To deliver effective tech support, IT leaders need to keep multiple parties satisfied. From a financial perspective, they need to provide the best service at the lowest price. For business stakeholders, they must consider whether or not their infrastructure is optimized for efficiency. And as industry leaders, they are expected to stay current with emerging technology trends.
So, how do successful IT leaders manage to satisfy the requirements of all parties? In 2017, 41.7 percent of executives cite business alignment as the primary concern for IT leaders.[i] In the same year, 72 percent of businesses consider improving customer experience (CX) as a top priority, making CX an integral element of most business strategies.[ii]
CIOs have the opportunity to align IT capabilities with business strategy by applying the philosophy of CX to their own service delivery. For IT departments, the “customer” is any stakeholder that consumes infrastructure—application developers, for example. Therefore, by driving technology-enabled improvement for stakeholders, IT departments can enhance their strategic value to businesses.
When it comes to bridging IT gaps to align with business expectations, CIOs should consider the following:
1. Develop IT Flexibility
Because stakeholder needs are constantly shifting, IT departments must build dynamic and flexible IT environments that are user-oriented and dictated by business requirements. From an IT perspective, it’s important for CIOs to recognize the significance of a smooth, reliable CX and implement an IT strategy that supports this goal.
As a result, IT departments are adapting by simplifying infrastructure and using software-defined approaches to enable a building-block scalability model. This allows an IT environment to downsize or expand rapidly on command without requiring a complete redesign. Data centers, servers, networking, storage, virtual machines, operating systems, and end-user devices are examples of turnkey IT building blocks, all of which should have the ability to scale up or down with ease.
Hyperconvergence is one example of how businesses are developing IT flexibility in response to fluctuating customer activity. The modular infrastructure of hyperconverged systems enables greater resource mobility and simplified management through a single interface. As a result, data centers using hyperconvergence can be adjusted to accommodate varying traffic levels without incurring hardware costs or delays from disparate legacy technologies—ultimately providing a more consistent experience for stakeholders.
2. Invest in Automation
As improving CX continues to be a major priority for businesses, IT departments should strengthen their strategic value by investing in automation capabilities for key IT operations, such as virtual machine provisioning, onboarding, or inventory management. From a financial perspective, this means lower operational costs. For stakeholders, it means fewer errors. And for business leaders, automation translates to greater agility.
A crucial aspect of automation is tracking and presenting data in an actionable way to facilitate a rapid response. CIOs should focus on using ITSM platforms like ServiceNow® that can provide a unified view of components and connectivity to increase provisioning and management efficiency.[iii] Having access to an accurate and real-time status report of both virtual and physical components can help IT departments recover from system failures faster and potentially reduce the frequency of error.
Because automation eliminates a substantial amount of manual operations, IT leaders will need to develop a new and innovative mindset for adding value to business by embracing new skills. Rather than dedicating resources to infrastructure or domain experts, CIOs need to shift their focus to technology and talent—such as advanced data analytics and machine learning capabilities—that can add value to the overall business strategy.[iv]
3. Close the Skills Gap
In order for businesses to remain relevant and competitive, they must acquire skill sets that are essential to the digital transformation of the current tech landscape. However, this is easier said than done. In 2016, 4 out of the top 10 surveyed pain points for IT leaders were related to the skills gap.[v] And according to Gartner, CIOs around the world cited talent as the biggest issue preventing them from achieving IT objectives, with the largest talent gaps occurring in information management and business acumen.[vi]
The widening gap between demand for innovation and supply of talent is augmented by growing budget demands and aggressive bidding wars for engineers. This means that if CIOs want to improve their CX using big data tools and analytics, they must be innovative and proactive about finding talent that is not only industry-relevant, but also financially feasible and beneficial to end-users. Closing skill gaps requires a multi-pronged approach, from developing cross-functional collaboration between marketing and recruiting departments, to engaging with universities, vendors, or partners as extensions of the talent platform.[vii]
The Evolving Role of IT
In 2017, IT leaders are beginning to embrace more strategic business roles. CIOs have started to practice weekly meetings with C-suite members, with 46.3% of CIOs now reporting to the CEO of their respective organizations.[viii] This rising statistic indicates substantial progress for the function of CIOs, who have an opportunity to drive business value by building IT environments that not just support business operations, but further innovation and developments in product and service design. As business alignment continues to be a top priority for IT leaders, one can expect to see an effort to strengthen the strategic value of IT departments by focusing on the customer experience.
[i] CIOs' Top Three Concerns for 2017: Alignment, Security, Skill Shortages
[ii] 72% Of Businesses Name Improving Customer Experience Their Top ..
[iii] Ten Data Center Trends to Watch in 2016
[v] 2016 State of IT: Digital Transformation Insights from over 2,220 IT Leaders and CIOs
[vi] Building the Digital Platform: Insights from the 2016 Gartner CIO Agenda Report
[viii] CIOs' Top Three Concerns for 2017: Alignment, Security, Skill Shortages