10 Ways IT Leaders Can Bring Business Value to Their Enterprise

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10 Ways IT Leaders Can Bring Business Value to Their Enterprise

As entire enterprises adapt themselves to changing market requirements, their IT leaders must adapt as rapidly as the technology and business resources they manage. Cloud computing, mobile devices, data analytics and other digital technologies have spread beyond IT into different lines of business inside their organizations. As such, a majority of IT leaders now have a key role in driving the competitive advantages within their organizations; they're not just tasked with the back-end IT but also the front-office strategy. This eWEEK slide show, using industry information from Craig Williams, chief information officer at network optimizer Ciena, explores 10 areas that CIOs and IT leaders should prioritize to ensure that their departments are operating efficiently and driving value to their business.

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Recruit 'PHDs'

It's no simple feat to create a highly productive, synergistic team; hiring and motivating professionals that fit your company's culture take time and effort. If this process is successful, however, the benefits can be substantial. IT leaders should recognize individuals who possess passion, heart and drive (PHD) to act as catalysts to the rest of the organization because they are passionate about what they do, the company they serve and the team they're on, while also being personally motivated to make their work environment and team better.

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Understand IT's Link to Company Success

Always take the time to speak with the executive team and get direct feedback on what is and isn't working. Having a clear understanding of their problems, their needs and what will ultimately help grow the company will help create an IT strategy that aligns to the company's success. Also, be prepared to consistently reassess those problems knowing that they will continually shift.

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Put Security Front and Center

Every executive fears a security breach, but for an IT leader it is a worse nightmare. Organizational security requires a holistic approach, yet the harsh reality is that all too often solutions and products are purchased without a larger plan, and it is only after an issue reveals itself that security concerns are identified. Developing a complete security strategy requires developing a companywide culture where everyone understands cyber-security is the responsibility of all employees and why.

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Harness Data to Create Competitive Differentiation

IT's primary goal should be all about helping the company run faster, better and stronger. To get there, IT leaders should keep in mind these three points when looking at how data can be a true differentiator: 1) It changes industry structure and, in so doing, alters the rules of competition. 2) It cultivates competitive advantage by providing companies with new ways to outperform their rivals. 3) It spawns entirely new businesses, often from within a company's existing operations. IT leaders must engage the businesses they serve and understand their challenges, then look for how IT can best help.

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Define Your Core and Your Context

It sounds simple, but many IT leaders don't take the time to define what their business model should be and how much time they are actually spending there. For example, if an IT organization is focused on developing next-generation data centers, then much of the resources should be spent on just that—hiring great experts in that field. If that's not the core of the business, then data center work is context to your mission. The same goes for other services: Understand what is core and what is context, and determine if your IT department can do it better than anyone else.

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Capitalize on Faster Delivery Models

When thinking about developing quicker rollouts, DevOps comes to mind. DevOps represents a collaborative approach to IT and product development. The DevOps approach can help speed up innovation, while also allowing companies to continue delivering superior products that meet customer expectations. Regardless of the model chosen, the purpose remains the same: Determine where IT can be quick to deliver the goods and services. Doing so may mean introducing new processes, breaking up organizations or delivering new technology.

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Prioritize the End-User Experience, or 'UX'

No two "positive" end-user experiences will be the same, but every organization will need to conceptualize what their employees desire and value. Every IT leader should work across business departments and speak with staff directly to understand what wows them, as it is often not what you'd expect. Retaining quality talent is crucial, and it's good to have a healthy paranoia that if you don't succeed in providing them a good experience, they could leave.

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Encourage and Improve Collaboration

Collaboration is often how good ideas become great and challenges turn into opportunities. With employees spending nearly 80 percent of their time in meetings, on the phone and responding to emails, IT leaders can improve the way their teams collaborate. By strategically implementing collaboration technologies, IT leaders can save the business valuable time and resources.

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Drive a Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a key in the on-demand world, and spearheading this process begs an informed understanding of business problems. IT leaders should be in the business of determining how IT addresses these problems with technology, improved processes, models and IT competencies and transforming their company with the assets at their disposal. Like security, digital transformation can't be implemented without a larger strategy, especially with the growing scale and complexity of today's technology services ecosystem.

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Be Proactive Rather Than Reactive

It's easy to get lost in the day to day and not think about the purpose of your role. Literally put "think" time on your calendar to make sure you're being intentional and not simply reactive. Make the time to ask yourself if you're focused on your team's culture, if communications are happening well enough and if that strategy session you've been meaning to start is on track or not. Not only is it necessary for your professional development, but for that of your team as well.

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