Eugene Khazin

Principal and Co-Founder, Prime TSR

IT professionals are ready to break free of the subsidiary role on the team they’ve traditionally held—but after years of being bossed around, it may be difficult for them to determine their path to autonomy. They’ll need to create a strategy to work with the company stakeholders rather than be order-takers. Here’s how to do that

1. Highlight Your Value

If you want to partner with business stakeholders, you’ll need to understand their challenges and then offer solutions that help solve their problems. Not sure they’ll listen to your ideas? Try creating a value proposition that directly addresses the issues stakeholders face and provides clear explanations on how your solutions can help.

Can’t come up with an exciting technological solution to the problems your company faces? That’s okay. Keep thinking and keep providing solutions. Not only does this demonstrate your value, it also gets people in the habit of asking you what the best course of action would be instead of telling you.

When stakeholders start asking you questions, don’t waste the opportunity. Take the time to briefly educate people in your company about new tech opportunities for the company, for each department, and for individual employees. It’s easy to become your company’s trusted advisor if you communicate often, clearly, and proactively – and once you’re seen as an advisor, you’ll have the freedom to transform your role.

2. Be Visible and Available

According to a Dale Carnegie case study about IT transformation, face-to-face contact helps establish trust, credibility, and respect, so it’s important that you come out of the proverbial data center every once in a while to walk around the office and chat with people. We understand how hard it is to escape workload pressures, but if you’re serious about breaking free of your transactional role, you’ll need to begin establishing advisory relationships throughout the office.

Save time on these interactions by focusing on quick wins. Brainstorming small solutions and answering fast questions may not seem like much to you, but over time, your steady, continued advice will encourage people to ask you for additional—perhaps strategic—help.

Already been wandering around the office making yourself visible and helping with small projects? It’s time to get in front of the decision makers by tagging along as a tech advisor for one of the business units. Once you’re in the room, wow the board with your technological insight.

3. Focus on Business Objectives

After you’ve impressed the board with your knowledge, be prepared to follow up your performance with creative solutions for enterprise challenges and objectives. By “creative,” we mean that you shouldn’t dismiss shadow IT, outsourcing, offshoring, or other IT models because it’s best to investigate every avenue for business success. If one of the newer IT innovations solves a problem, you’ll be recognized for recommending it.

However, pay close attention to how you present your solutions. Sadly, IT has a lot of stereotypes to overcome, and if you dispense knowledgeable advice with the wrong tone, you’re likely to seem arrogant. No one wants an arrogant techie bossing them around, especially not the c-suite.

Instead of boldly telling people what they should do, warm them up so they’re receptive to the new solution you’re suggesting. Start by asking the following four questions, and then follow up with your advice.

  1. What exact problem are you trying to solve?
  2. How does solving this problem help you accomplish your goals?
  3. What barriers stand between you and your goals at this time?
  4. How would solving this problem benefit other business units or the entire organization?

Earn Your Seat at the Table

Remember that the highest compliment you can receive is being asked for advice. Not only does it mean that people perceive you as trustworthy and knowledgeable, it also means that you get to create your own solutions instead of being bossed around.

One of the reasons that IT became order takers is because the jobs we perform are seen as skills based rather than value based. This means that employers view the IT department as a group of service professionals paid to perform a skill. Coincidentally, that’s also how they view chimney sweeps.

If all your company sees in IT is a bunch of skills-based professionals who hide out all day in the “IT corner” and only show up in the office when there’s a problem…. can you really blame them for viewing your role as transactional? The only way to change the way you’re perceived is through your own actions. With the right actions, however, you will be able to transform your role.

It’s Time to Make a Change

Before you move on to your next task, we’d like to present you with some interesting statistics:

  • 76% of CxOs believe IT should serve as collaborative partner, but only 27% of IT fulfills this role
  • 34% of technology experts feel they need to help with business planning
  • 31% of boards currently contain CIOs as members

Is this a coincidence? We think not. What those statistics suggest is that approximately one-third of the IT leaders in this country have already changed their roles to become strategic partners instead of order takers. It’s time for you to do the same.