Effectively Managing Technology Risk

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

The November 2011 newsletter discussed the use of technology as both an opportunity to grow as well as a potential risk for companies. (Click here to read that article) Feedback indicates that Board members and executives are concerned about that risk; specifically understanding it enough to effectively manage it.

In today's world, with rapidly increasing capabilities becoming available, managing technology risk can be a daunting task. Therefore, the question arises: if you were to focus on one or two actions which will make the most difference in managing that risk, what would those actions be?

With this context in mind, let's consider what actions you could take.

Would you:

  • Seek to educate the Board and the executive team to understand technology better?
  • Review the integration of the company strategy and the technology implementations at a more detailed level to ensure they mesh?
  • Seek to understand difference between the strategic risk and operational risk?
  • Place greater emphasis on the strategic risk?
  • Place greater emphasis on the operational risk, or balance the two?

Clearly, many or all of these actions may be necessary. There is one action, not mentioned above, that has the potential to totally reposition your company for growth. And, in the process of repositioning for growth, it can help you to effectively manage the technology risk.

I invite you to consider the potential positive impact on your business of a mindset or cultural shift:

  • From: technology is something that we don't really understand, we are uncomfortable with it and the CIO/CTO/ CXO handles it for the business. They are slow to deliver and don't understand the business.

  • To: we are one fully integrated business. In order to fundamentally benefit from technological capabilities and grow as a business, the multi-function team values all perspectives and works together as collaborators.

There are still discussions in the US in public forums, about the separation of technology and "the business". As if they are two separate entities. Technology is an integral part of your business. The strategic plan for business growth needs to be developed by the multi-function team with an eye for where we are going versus where we are today.

In order to accomplish this in a fast paced environment, the business team developing these plans needs to have access to marketing, sales, operations, finance, competitive understanding, and technology to name a few.

Acknowledge that team members whose strength is marketing, sales and other disciplines may not understand technology. Acknowledge that team members whose strength is technology may not understand marketing, sales and some aspects of customer expectations.

Some companies will figure out how to cross-pollinate knowledge, change the culture and integrate "the business". They will employ a number of strategies, among them implementing cross-functional assignments in their various organizations, to build a strong integrated culture. Leveraging this integrated business culture, versus the current day separation, will enable them to leave their competition in the dust.

Hypothetically, if having a fully integrated culture and having one business positioned you to:

  • Work more collaboratively,
  • Get to market faster, with a higher quality product or service,
  • Experience business growth measurably greater than today

Isn't it worth it to you to change the mindset and culture, and look to the future? In light of the prediction from Gartner Research, that by 2017, CMOs will be spending more on IT than the CIO, a fundamental cultural shift to facilitate business growth would seem to offer a huge competitive advantage.

Therefore, the pressing question becomes, "How are you going to evolve from a fragmented culture, where there is " the business" and "IT", to an integrated culture where you are one business?" Who is going to ultimately own making that transition happen?