Today’s CIOs need to focus on solving business outcomes. They need to understand how the business works, its financial structure, and a focus on achieving results that drive business success. However, CIOs cannot do it alone. They need an organization that can think, act, and behaves like business people.

To accomplish this requires a clear understanding of the organizational culture as well as the business competencies and associated skills necessary for a strategic information technology (IT) organization to be successful.

  • What is the difference between competency and a skill?
  • What are the four key competencies and associated skills of a strategic IT organization?
  • Why are these competencies and skills important in building a collaborative and trust-based relationship with business executives and Business teams?

In this lesson, I identified the four competencies and associated skills that a strategic IT organization must focus on to succeed at working with business teams to achieve successful business outcomes. Included in the discussion are examples of strategic CIOs and their teams, which excel in the competency and apply the associated skills effectively:

• Business knowledge (environment, opportunities, process-centric)
• Market knowledge (product knowledge, industry insight, competitive landscape)
• Technology prowess (technology strategy/adaptability, organizational agility/strategic project capability)
• Cross dimension (vision, leadership, communications)

Business knowledge (environment, opportunities, process-centric)

Business knowledge is an important competency for three important reasons. The first is that IT personnel need to understand how the business operates so they can intelligently communicate with business teams. The second is an understanding of the customer value provided as well as opportunities to provide improved customer value. The third is a process focus so IT personnel can identify the information that intersects across the enterprise value chain, where value is created or can be created.

Market knowledge (product knowledge, industry insight, competitive landscape)

Market knowledge is an important competency since IT personnel cannot effectively improve customer value without a good understanding of the company products, the industry trends, and the competitive environment. CIOs recognize that to be successful, they need to have a good understanding of the market. It is almost more important that key IT personnel who interact with the business on a daily basis have the same skills. Otherwise, the IT teams that work with business units will not effectively contribute to any discussion involving business challenges, opportunities, and potential solutions.

Technology prowess (technology strategy/adaptability, organizational agility/strategic project capability)

Technology prowess is an important competency since technology is advancing at such a rapid pace. There are three major challenges CIOs face. The first is that not every new technology is an appropriate fit for your business. The right technology choice is the one that meets the needs of your business, not the one that is the latest and greatest. The second challenge is that business executives read about all the new technologies and want to know why the IT organization isn’t implementing them. The third, and most dangerous, is that business unit executives are contacting software vendors and acquiring products and services avoiding the IT organization.

This is dangerous because the acquired software by the business units can conflict with other enterprise-wide systems creating business issues. The key skills required by IT personnel are to develop a technology strategy that is flexible and can adapt to changing business conditions. Another key skill is to develop agility within the IT organization to quickly form teams to address business challenges and meet the demands of the business, which are changing at a quicker pace than ever before. The
final skill is a strategic project capability that enables IT organizations to execute projects with speed and minimal risk and within schedule requirements. Doing so will enable the IT organization to process more projects through the pipeline and address the strategic project demands from the business.

Cross dimension (vision, leadership, communications)

Cross-dimensional competency is a critical component for a strategic IT organization. The CIO must convey a vision of how the IT organization operates and provides value to the business. Unless IT personnel can envision the future state in terms of strategies, projects, metrics, and business goals, as well as how it will benefit each person in their career paths, any change in IT strategy will fail.

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