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Monday, 02 May 2022 19:29

It takes two: How ICT leaders can work more effectively with the C-Suite

By Tony Newcome, CTO, ActiveCampaign
Tony Newcome CTO ActiveCampaign Tony Newcome CTO ActiveCampaign

GUEST OPINION: Building outstanding rapport with decision makers will result in better outcomes for the business and improve your career prospects too.

Long gone are the days when ICT was viewed as a backroom job; a great gig for technically adept introverts who were happy to take on the uptime challenge and make procuring and managing hardware and software their workaday raison d’etre.

Today, technology is front and centre of almost every business decision and ICT professionals are in the thick of it; advising, enabling and overseeing the implementation of solutions to help organisations grow their operations and become more efficient and profitable.

That won’t change any time soon. In fact, the reverse. In the wake of the Covid crisis, Australian businesses are investing ever more heavily in digital technology to automate and optimise their processes. Collectively, their tech spend will be more than $111 billion this year, as long term transformation programs return to the agenda, according to Gartner’s latest forecast.

As your organisation continues its strategic pivot to digital, fostering a strong working relationship with the CEO and the rest of the leadership team will help ensure your voice is heard and the contribution you (and your team) make is recognised and appreciated.

Here are some tips to help you strengthen the ties.

As they like it: Customise your communication style

Some leaders like everything in writing and want to see loads of data before each and every meeting. Others favour regular, informal face to face chats and a brief summary of proceedings after the fact. It’s up to you to work out the style of communication that works best for your CEO – and to keep on giving them more of the same. It’s the best way to ensure your advice is heard and heeded, when you are asked for input or an opinion.

Do the details well

Getting the medium and messaging right is one important piece of the puzzle. Providing the type and depth of detail your CEO and their fellow leaders want to see is another. While there are notable exceptions, a good rule of thumb is to assume that your peers don’t want to get too bogged down in the technical nitty-gritty. Rather, they want to know how high tech spending will contribute to desired business outcomes – think efficiency, profitability, growth and organisational resilience. Be prepared to paint a picture of how ICT programs and projects will impact the enterprise as a whole, and the risks that are likely to accrue if funds aren’t invested. Most importantly, ensure you have an excellent handle on how much the solutions you advocate for will cost, both upfront and ongoing.

Look a long way ahead

If you’re working for an organisation that’s in high growth mode, optimising operations in the here and now won’t be the C-suite’s chief priority. Instead, your CEO will be focused on where the enterprise needs to be two or three years hence and the steps required to get there. If you’re serious about achieving great business outcomes – and advancing your own career in the process – you will be too. That could require you to become more proactive than you perhaps may have been in the past. You might, for example, need to open a dialogue with the high-ups about where things are heading and how ICT can help, or call out potential issues with their strategy, from a technology perspective. Yes, disagreements may ensue but standing your ground and making your case firmly but respectfully is likely to stand you, and the organisation, in very good stead, in the long term.

Make their goals your own

From employees on the shop floor all the way up to the C-suite, we’re all accountable to someone. Familiarise yourself with your CEO’s priorities and you can then ensure your own are in sync. Of course, it’s possible they won’t articulate each and every one of their goals for the enterprise but tune in and lean in at every opportunity and they’ll likely become reasonably clear. Bonus points if you make it your business to supply intelligence and insights to help them get there faster.

Being part of the success story

As digital technologies and automation continue to transform the Australian business landscape, it’s an exciting time to be working in ICT. Learning to collaborate more effectively with decision makers in your organisation will help ensure you play a key role in driving your enterprise towards a sustainable, successful future.

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