Digital Transformation – IT as a Strategic Partner

By Deshard Stevens, CISO, NYC Commission on Human Rights

In the past, the IT department within an organization was viewed as a service provider. IT departments were focused on systems, hardware, networking and communications infrastructure, and other technology assets within an organization. They provided technology-related services and support to aid an organization in achieving its goals. In short, the IT department’s focus was on ensuring that technology resources worked as expected throughout an organization so that there were minimal interruptions to its business processes.

Digital transformation has enabled IT to switch from a service provider mindset and instead align IT as a strategic partner responsible for helping to facilitate change within the organization. Because digital transformation allows for the integration of technology into all areas of an organization, the role of IT has grown to one in which they are regarded as an important strategic asset. As a partner within the organization, IT works to make sure that technology work more efficiently and is streamlined throughout the organization to improve its business results and help provide a competitive advantage over the competition.

For IT to become a successful strategic partner within an organization, IT departments should focus on the following:

  • Aligning Technology Solutions to Organization Goals
  • Expanding IT Professional Skillsets
  • Become Innovators
  • Lead the Cultural Change
Align Technology Solutions to Organization Goals

Before proposing a technology solution, IT should determine the organizational goals or problems the organization is trying to solve. Since most of the senior leadership team within an organization will not have a technology background, framing technology solutions in the context of a business problem will demonstrate that the IT department understands the overall organizational strategy. It will also help improve communication since linking the solutions to business outcomes will allow senior leadership to be more engaged in the conversation and provide them with a better understanding of the implications of each proposed solution.

The more aligned IT becomes with an organization’s goals, the more value it can add to the organization. Senior leadership will begin to have IT at the forefront of its decision-making process rather than IT being an afterthought.  

Expanding IT Professional Skillsets

Traditionally, IT professionals were more technical and focused on maintaining and supporting an organization’s technology, software, and hardware. With the increased use of digital technologies, the role of an IT professional has grown to include the role of business analysis, developer, and quality assurance. IT professionals must now understand the organization’s goals to identify what technology solutions can be utilized to achieve those goals. These professionals would also benefit from having some knowledge of application development and quality assurance processes. The added skills and knowledge gained by adopting these roles will allow IT professionals to integrate different applications and enable them to streamline workflows through automation.

Many IT professionals are not trained in these skills. An investment must be made in professional development to better position IT professionals in their role in enhancing business processes. IT professionals will play a key role in aiding an organization’s ability to innovate and increase efficiencies through digital transformation.

Become Innovators

IT departments will need to become innovators since innovation will help drive organizational change. It can lead to the improvement of current processes or the creation of new lines of revenue. IT departments should advocate for these changes, acting as the bridge between technology and the organization’s goals.

IT should find creative digital solutions to solve existing business problems. The focus should be on using technology to automate business processes to improve efficiency across the organization. IT innovation will not only help optimize business processes but can also reduce operational costs and provide a path for continuous improvement.

Lead the Cultural Change

Since digital transformation is organization-wide, it requires involvement from the entire organization. There needs to be a shift in the way technology is viewed. Since the IT department is usually at the center of change, they must lead the effort in this cultural shift. IT needs to clearly define and communicate what mindset the organization should have when it comes to technology.

In addition to changing how technology is viewed within an organization, there should also be a cultural shift focusing on innovation and collaboration. Employees should feel empowered to find creative solutions to solving problems. Having open communication between employees and allowing them to be part of the decision-making process will make them feel valued and know that their opinion matters. This will not only help drive innovation within the organization but can lead to an increase in employee satisfaction as well.

The Future of IT

IT departments will continue to focus on integrating new technology, hardware, and software within an organization. In the future, however, IT departments will also have to emphasize increased collaboration within the organization and continuous process improvement using digital solutions. To accomplish this, IT will have to work closely with organizational leadership as a strategic partner.

Given the rapid pace of digital transformation, organizations must work to improve continuously by increasing efficiency using technology. Automating and streamlining business processes are necessary for an organization to evolve. Having IT as a strategic partner will be key for an organization to be successful.