When you head up an IT department, most of your days are spent reacting to and trying to solve the issues and problems that arise on a daily basis. However, when the unicorn of a moment’s free time lands on your desk, there are a few strategic questions that every CIO should be asking.
#1: Is our IT department helping our business solve its major challenges?
This is actually a two-part question, the first is, “What are our business’s major challenges?” And the second should be, “What is our team doing to help solve them.” The answers to these questions will allow a CEO or CIO to determine the true competitive advantage the IT function creates for the business. If the answer suggests IT isn’t helping differentiate the company from competition, but rather is focused only on the back office, that is a red flag for leadership. It is the perfect opportunity to discover areas where IT could help drive innovation and new business by better serving customers. Which leads us to our next question...
#2: Is our IT department helping to support and drive innovation within our company?
What innovations are your department currently working on that will help the business communicate better with customers? What is your team developing that will help deliver products to your customers with a higher level of customer satisfaction? These are the types of questions that should be driving the projects your team is working on. Besides uptime and reliability, one of the returns IT can bring to an organization is innovation; whether it be through research and development or improving processes and efficiency, the leadership team should be confident IT is doing more than maintaining the network and infrastructure but also helping the company progress.
#3: What are we doing to help control risk for the company?
With information and data networking moving to the cloud, the openness of the Internet, and the surge in hacking -- it is only fitting that you should be able to answer the question, “How is our team controlling risk?” Your leadership team should be well aware of what IT is doing to protect the properties of the corporation. As the head of the department you should be able to answer what your team is doing to protect the physical and intellectual assets. You have a responsibility to the board, and, if the company is public, the shareholders, to explain the what, why, and how of your security plan.
#4: Are we managing budgets effectively?
Projects and CapEx budgets in IT are expensive to operate. You have to maintain a working understanding of the costs and benefits these operations and projects are producing for the organization. As the head of your department you need to manage, or leverage partners, to help manage contracts and assist in making cost conscious decisions.
#5: Does the strategy of our IT department align with our corporate strategy?
Depending on where your corporation’s strategy falls, you need to make sure that your team is in alignment with it. Is your corporation in cost savings mode? Then you should be asking how are you cutting costs and improving the budget. Is the corporation’s focus on greater customer satisfaction? What changes is your team implementing that will help solidify those goals? Does innovation and new technology bring in new customers and increase overall customer loyalty? What will your team do in 2017 to help realize these new technologies in an ever changing environment?
With the competitive nature of Information Technology and how heavily reliant all businesses are on new technologies to bring in customers, build customer loyalty, protect the business and lower the bottom line, it is imperative for the IT department to be cognizant of the ever changing and the adaptive role it plays in the success of the overall business. Having the answers to questions like these will not only help the IT department survive in today’s environment, but go from a cost center to a revenue agent.
With over 17 years of Information Technology industry experience and an extensive background in Telecommunications, Mike Belmont is part of the Renodis Management Team and acts as Senior Enterprise Leader. As a seasoned professional with enterprise level corporations in telecommunications, Mike has extensive experience in senior sales, management, and indirect channel roles with Quest, Sprint, UCN, and for the last 11 years with Renodis. Mike has managed both fortune 1000 accounts as well as VAR partners.