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August 19, 2013updated 22 Sep 2016 10:56am

Roundtable: Aligning IT with the rest of the company

ServiceNow and CIOs discuss how IT can be used as a strategic business function in marketing.

By Claire Vanner

ServiceNow recently hosted talks with several progressive CIOs in a webinar entitled ‘Market like your career depends on it’.

The enterprise cloud company works with IT departments to offer a lean operating model with realtime updates through a broader group intranet. This permits them to align their overall targets with the rest of the company and focus their efforts into marketing their successes and advantages.

Carl Eberling, CIO of Encore Capital Group, explains that in his role of a CIO was important to work with the rest of company: "We’re there to protect the business, stabilise the business and enable the business, and part of that of course is being innovative and working with our team to solve the problems that cause them pain at night."

Similarly, Craig Wishart, CIO of ServiceStream, looks to help his company through IT from the bottom up. He says: "The role I play is to provide scale to the organisation and I often centre this discussion around the factory floor and what do we do for cost and process and procedure improvement."

"IT is an enabler for competitive advantage one way or the other," Kevin Broadway, CIO of Metro PCS (soon to be T Mobile US), says. "I don’t own the customer experience but I certainly enable it and sometimes disable is. As well as the back office, the employee facing experience, IT is an enabler or a catalyst in those areas as well."

Marketing IT as a strategic business function

Some IT businesses struggle with the idea of marketing and sales, but in delivering a solution to a problem, they can promote themselves by working towards a common issue.

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"I think at the end of the day, all of us are involved in marketing and sales because we’re trying to communicate out what we believe we can do to make a difference," says Wishart. "We have three words on a slide that we consistently put up in front of the group and that is that ‘confidence breeds competence breeds trust’ and what that message is about is you know, you build your personal relationship with your peers, find out what is broken and listen to what they have to say and then do what you said you were going to do."

For Eberling, alignment is also peer-related: "It really centres around people developing; you need to hire and obtain some technologically competent individuals but then aligning them to the rest of the business and what your core business is as an organisation," he says.

"You’ve then got a delivery model aligned to the business itself and to the business goals and objectives and not having a highly differentiated set of goals for IT and for your people in IT that is diff to the rest of the business."

Broadway takes a more methodical approach with his IT team: "What I always talk about internally with IT is that IT does enable business process, and we talk a lot about processes, but ultimately that always translate into an experience for our customers or internally to our employees. So we focus on process and the translation of that into an experience," he said.

Selling your wins

In order to push marketing within IT, Eberling operates a two tier process. Firstly, he has places a dedicated PC in the executive office, which shows a dashboard of their performances that IT runs for them, which has created visibility and opened up reports with the team. Secondly, the IT department is running presentations and workshops to all businesses, which allows marketing PC to open dialogue between businesses who want similar solutions.

Wishart has adapted present models at ServiceStream. He updates and keeps people aligned with operational changes or operational improvements that were going on within the business. He also sends out quarterly letters to managers to summarise the key achievements month-by-month and focus on specific goals and objectives that resonate with the rest of the business leaders.

But he is not just interested in formal exchanges: "I also like to engage in informal communication, frequently I pick up the phone and call my peers and other leaders in the business just to make sure their aware what’s transpiring in the IT origination," he said.

In addition to following the business metrics, Broadway also embarks on informal exploits: "The informal conversations have to happen very frequently in terms of peer-to-peer and what’s been achieved and what hasn’t. But I also use a more formal routine amongst the monthly operating results and those kinds of things.

Achieving alignment with ServiceNow

With regards to how ServiceNow helps the CIOs align with the rest of the company, they are all taking advantage of it in markedly different ways. Eberling uses the cloud software to provide a single system of records and an additional element of self-service capability. People can log on and check status imposition at any time of the day with realtime information.

Wishart says ServiceStream sees over 2,000 people interacting with it daily, utilising PPM, mobility, portal to form basis of a broader group intranet and form-based workflows show real evidence of it working.

Broadway sees ServiceNow as a lean operating model – its managed services strategy, role for IT is non-technical more of a service manager. It co-ordinates service providers across the board to deliver customer experience.

Top Tips for CIOs

To wrap up the webinar, ServiveNow asked the participants what tips they would give to fellow CIOs.

Broadway says: "The IT leaders need to embrace the services model for their IT function. That’s how their customers think of them: in terms of their services, not their capability."

Eberling says to focus on the business goals and objectives as opposed to the technologies. "Keep in mind the concept of purposed direction of the organisation and the CIO role as it was is morphing really into one more focused on operation," he explains.

Wishart’s advice came in the form of three points. The first was: "Build relationships and take the time to invest in those up front. Identify people who are going to help you change their business." The second was to maintain focus. "Act in the best interest of the company and act as though there is one share price." And finally: "Promote yourself, promote your people and market your capability. Confidence breeds competence breeds trust and if you can get trust then you really get a good seat at the table where you can work with your executive peers to really change the business."

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