CIOs are facing very interesting and challenging times. Today, practically every business is based on technology one way or the other. It is nearly impossible to imagine business development without technology being an elementary part of it.

It used to be different. Before, CIOs were crying for attention and respect and waiting for invitations to take part in business development. Not anymore. Today’s business is looking for an active and competent partner. The challenge for IT is how to respond to ever increasing expectations.

Mid-sized companies are in the toughest position. They probably have already hundreds of employees and several locations and increasing international operations. Although the requirements and complexity of the business are the same as with the bigger players in the markets, their resources are very limited in comparison.

At the same time, mid-sized companies are challenged by small and agile startups which don’t have any restricting legacy to worry about. The pressure to change and adapt is rapidly increasing.

How can CIOs survive in the middle of all this?

  1. Understand your business

I know, this sounds almost too obvious. Even so, this cannot be emphasized enough. IT management often fails to deliver on what’s relevant for the business. Traditionally, the focus has been on the infrastructure and keeping current systems up and running. Less time and energy have been allocated for development and innovation.

Whatever your situation may be, start by asking questions like:

  • Which are the most important themes for your business? What is the company’s strategy? What gets business leaders sizzling – or freaking out?
  • Is it your company’s objective to grow? Are you planning to start a new service business? Are you aiming to increase profit? What are the means to reach these objectives?
  • How about sales? Are you reaching your goals? Can you understand and manage customer experience?
  • What are potential threats for your business?

If you’re not taking part in solving these kinds of questions, you have lost the game before it has even begun.

  1. Build a link between business and technology

People outside the IT field don’t necessarily see the connection between their challenges and technology. A business challenge IS in many cases also a technology challenge. In the examples mentioned above, technology can either enable or prevent development.

Your main job is to understand and communicate this clearly. It’s not a one-time activity, but a continuous way of working that needs to be implemented in your company.

  1. Choose the right partners

Modern IT management is a team effort between people from IT, business and carefully chosen partners. In big companies, this is usually the practice and mindset already today. But mid-sized companies may still rely on a strong DIY culture. This means lower performance and slower speed of change.

One of the most important questions is, where is the focus of your own work and where should you consider partners. Naturally, handling your core business and its special features is something that you may want to keep in your own hands. But for everything else, you should keep your options open.

What is secondary for you, might be the core competence for somebody else. A good partner offers strong vision, productized service models and modern technology. For you, a good partner means increased productivity and ability to implement changes faster. This can boost your performance significantly.

  1. Keep your eyes on the big picture – develop in stages

Company’s success is determined by its ability to adjust and change. How can you avoid the typical pitfalls of development? A traditional model is to run a gigantic ERP project every ten years or so. This will burn all the available energy and resources – and more. Or, in fear of the challenge, you can postpone the change and end up running your business too long with outdated processes and tool. Either way, it can be fatal to your business.

What if you organized your development into continuous and manageable streams and batches? Start by modelling the big picture of your business from the objectives point of view. Focus on the future, not so much on the present. This makes it easier to jointly identify key development areas and their priorities and decide their order of implementation. This will allow you to continuously gain business benefits while maintaining the ability to respond to changes in the business environment.

All this is made possible by utilizing modern cloud-based technology platforms, whose capabilities are growing at a remarkable pace.

  1. Question traditional beliefs

Experience is valuable and some things may stay the same over time. However, it is dangerous to get stuck in traditional beliefs.

”There is nothing new in this digital hype!”, we have heard from some industry veterans. In the worst case, IT itself can become the bottleneck for the company development.

Always remain open to new possibilities and stay up to date about current development. Remember, many things that seemed impossible before have become possible today just by utilizing the newest technologies and ways of working.

 

About the author

Ari Nuutinen is in charge of mid-sized company services at Sofigate. He’s also a coach of strategy and operational models at Sofigate Business Technology Academy. Ari has extensive experience on the Finnish company scene and its special features. His passion is business development, and he wants to help mid-sized companies succeed.

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