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Career Watch: How IT can be influential

Jamie Eckle | May 20, 2014
Q&A: David Martin and Kathy Quinn

Q&A: David Martin and Kathy Quinn

The co-founders of business-growth consulting firm Growth Vault discuss how IT can be influential within a business.

Is IT seen as influential within the enterprise?

DM: It depends on the organization. If it's a technology company, then absolutely. Otherwise, IT historically has not been as influential as other areas that are more closely tied to revenues, like marketing and sales. However, given how ubiquitous technology is today, a company that is not being influenced by IT is likely to be at a competitive disadvantage.

It is almost impossible today to have smooth and high-quality interactions with customers, to run a company's internal operations, to communicate effectively within the company or to access important information to make good business decisions unless technology is advanced. Technology is at the core of any company's customer strategy, operations and execution strategy, sales strategy, financial strategy, etc. No company can run effectively without technology capabilities that lead or match its core business capabilities.

KQ: IT can build influence in organizations. We've seen this happen for a couple of reasons. The first is that IT leadership has done a good job linking the business strategy with IT. There's a recognition that successful execution of the business strategy depends on fabulous IT capabilities and execution. When that happens, IT isn't just a cost center. It can become a strategic advantage to better execution.

The second instance is when customer interactions are facilitated by technology. If purchasing and customer service interactions almost always have an electronic option, IT shines in a better light.\

What's the best way for IT leaders to become more influential within the business?

DM: This is simple: Be a business leader who happens to be an expert in IT, not an IT expert who happens to work in a business. Focus on the important business results you can help your company produce, accelerate and improve. Show how IT's work accelerates the execution of core business strategies.

Kathy Quinn

Kathy Quinn, co-founder,

Growth Vault

KQ: Technology leaders can get so geeked out by how they do what they do that other business leaders think they don't understand what matters. They make themselves outcasts who don't get invited to participate in the business-critical conversations. Your peers don't care nearly as much as you do about the latest technology release or the way your team is structured.

Just how influential can IT be?

DM: Look at ING Direct. It was founded as a direct bank — no branches — so technology was a core part of its business strategy, not just a support function. It used technology as one of its competitive advantages to greatly differentiate itself from competitors. In fact, much of its fast growth was a result of attracting a technology-savvy clientele away from traditional banks.

 

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