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New CIO reality: Own your company's money-making strategy
Look at the business’s overall revenue plans and projections as your own, says CIO Jay Ferro. That's your new truth, IT leaders
When I was at Earthlink, I was head of both product and IT. Now, as chief information and technology officer at ExamWorks, I don’t view my role any differently. Our products and services are all based on technology. Whether it’s our portals, our apps, the mechanisms by which we get our doctors the medical records they need to review, the way that we report information to our carriers, attorneys, and adjustors – all of it is technology-based. Building the right products in IT is one of the key ways that we differentiate ourselves as a company. Therefore, I look at us very much as being a revenue-generating organization.
In any company, IT should be revenue-focused. If you’re a CIO whose claim to fame is solely five nines while your company is not achieving any of its strategic goals, then you’re failing. IT is just as accountable for delivering business value as any other function, if not more, because of the world we live in. Everything we do is driven by technology. For us, it’s an electronic medical record – a summary of an entire medical journey, provided in electronic form. IT makes that better, more accessible, and faster. We bring better intelligence to that product, and as a direct result, we attract and retain new customers.
I look at the business’s overall revenue plans and projections as my own, and I don’t believe that there’s a function in any company that is better equipped to impact those goals than IT. But looking back historically – even just a year ago – it wasn’t always this way. Like many IT organizations, we’ve looked at things with a “siloed” mentality. Not only was IT distanced from our colleagues, but even within IT it was the blame game. The infrastructure was taken care of, but the app group screwed it up. The app group did their job, but the security folks weren’t there. The security folks did their job, but the data folks dropped the ball. And so on. The time for excuses has passed. The journey is taking time, but we’re building a “solution-focused” team that is accountable to not only our customers, but to each other. Because we’re speaking with “one voice”, our ability to collaborate outside of IT is vastly improved. Frameworks like agile, DevOps, etc. continue to accelerate our journey.
Credibility and delivery are key
By now, I think all CIOs can find themselves somewhere on this journey. We’ve come a long way from trying to get a seat at the table. Now most IT leaders have achieved that business/IT alignment and are actively trying to break loose from the old, waterfall ways of thinking. The old model of, “Hey, go build me a house, and in six months I’ll come back and complain that it was nothing that I wanted,” obviously isn’t going to work in today’s environment. It will only lead to your business falling further and further behind. Nearly all companies are identical in that we’re working to attract and retain customers. We do that many ways, including innovative products, superior customer service, and speed to market. Business outcomes like this should be driving everything that IT does.
If you are early on your journey and still trying to get there, start with building credibility. Speak in business terms so that when you present your strategy, it’s in a way the business can understand and immediately get behind. Make sure you are asking questions, educating yourself, and educating your team. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Over time, you will build a reputation as a partner, and the business will view IT as an intellectually curious organization that wants to be better, wants to deliver, and is living the mission of the organization.
In all my previous IT leadership roles, whether it was at the American Cancer Society, Earthlink, or here at ExamWorks, my goal has been the same. It’s to deliver. Deliver systems, applications, solutions that support growth, retention, and cost optimization. Notice that none of those have the word “technology” in them – but they’re all powered by what we, in IT, do every day.