Keep IT in the strategic mix for a career-building approach

How can you ensure that IT stays in your company's strategic mix? Build a technology team that enables business goals by partnering with business units to increase revenue and profit. To keep IT as a strategic part of your business, you and your staff will have to start thinking, talking and acting like business staff. Why? Your career could depend on it.

Many companies already outsource large portions of IT, including help desks, data centres and infrastructure. Even application development, once thought to be too strategic to move, is going out of house. This outsourcing is only possible because top management thinks IT services - and the workers who provide them - are not central to revenue generation and the products the company produces. In the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, it is only a matter of time before all of IT is outsourced.

So how can IT management demonstrate its value to top management? By building business equity - the value that you bring to the revenue side of the balance sheet. For CEOs, the value that IT brings to a company is not the technology that it implements and supports, but rather the technical expertise that helps the company achieve revenue and profit goals. CEOs want proactive partnerships with IT that produce truly creative products. Your ability to deliver on this requirement will create the business equity that will keep you employed in the 21st century.

Taking the first step in building your business equity requires that you learn more about the revenue side of your company. Approach the business units and ask them how they generate revenue. Talk to them about their most profitable products or services. What makes them so profitable? How do they deliver value to the clients? What would they like to be able to do but have not yet figured out how? Apply your expertise here. Work with them to identify new approaches that will help deliver new products in these high-profit areas. In doing so, you will demonstrate the value that IT brings to the future creation of revenue and profits.

The network infrastructure in many companies is more important to business operations than any other aspect of technology. It is the foundation upon which critical applications run. In the past, delivering a stable and robust network was enough. Now the network is more than a delivery module; it is as much a part of the application as the code that makes it work.

Understanding how to deliver application performance, interaction and innovation over a network is more important today than understanding how to build and deliver the network. The business equity is in understanding how to deliver the high-value business products over the network.

Transforming a team of engineers into enablers of business goals is not easy, but your future depends on it. By partnering with upper management to increase revenue and profits, you can demonstrate value and preserve your job.

Gian Zoppo is CEO of technology strategy company, Straighthink>

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