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How to ‘hack’ your C-suite and make sure it’s transformation-ready

Technology powers every aspect of an organization – from financial compliance and data processing down to manufacturing floor monitoring and supply chain security. Further adding complexity of the technology-enabled ecosystem is the rapid speed at which technology, and specifically IT, is evolving -- placing increased pressure on CIOs to embark on IT transformations to remain competitive.

However, these often come with a daunting price tag and cause a ripple effect across departments – and if not handled properly, can lead to even more costly resolutions.

IT transformations equally inspire and scare the C-suite. While a CIO welcomes a technology infrastructure investment that will accelerate time to market, help build better customer experiences or provide better core operations, a CFO is crunching the numbers and expecting to see a return on such a large investment… and quickly, and a CHRO is immediately determining the personnel needs – or workforce impact – this technology may require.

As an IT pro, you know that transformation is a necessary and bountiful investment, but your task is now to convince leadership of its worthiness. As you gear up to present your transformation upgrades to your executive team and embark on your transformation journey, put yourself in their shoes for a minute and consider these tips to improve your odds of getting buy-in for your project from around the boardroom.

Be clear about the outcomes and expectations

It’s important to set clear expectations that tie the near term financial investment to the long-term outcomes of your planned IT transformation.

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Programmers at Reactive Inc. David Malkin, data scientist, from left, Philip Irri, core engineer, Joseph Bullard, core engineer, and Philippe Remy, research engineer, work at Tenoha Lab share office in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. The four programmers at the 18-month-old startup in Tokyo came up with an application that recognizes scrawled-out Japanese with 98.66 percent accuracy. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** David Malkin; Philip Irri; Joseph Bullard; Philippe Remy

Take a lesson from one of our major retail customers, who encountered this dilemma when at an IT crossroads. A segment of the leadership team expected better network reliability and lower latency as a part of an IT upgrade, while another sought to build a development platform to help marketing drive web traffic.

Misalignment of this kind can not only cause tension, but may erode trust in future IT projects. Managing expectations will not only avoid future disappointment, it may also uncover new avenues through which your IT transformation can expand its scope to meet other business outcomes in the future.

Redefine the investment

Looking ahead, companies will have to shift their opinion of IT transformation and enhancement. Gone are the days where IT was a capital expense – as technology becomes increasingly vital to a company’s operations, companies will have to treat these investments as table stakes operating expenses. This means that IT transformation is seen as a necessity needed to keep the business alive – not just as a novel concept needed for future competitive advantage.

Redefining the investment begins before proposing a single upgrade – you should start by taking a conservative approach to vendor selection to make sure your chosen vendor is the smartest (not the cheapest) choice. You should also set realistic benchmarks by which external parties can tangibly witness the impact of this transformation.

Remember that ROI isn’t the only way to measure success. Your counterparts in finance may view the investment and its eventual depreciation in terms of dollar signs – the sticker value of the solutions needed, the staff required to maintain and use the program, and ultimately: did this make the company money in the long run?

At the start of any program, it is critical to establish KPIs that align to the true business objectives. I have seen many IT organizations that have set up KPIs around technical outcomes (i.e. network uptime or CPU utilization) and few organizations that have effectively tracked KPIs that really matter to the business (i.e. time to value or customer satisfaction).

Developing and tracking KPIs that align to the business can be challenging – but are worth the effort. In the end, the overall objective is for IT to be in lockstep with the business, and success metrics must be aligned with what the business needs to achieve.

Redefining the investment also means going far beyond the dollar investment. A crucial component is also making sure that your talent is well-equipped and prepared for this transformation. Do you have the right IT support within? Will this transformation displace or create a need for more workers? What about retraining?

Expect the Unexpected

Your colleagues, peers and leadership all know the pitfalls of IT transformation, and really any tech undertaking: security and data protection. Make sure you and your team can expect the unexpected, and that you are ready to pivot and course-correct should these issues arrive at your doorstep. Consult with your colleagues across functions to have the proper plan in place – not only will this quell fears across the table, it will also bolster the team’s response come a crisis.

In conclusion, planning and expectation setting, along with putting yourself in the C-suite’s shoes, can help you chart a clear roadmap for project management and governance throughout the implementation and life of your IT solutions.

Keep these tips in mind through all stages of your transformation rollout and remember that keeping others invested, despite their interest or understanding of these kinds of projects, will provide you with added cache and trust as you look ahead to longer term IT upgrades and overhauls.

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