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Five ways to achieve support for IT strategies and innovations at Board level 

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In Expleo’s latest podcast series ‘Expleo Explores – Mastering Business Transformation’ Siobhán Smith, Global Marketing Manager at Expleo welcomed Fin Goulding, CXO advisor and former CIO at Aviva, to discuss success factor number two of nine – “Embracing a digital first mindset”. During the conversation, the pair discussed the evolution of the role of the CIO, the momentum that the Covid-19 pandemic afforded the IT department and what are the top ways to win over the support of the Board for IT strategies and innovations.  

Siobhán Smith, Global Marketing Manager, Expleo 

Podcast Expleo

How has the role of a CIO or Head of IT changed in recent times?

According to Fin, traditionally, senior IT people had no choice but to move into a management layer and were unable to stay technical if they wanted to progress through the ranks of an organisation. Over time, we’ve seen the increasing importance placed on technology in all aspects of life and work, and this has resulted in a greater dependency on this Senior IT role or roles within an organisation. Nowadays, Fin sees the role of the CIO very clearly leveraged across two pivotal areas of business, one is focused on infrastructure and hardware and the basic pillars to keep an organisation functional and efficient. The other, is moving much more towards product and the technology and application development. Fin believes businesses are now looking for someone in this role who not only understands the nuts and bolts of technology, but also who has a holistic understanding of what’s required to move the business forward. 

What impact did Covid-19 have on IT departments?

There’s no doubt the IT departments were called upon to save firms during the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. In fact some IT leaders have branded it the ‘Covid halo effect’. Without doubt, the situation highlighted IT departments that were under-invested in before the crisis, and likewise showcased the agility of others’ who were set up for success. It also shone a light on some of the actors that were constraining IT departments such as purchasing or procurement processes and internal ‘red tape’. 

Is this new investment in IT here to stay?

“It could easily slip away” according to Fin. Habitually, when things go badly in an organisation, the IT budget is one of the first to get ‘the chop’ and this is a danger. Keeping investment levels high in IT, ensures that you’ll be able to respond to the next big event, or indeed taking your company to another level. However, this can only be achieved if CIO’s are doing their jobs right and befriending the board of Directors as well as the executive management teams. To do this, there are key tactics that one can use and lucky for us, Fin was happy to share them on the latest podcast… 

1. Communicate confidently, without jargon

It seems straight forward, but IT is arguably one of the most complex departments in an organisation, with walltowall abbreviations and nick-names for projects, technology, tools and tactics. This is majorly confusing for people sitting outside this department and is not conducive to a collaborative working environment. To gain buy-in at the Board level, presentation skills are essential. Understanding your audience, the language that resonates with them, and appreciating the information that needs to be delivered (and doesn’t need to be delivered) to these people is a lot harder than you may think. However, take comfort in the fact that it can be learnt! Invest in yourself and your management teams presentation and communication skills. 

2. Take an incremental approach

Put simply, one of the best ways to win over a Board of Directors or an executive management team, is to show results in the short term. Rather than coming up with a great idea and saying, “I’ll need €5 million” and being met with ‘cricketsas Fin describes it, what he recommends is asking for funding to take you to a particular point so that you can prove the value. If the first steps prove that you can deliver the bigger picture, then it’s much easier to gain trust and buy-in from there. 

3. Think before you build

Fin spoke about how he’s not the biggest fan of the terms ‘pilot’ or ‘MVP’ (minimum viable product) in the podcast. These, in Fin’s opinion can be cut down versions of what a solution can be. To get the buy-in, you don’t always have to go as far as building anything. Rather, doing much more research, analysis and in-depth proof with reference points that something will work can be much more persuasive . Furthermore, Fin explains that leaders may feel much more responsibility from the Board for delivering the ‘whole bigger picture’ when they throw their full weight behind these pilots.  

4. “Back me or sack me”

Sometimes, people need to see to believe. In order to achieve extraordinary things, we need to take risks. Boards can be risk-averse by nature. If you demonstrate your passion and belief that you can successfully deliver a solution, you’re likely to gain the trust of the Board… but bear in mind this is built over time is not something that should happen without strong existing relationships and trust. The magic happens when people take risks.  

5. Treat your partners as just that

As CIO or a senior IT leader, you need to have a strong relationship with your capability partners. And you need to present solutions and plans as one team. Fin likes to think of it as ‘co-sourcing’, an understanding that you don’t have all the answers. Trusted partnerships enrich collaboration and lead to more successful outcomes as it becomes a vested interest for all parties. Being able to illustrate this strength to your Board, instils a sense of confidence in your capabilities and the capabilities of the people and the partners that you’ve empowered. 

These are just a handful of the nuggets of wisdom shared in the podcast, unlock the other secrets to winning over the confidence of the Board in episode two of Expleo Explores ‘Mastering Business Transformation’. If you’d like to explore where our success factors for Business Transformation came from, read Expleo’s Business Transformation Index 2022. 

1st Episode Resume

In Expleo’s latest podcast series ‘Expleo Explores – Mastering Business Transformation’ Siobhán Smith, Global Marketing Manager at Expleo welcomed Mary O’Connor, Chief Information Officer at ESB to discuss success factor number one of nine – “Embracing a digital first mindset”. During the conversation, the pair discussed the multifaceted and highly complex process of transitioning a culture to being ‘digital first’, why it’s important and how firms can achieve this goal. The research that Expleo commissioned to identify the nine success factors, is captured in Expleo’s Business Transformation Index 2022.

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