strategic and operational benefits to clients in functional areas.