Faced with tough times, most organisations have cut costs. In our globally competitive world, that alone is not enough. It's time you challenged your board to invest in technology to serve customers and support business growth.
But influencing the Board isn't easy, with many competing voices from sales, service delivery, customer functions, regulatory, HR business partners, procurement advisors, financial experts, and external advisors.
The CIO must be distinct and compelling to win time, budget and to present the case for change.
Over time, we've developed a simple checklist to help develop ideas and present new proposals.
This 5Cs for Change is simple and surprisingly powerful, and summarised below:
Catalyst for change
Whether cost, competition, compliance or growth, every change needs a clear, unambiguous and communicable trigger.
Standing still, or failing to act is also a sure recipe for failure.
It takes perspective, business acumen and market knowledge to step-back from the day job and spot the right opportunities.
In order to win credibility to present a view, first you must explain why the business needs to act.
Clarification of purpose
This is the opportunity for the CIO to add enormous value; framing the challenge in SMART terms and winning consensus for the approach.
Without this, any proposal might sound like jumping on a product or technology bandwagon.
Start with the business benefits and outcomes and work back.
Isues to explore are cost, agility, resilience, market access, or changing the negotiating position with suppliers and the best way to achieve them.
For instance, Cloud isn't an end in itself, but it may be a means to achieving a number of business objectives.
Commitment to change
Getting the Board to back your project means that you are preventing other business opportunities from happening, so be sure you have wide support.
Too many initiatives start too soon, without a bedrock of leadership and staff support.
Take the time to lead your peers and the business, and to test ideas.
Be clear and open about the opportunity and its drawbacks, empathise, be open to suggestions, and win over a broad coalition of support before you act.
Securing Board, and workforce, approval isn't something done once, it is an ongoing challenge.
You should aim to generate and sustain a consistent pull for change and a hunger for the new capabilities you can provide.
This is best achieved by winning often and by delivering bite-sized chunks in a steady stream of good news.
It also means knowing weaknesses, learning lessons, and demonstrably matching the capabilities at your disposal to the challenges ahead.
Capability to deliver
Honestly assess performance today, what's needed tomorrow and for the journey, then fill the gaps.
If the initiative is a priority, it deserves skilled resource to drive and deliver it.
If you cannot secure those skills, then think again before you commit to deliver.
And consider how you can use the initiative to attract, develop and retain talent: understand individual motivations, and the career path you can offer to support.
In thinking of well-known examples to bring the 5 Cs to life, it's easy to bring up examples of where they are lacking in famous IT failures.
But it's just as easy to forget that nearly every success isn't an IT success, but a wider business success.
Alasdair Ramage is a principal at Moorhouse