CIO Perspective
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CIO Perspective
Are You Speaking Geek?
Sep 4, 2013

I recently spoke on how the corporate IT function needs to morph itself from being very transactional in nature to becoming a valued business partner. Corporate IT is still seen as far removed from the innovation category, instead pigeonholed as back office support, tactically oriented, and bogged down with basics like corporate email.


Very few companies say IT and business functions collaborate on strategic business imperatives such as identifying new market opportunities, identifying new innovations or developing a competitive strategy.


This perception must change and as IT leaders, we need to:

  • Abstract business value from the technology
  • Use IT as a transformational catalyst to achieve company business goals
  • Dissolve lingering stereotypes

As an IT practitioner, you can proactively move your organization from being tactical to transformational [left to right, see diagram]. How to Shift Perceptions of IT.png


Here is a short list of observations I’ve made:


  • Don’t Speak Geek: Focus on the business, not the tech. If you litter your sentences with techie acronyms, you are likely to be relegated to geek-dom. Instead, use terms like market growth, higher customer satisfaction, or time-to-market; these resonate with business leaders.


  • Get Basics to Work: If email and phones are not working, you need to fix the problem. Once the basics are nailed, you will have earned the right to partake in company strategy discussions, morphing IT from a support and maintenance role into a strategic growth engine.


  • Remember the Customer is “Almost” Always Right: There is a difference between what a team wants and what they really need tech-wise. Don’t get bullied by internal customer; rather gracefully push back and do what is right for the company. It’s ok to say no; just be sure to say it in a tactful, professional way.


  • Realize Innovation is a Mindset, not a Budget Item: Having a bunch of people trying to invent something doesn’t make sense. Instead, you need a small, focused team to get that innovative spark going. In order to scale and support an innovative idea, that’s when to bring in an army of people, money, etc.


  • Don’t Play the Victim: When nothing seems to work, IT can easily play the victim and quickly lose credibility with the business. Such a mood will chip away at IT employee morale. Instead, direct your team to tackle the basics and solve the underlying issues.


  • Become the Business: Take on a partnership role with the business to develop new products and identify new market opportunities with strategic IT. As Customer #1, we don't just run the business; our Juniper IT team regularly contributes to the innovation cycle, and in fact, we've become the business. We use our networking technology to run our business and deliver core business services. We've pushed our own Juniper networking technology extremely hard and have had bumps along the way.  But IT has partnered with customer support, engineering, and advanced services to improve product quality, revise outdated processes, and create a better experience for our customers.

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