We were fortunate to have Eric Dirst, President of Online Services at DeVry Education Group, present his talk called “How IT Leaders Can Move into Business Leadership Roles” to our group. Eric shared the reasons for making this change, examples of the types of senior business roles you can move into from a senior IT role, and ways to position yourself for these roles. In our last post, I shared examples of the types of senior business roles you can move into from IT.
In today’s post, I’ll share Eric’s four general strategies for positioning yourself for a senior business role. In our final post next week, I’ll share his specific strategies based upon the role you are targeting.
The first stage, according to Eric, is to make sure that the business leaders think of you in a different light. Make changes in your current role so they see you as a business leader.
Here are the four strategies:
Strategy One: Run IT like a business. Use Service Level Agreements (SLA) with the business.
What drives the business? What are the metrics of the IT Business? Most organizations run with SLAs for their customers. Are you running your IT department like a business? One of the changes Eric made to his IT department prior to moving into the business role was he made a point of asking what their metrics for measuring their success should be. He found that most of the metrics they were originally using were useless because they didn’t move any real change in the business. As he got closer to the business, they zeroed in on the numbers that would improve their quality, uptime, delivery, or customer satisfaction. They pushed this down to each department, so each department had different metrics. They started sharing this information with the business, and the business executives realized he was running IT like a business. The combination of this positioning and the tracking gave them better alignment and recognition from the business.
Strategy Two: Leverage Your Knowledge of the systems and business processes
As technology executives, you have the joint opportunity of understanding how technology can be used, combined with your knowledge of the business processes. If you take the time to get into the business and study the business processes, you will often see automation or efficiency opportunities that the business doesn’t use or see.
Eric recommends you send your people out into the business to see how your systems actually get used. Your people will most likely come back with insights on how the business users are leveraging or trying to use the systems in ways you have not thought of. As a result, you’ll see opportunities for improvement.
Strategy Three: Share Your Project Management Expertise as part of your service
Business units always have multiple projects running, but in many cases these projects are run poorly. In IT, you are most likely have strong project management expertise. If you share your project management skills to the business and help them with their projects, they will find this assistance very valuable.
Strategy Four: Drive Technology enablement or digital transformation
Your knowledge of the art-of-the-possible with technology puts IT in the best position to help you digitally transform your products and services.
Business leaders talk about technology enablement and digital transformation, but they don’t always have the background to think of the art-of-the-possible. As an example, consider the Internet of Things. Most executives realize they have to connect to the internet, but they stop there. They aren’t thinking big enough. We all know that just connecting to the internet is just a tiny step. The real gains occur when you utilize the data in unique ways and come up with new customer experiences, etc. What’s the end game? Are you trying to improve your customer service, reduce maintenance costs, or reduce your quality defects because you get insights on something going wrong before it breaks? These are just a few examples. As a technology executive, you’ll bring to the table more knowledge on all the systems you currently have and combine that with the data you have and can collect, to help identify new ways of packaging your service offerings, make differentiation and add value into the marketplace.
Conclusion: By implementing one or more of these strategies, you’ll have a great start on positioning yourself for a business role.
In our final post, we’ll share Eric’s advice on how to position yourself for specific business roles.
Can’t wait? Watch the whole presentation here.