How to Increase Collaboration Between IT and Executive Leadership Teams
The C-Suite (CEO, CIO, COO, CFO) of an organization are deemed the most important and influential members of a senior leadership team. This group of executive leaders is ultimately the decision-makers who direct the company forward, creating the organization's business strategy and sculpting the business’s future plans.
The IT department is a key division within any organization, and IT is a crucial resource for pushing the future direction of the business. IT departments worldwide are under pressure to deliver cloud computing business objectives and technical services, on budget and ahead of schedule. This view is supported by research that suggests 69 percent of businesses are expecting to utilize cloud technical services by 2020.
To make this vision a success, the C-Suite and IT teams need to work closely to coordinate and deliver a wide range of as-a-service technical offerings. How can you increase the relationship between the board and tech teams and help to develop a prosperous, collaborative partnership?
Be a Leader, Not a Boss!
Choosing the best leadership team from team managers all the way to the CEO is pivotal for success. Creating a collaborative working environment requires leaders who make themselves available and are involved in all matters relevant to their team.
Good leaders should give relevant guidelines on what they want their team to achieve, but also give the team the space to flourish and evolve the ideas. Regular catch-up sessions with employees and other leaders will help all involved to stay on track.
The senior management team of the IT department needs to be present at all strategic and reporting meetings with the C-Suite. These meetings are an opportunity for the CIO and the technical departments to present the current state-of-the-nation to the board. This will bring the C-Suite up to speed on the latest developments, but it also enables a trusting relationship to foster.
The IT technical leadership teams are in the best position to realistically advise the C-Suite of how realistic the future vision of the organization is, and whether the goals are achievable. This will help to open discussions regarding how the existing infrastructure can cope or be adapted for change, as well as the definitive changes needed to embrace the business’s future vision.
Investment in IT services comes with a cost attached, ranging from hiring new employees to purchasing and licensing new as-a-service cloud services. The IT team needs to rein in the aims of the business and help the C-Suite to understand what is realistic with the proposed budget. Every IT team would like an endless pot of cash to purchase new services, but unfortunately, it does not work like that in the real world.
IT technical leaders who build a strong collaborative relationship with the board can improve the likelihood of securing a realistic budget, as well as keeping the goals and aspirations of the business in check. It also allows the technical teams to display their existing technical capabilities, and educate the C-Suite of what IT services are out there.
The executive teams also need to adopt a similar approach to that of the technical teams. Executives are required to be forward-thinking with fresh ideas, who look to promote collaboration and engagement with employees. One of the best ways to achieve this is to take requests from the IT department seriously. This is especially important relating to budget and staffing requirements.
The executive team has to ensure the business prospers and grows; this can be achieved by utilizing their employees to their full potential. Training budgets should be realistic and allocated to all departments throughout the business.
In addition, getting the most suitable employees on-board is key to the future success of the business, and if necessary, ensuring that any bad apples find alternative employment elsewhere. Good candidates are typically more expensive to hire, thus budgets need to be adaptable for the best candidates. Executive teams who listen, engage and understand what the IT department needs will help the technical teams grow and flourish.
The Conversation Works Both Ways
Strong collaboration requires executive teams and IT to work together. Any Q+A conversations must be bi-directional. The executive team must be clear about their strategic priorities, and the IT teams must have those objectives clearly defined within the technical services being suggested. It is pointless and counterproductive for either team to push their agenda too much upon the other team. Collaboration must aim to create a piecemeal and mutually agreeable objective.
Failure to reach a common ground can create a destructive and toxic working environment, where the C-Suite might appear to be out-of-touch with the rest of the business, and the IT department appears disruptive and self-serving.
Choosing When to Meet
As organizations adopt digital transformation, many are choosing to reduce the reliance on emails. It may not always be practical to completely eradicate email, but there is a raft of new collaboration tools available. Platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Skype-for-business enable IT teams and the C-Suite to collaborate at a highly personal level. Instructions, recommendations and guidelines can be shared allowing the teams to prosper.
Collaboration tools will enable all teams to meet virtually in a conference session, or ad-hoc face-to-face meetings can be called upon when needed. Sitting in the same room and discussing the issues thoroughly can be hugely beneficial and often, each team is much more willing to work together to solve the problem.
A positive working environment will encourage all personnel to openly challenge decisions made by the C-Suite and the IT leadership team. Challenges must be constructive, professional and, if possible, suggest alternative solutions. After all, it is the front line teams that deal with the business technology daily and understand the real issues that are being experienced.
Collaboration can be achieved by business workshops, conference calls and meetings (if needed) or even arranging employee team-building events or social nights to encourage everyone to mingle and share ideas. Business challenges often involve multiple teams within the organization, and collaboration will help each team to understand how to fix their part of the problem.
This article originally ran in Today’s Cybersecurity Leader, a monthly cybersecurity-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.