Do you have the right tech leader for your business?

Have you ever wondered what IT is spending all their budget on? Or why you do not feel you are getting enough value from IT? Or you feel that there is not enough innovation and IT is slowing the organisation down rather than speeding it up? Or communication is a struggle?

Well, if so, you are not alone. I have been there, and I would like to offer some thoughts based on my 25 years of experience leading technology for companies.

I like to keep things simple, and so whilst in reality there is a spectrum, we can consider that there are typically two types of tech leader. I will call them “the technologist” and “the business leader”.

The technologist, not surprisingly, tends to focus on the technology, and this is important. Technology has to be understood, managed, and developed very well for a company to be successful. This is not an easy task as technology has proliferated over time and often does not age well. You may perceive them as being more focussed on the technology than on the business context and future business needs. You may find you have to interpret some of their language, and that they do not always “get you” and your focus on business outcomes and moving fast.

The business leader will tend to be more focussed on understanding where the business is going, what business products and services need to be developed in order to attract and retain customers now and in the future, what value IT is contributing, and then look back at the technology function through this lens. You will probably find that they speak your language and are a natural fit around the board table, with an ability to contribute on all business topics, not just technology.

The truth is a company needs both skills if it is to be successful. Understanding the business context and anticipating where your market and your business is going including what the probable opportunities and threats are over the next 1 to 10 years, is critical to long term success. For this you need a good business leader CIO, who will in turn ensure that they have good technologists who lead the hard work of managing and developing the technology services.

As a CEO, Board member, Investor, or HR Director, you have a responsibility to ensure that you have a good business leader CIO for your business. There are now so many ways technology can help a company win or lose in a fast changing market, it is so important you get this right.

In order to check this, there are a number of questions you can ask your tech leader such as : Can you show me the complete IT cost for each customer product/service? How do we decide what to invest in and when? And what not to? How do we know we are investing the right amount? How do we ensure rapid and continuous development of customer products and services? How are we doing against the competition? And indeed given the current level of start ups, who is our future competition?

A good business leader CIO who has done their homework will already have the answers to these questions, or if new, be working on the answers. Once you have the right leader, then you can focus on turnaround to get your tech team to be an engine of driving value, and use this to transform to become a fully digital business.

Of course, there is much more to ensuring you have a good business leader CIO, including a more comprehensive list of questions to ask your current tech leader. If you would like to know more, please connect with and message me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricsteward/ or twitter @richardsteward.

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