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IT leaders: Let’s talk less about technology

HPE-SW-Guest

By Paul Chapman, Chief Information Officer of HP Software

 

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.


Lately, I’ve been spending less time talking about technology and more about business and business-driven outcomes.

 

I just published a new article for HP Software’s Discover Performance about combining business outcomes with the “what” and the “how” of IT service delivery, and not getting too tangled up in technology.

 

Although technology is very important, it’s an implementation detail. The conversations we have with our stakeholders should be more business-led and IT-enabled, rather than putting technology in the lead. It’s our job to get to a point where we partner with business leaders to support what they’re trying to achieve. Then, we can move to a discussion of how IT can effectively enable those outcomes.

 

Once business strategy determines the “what,” technology provides the “how.” Key to that, I find, is thinking not just of business goals, but customer needs, how those back into what the business offers, and how IT supports it all. And one of the most important steps IT leaders can take to support and lead this new way of thinking is to just talk less about technology.

 

Less tech, more biz

 

I know: we’re IT, we’ve got “technology” right in the title. But IT’s role is changing, from being a supportive utility to a value driver. We need to drive a change in our mental model for how IT can deliver what we at HP call “the new style of IT.” And that means spending more time partnering and engaging in business outcome-driven discussions.

 

By finding IT’s purpose in service to business outcomes, we avoid getting fascinated, or terrified, by the latest shiny piece of technology. Thinking business outcomes first gives us an outside-in paradigm, rather than the common error of thinking from the inside out.

 

I’m not the first to talk about this, and many of us are already trying to practice it. But we have to keep talking about it, and working on it, to overcome our own ingrained habits and the attitudes of our business partners, and to train our own staff to become business-minded tech experts rather than tech-focused IT operators.

 

The devil’s not in the details

 

There’s a natural gravitation for IT professionals to lead with a technology discussion.

 

But that focus has demonstrably failed us. A technology-oriented perspective at the expense of business needs is what got us “shadow IT,” with results-driven SaaS solutions picking the pockets of enterprise IT, because we weren’t keeping up with—or really thinking about—business needs.

 

Consider how an engineer might design a car engine: First, you have to know what kind of a car you’re building it for and its purpose. Designing the engine and then building the car around it wouldn’t make sense. If your target customer wants an SUV, you don’t design a V12 500-horsepower turbo engine. Instead, you have to design the right car to meet the customer’s needs, then match the engine to the car. The same is true with technology solutions; we have to get better at framing our discussions around what customers want and what we need to deliver from a business perspective before we get into the mechanics of how to get there.

 

The new issue of Discover Performance talks a lot about IT innovation, and that’s a term that only becomes real when IT leaders add value, not just through technical understanding, but also through the business value their technology solutions and capabilities provide.

 

I’m interested in seeing how others are navigating this changing landscape toward the new style of IT, because I think the approach going to define our roles well beyond 2015. What do you think?

 

For more on the changing shape of IT and business leadership, subscribe to HP Software’s Discover Performance newsletter.

  • IT Strategy and Leadership
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