IT Strategy is now C-Suit


Ask a CIO where IT Strategy sits within an organisation, and you’ll likely receive the answer “in IT”. Yet, this may no longer be the case – or, at least, not exclusively.

Every business is becoming a digital business. As such, the question has become: ‘How does tech enable me to do those things I had no hope of doing before?’ Indeed, a growing proportion of IT strategies are being implemented for tech-savvy CEOs and chief marketing officers.

Across the board

In general, the c-suite is becoming far more aware of the new opportunities being opened up by digital – and the importance of capitalising on them.

The result? IT Strategy is moving out of the silo of IT. It’s beginning to drive business decisions across a range of executive functions and powering the exploration of new markets, services and adjacent industries.

Some call it a “purpose statement”. Others call it a “digital vision”. Whatever the name, when the c-suite understands the ways in which tech can be used to create new business opportunities, traditional IT strategies can be reinvented.

The thrust is this: let’s think broader and better. Let’s not think in terms of incremental revenue uptick or a few more percentage points on the EBITDA line; let’s rather think in terms of what we can do. Let’s ask the question: “What if? What if we can respond to customers instantaneously? Would it make sense for the business? What untapped opportunities could be explored?”

The art of the possible

The underlying motivation is to begin to frame discussion in terms of the art of the possible.

For any business, there are two lines of approach. The first involves focusing the set of “what if” questions from the perspective of use cases. The second relies on education and awareness: once organisations understand what tech is out there – everything from virtual reality and AI to blockchain – discussions can happen around how these tools can be used.

Consider APIs (application protocol interfaces). At a fundamental level, such tools allow services and applications to be reinvented and repurposed with only minor tweaks. In an API economy, the logic is this: take everything I do part of my core business and expose it, so anyone can use it.

Businesses need to expose their APIs in order to grow and adapt. More fundamentally, they need to know what their APIs are. Only then can they begin to make the most of the available opportunities.

Whether looking to drive a digital vision from the perspective of use cases or from one of tech awareness more broadly, the final piece of the puzzle is this – creating a business environment in which new tech can survive, without the threat of suffocation by existing governance structures.

New perspective

Many executives are recognising this fact. They know that in order to foster the right kind of atmosphere, it’s important to have people who “get” tech on board. People who challenge the boundaries. People with different skills. People who are creative and bring a different perspective.

It can be difficult for any CEO to look up from the demands of the quarterly report, movements in the share price or the questions posed by audit committees. Those who understand the value of innovative tech can help drive and sustain an organisation’s digital vision.

When executives start to view IT Strategy in broad, strategic terms, discussions around the art of the possible can start to happen.

The first step in recognising the power of innovative tech – and with it, the possibilities being opened up by the platform economy, APIs and other digital innovations – can be as simple as asking “What if?” From there, it’s only a few steps to the next question, “How do we make it happen?”

Hans Zachar | Managing Director: Technology Strategy | Accenture | | |