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Last week I found a report which contains some interesting results, and is quite recognizable in my daily practice. It presents the results of a survey under CIOs and CFOs on the effects of the crisis on the way companies manage their IT. The study is done by Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School and Deloitte.

They distilled four main engagement themes which stimulate a more effective kind of engagement:

  1. Bonding at the top
  2. Look for benefits
  3. Serve professionally
  4. Engage respectfully

Bonding at the top

Engagement requires more than one or two visits of the CIO to the companies management team with an overview of next year’s IT budget. What is required, is working side-by-side. The purpose of the engagement remains the same. Setting the right expectations, specifying rules for allocation of resources to fulfill these expectations, and defining a framework to verify the performance. Informal engagement channels are as important as formal channels. As a CIO in the study said: “It would be suicide to go to the executive committee without having worked everything out in advance”, and “We are not making their choices. We guide them (the business) with a roadmap, to have an influence on the order of things, to show interdependencies.” The usage of roadmaps and architecture appeared to be fruitful in discussing scenario’s.

Look for benefits

Especially in a crisis, it’s more accepted that business benefits up-front get challenged. IT can and have to take their role in this. An important mechanism here are ‘post-project reviews’, as we have seen earlier in the work of Fonstad on Engagement mechanisms (see former post).

Serve professionally

To get on speaking terms, IT must perform and deliver. Operational excellence and knowing the ‘cost-to-serve’. This will provide IT with excellent input to start the dialogue with the business and to create engagement. Also important are risks and riskmanagement. “Do not hide risks, make them visible” as one CIO pointed out. Put risks on the radar, before being able to manage them properly. Mitigate risks by avoiding big, long projects. Maximize into six-month (or even better three) projects. Otherwise, you can get trapped, due to unforeseeable challenges.

Engage respectfully

What is needed, is a culture in which business and IT allow eachother to intervene. Talk about execution implications of strategic options. And, this is needed throughout the organisation, not only at C-level. Liaison-roles are mentioned as very important (which was also one of Fonstad’s conclusions). This can take the form of business-analysts or IT account managers, but more important, social skills are required. In places where strategy and operations as well as business and IT meet, people should operate who are able to “sit with their peers and show the ability to listen, learn and influence”.

Two other fundamental trends are also pointed out in the survey. Business IT Fusion is seen as upcoming. The second trend is the fact that IT users are becoming more and more IT savvy. As a result, they expect more and more control on how their money us spend. This puts an extra challenge on IT to perform and deliver, and to approach users in an appropiate way.



Viaene, Stijn, Jolyon, Olivier, Hertogh, Steven de: Engaging in turbulent times; Direction setting for business and IT alignment, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School and Deloitte Belgium, October 2009.


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