The 7 Keys to IT Success in 2017—and Beyond

In the second quarter of 2017, one thing has become clear: IT stands at a unique juncture in the road.

For decades, IT was a back-office support function. Now, as digital technology transforms every business function, process and role, IT is beginning to take center-stage within the business. More and more, we see IT professionals who have a deep desire and commitment to:· work hand-in-hand and truly be part of the business; take a proactive role in strategy formation; earn a seat at the table; and contribute directly to the business’ success.

As technology becomes a primary driver of value for nearly every business function, this trend will continue. IT leaders will increasingly find themselves in a uniquely qualified position to contribute to—and shape the success of—their organization.

Yet, while there is such opportunity for IT, most IT leaders report feeling frustrated, left out and without the influence and voice to drive the value of IT for their companies.

Why? Because the roles and responsibilities of IT are changing—and so are the keys to success. As IT makes the journey from the backroom to the boardroom, it is no longer the technical or functional competency that most contributes to IT’s success. Instead, an IT leader’s success will increasingly depend on his or her ability to work as a true partner with the business.

Recognizing this shift, a new set of keys to success emerge for ambitious IT leaders for the remainder of 2017—and beyond.

Key #1: The Stakeholder Relationship Is the New Key Driver of IT Success

In the past, the ability to create and maintain strong stakeholder relationships differentiated first-rate IT teams from the rest of the pack. But, as IT moves to center stage in their organization, every IT team will depend increasingly on their stakeholder relationships to succeed.  

Here’s the problem: Stakeholder relationship management and engagement is the weakest, least developed and least understood competency of many technically oriented IT professionals and teams.

To improve your stakeholder relationships, you first have to take them out of the fluffy qualitative realm and move them into the realm of hard data-driven standards and benchmarks that IT feels comfortable with.

Key #2: Stakeholder Relationships Can Be Quantified

Quantifying stakeholder relationships isn’t easy. My firm spent eight years creating our tool to measure our clients’ stakeholder relationships, but the work was worth it. When IT teams objectively measure their stakeholder relationships year over year, they become acutely aware of how their actions impact their stakeholder relationships. No more guesswork.

By working for years with clients to measure and improve their stakeholder relationships, we’ve come to recognize that there are a few core actions every IT organization needs to take to produce successful stakeholder relationships. These insights form the remaining keys to success.

Key #3: There are Nine Building Blocks of Stakeholder Success

If you want your stakeholders to feel a deep foundation of confidence in your IT organization, you need to establish these nine essential building blocks:

1. A stakeholder benchmark

2. IT vision and strategy

3. Strategic information systems plan

4. IT organization model

5. IT operating model

6. Annual operating plan

7. Performance scorecard

8. Internal and external communications programs

9. IT leadership development program

These building blocks probably look familiar to you. Chances are you already have some, or maybe even all, of them in place. But, as a general rule, we’ve found that the standard approach most IT teams follow when they create building blocks often falls short of what stakeholders are really looking for from their IT teams.

Part of this disconnect comes from the very structure of how IT teams often form these building blocks. For example, stakeholders often feel better about an IT organization model that assigns IT leaders to specific stakeholder functions (e.g., a vice president of R&D) rather than internal IT platforms (e.g., a vice president of SAP). But a large part of this disconnect also comes from the way IT teams and professionals directly interact with their stakeholders as they form and operationalize these building blocks.

Key #4: There Are Also “Soft” A,B,Cs of Stakeholder Success

As IT forms and operationalizes the above building blocks, they move through countless interaction points with their stakeholders. To succeed in these interactions, IT teams and professionals must follow this set of A,B,Cs: Attitudes, Behaviors and  Communications.

Some of these A,B,Cs are global: They are general rules to follow whenever an IT team or professional engages one of the stakeholders. For example, the language IT uses, such as referring to business peers as “stakeholders” rather than “customers” goes a long way toward shifting these interactions to a successful mindset.

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