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Five things your CEO should know about your IT transformation programme

Sebastian Jammer | May 28, 2012
Companies that are able to leverage IT effectively can realise cost savings and revenue upsides, while gaining market share over competitors.

Information Technology has become a major source of competitive advantage in today's business world. Companies that are able to leverage IT effectively can realise cost savings and revenue upsides, while gaining market share over competitors. In order to stay ahead in this game, many corporations embark large IT transformation programmes to upgrade or renew their IT architecture.

The IT Transformation programmes mentioned here are not only very complex and large in size and scope but also highly cross-functional in execution, affecting several organisations within the company. There is at least IT as well as one or more business user division involved, requiring people from these different organisations, different backgrounds and potentially diverging objectives to work together.

Sebastian Jammer
Sebastian Jammer

CEOs have to decide how deep they want to get involved into such programmes. On the one hand, CEO attention is necessary because IT transformation programmes can have a major impact on the company success, are highly cross-functional and consume significant funds. On the other hand IT transformations tend to be very technical in nature, which is why many CEOs without technical background shy away because they feel they lack the right skill to effectively support the programme. What is the right level of attention from the CEO and what should be the focus? How can the CEO avoid getting confused by tech-talk and getting paralysed by making every decision himself?

This article points out some best practices on how the CEO can help his IT transformation program to succeed and deliver enduring results. It gives some practical advice based on interviews with senior leaders that have accompanied IT transformation programs in different roles as well as the author's own experience. The experience of the contributors spans various industries including automotive manufacturing, aviation, telecommunication, high-tech and financial services.

The following practices have been identified as the most relevant and impactful for the CEO to get involved:

• Empower a Skilled Team at the Top
• Establish a Technology Enables Business Transformation
• Move Inch-by-Inch Towards the Larger Goal
• Build a Trusted Relationship with Key Suppliers
• Get Prepared to Cope with Issues

For each of the practices, the following sections provide background and recommend focus areas for the CEO to make the IT transformation programme more smooth and successful.

Empower a Skilled Team at the Top
Many managers of large IT transformation programmes complain about a lack of attention by their CEOs and the senior executive team. In fact, frequent changes in such programmes are inevitable. Plans are usually not a prescription but a moving target. Consequently, rapid and well-analysed decisions for cross-functional issues are a necessity and many decisions get escalated to the CEO making him a bottleneck.


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