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Lessons in Strategic Partnering with the Business – Part One

By Alex Jarett

Highlights from a keynote panel of Senior IT Executives called, “Strategic Partnering with the Business.”

In this era of technology innovation and disruptive technology, it’s easy to overlook the dramatic changes in growth that can continue to be created using the classic strategy of strategic partnering with the business.

In one of our previous summits, our keynote panel of the same name shared key insights into strategies that will harvest both incremental and disruptive gains.  Sitting on the panel were Andrea Ciccolini, CIO at Patterson Medical (formerly, Hospira), Michael Kennaugh, CIO at Reinhart Foodservice (formerly United), Joe Lynn, Senior VP Technology Client Relationships at Citibank, Jignesh Sampat, CIO at Knowles Electronics.  The panel was moderated by Rick Knoechel.

In the next few posts, I’ll highlight a few of the key insights from the panel.  Here’s the first one:

Strategic Partnering as a “Basic Tenant” of the IT role.

The panel kicked off with a statement by each panelist of why they felt the strategic partnering with the business was so critical.  Michael’s actual job while at United was VP of IT Architecture and Business Enablement.  Michael and United believed that strategic partnering and business enablement is a basic Tenant of the IT department, which is why his role was created.

Joe explained that this concept of partnering with the business was drilled into him in an earlier position at a fast growing trading company.  At that company they were implementing new (at the time) Unix systems and the leadership made it clear that even though they were using the new technology their main role was to enable the business.

Andrea explained that when he took over his role at Hospira, the company has already spent over 100 million in new technologies and needed help implementing the new technology.   Andrea was brought in to help the implementation of the newer technology.    Andrea realized that they needed to choose what they would be good at in the IT department.  He saw project management, vendor management, SLA management, analysis, and architecture, as examples.  They made a strategic decision that IT’s main strength should be hardcore analysis.

Knowing this core value, they then regrew their department by going after people that came from the business and knew the business already almost as much as their business partners.   They grew this team from 27 to 70 analysts and restructured their approach based upon the traditional role of analysis and development of systems that would have lasting and long term value.   Their target is 15-20 months spent developing systems that will have 15 years or more of lasting value.  Andrea feels that this focus has brought predictable and sustainable results to the overall role of utilizing the newer technologies.

Jignesh took over the CIO role after Knowles was spin off from its parent company. The company IT charter was to help foster profitable growth and set up their core applications such as ERP, etc. The company decided to reduce its manufacturing footprint. As you can imagine, this was all a huge challenge. Jignesh said that the fundamental premise for his department to work with the business was to first ask, “What is the business problem you are trying to solve? Let’s become a business person first before we become a functional expert.”

What is your department focused on?  I think that Andrea’s point that IT must choose what to be good at is sound advice.  What are you focused on?  Be sure to make strategic partnering and business enablement a fundamental value and even with new technology you’ll have predictable and lasting results.

Look for more insights from this panel in the next few posts.

Want to listen to the entire panel?  Go here to listen.

Comments?  What do you think?  Go here to post a comment.

Updated: May 3, 2016 — 3:30 pm

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