Is IT an Opportunity to Grow or a Potential Risk? Yes!

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.

As an active board member for several organizations, I periodically attend the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Annual Leadership Conference. The NACD is a nonprofit dedicated to helping board members confidently navigate business challenges and enhance long-term shareholder value.

During this year's conference, one of the most discussed topics was information technology. IT presents a huge opportunity for growth for many companies, but there can be significant risk. We heard feedback from board members indicating that few truly understand technology and, therefore, the risks it can pose.

Whether your company is public, private, government, or not-for-profit, these opportunities and risks are ever-present. So, if your board or executive team members do not speak fluent technology, how do you:

  • Understand the opportunities
  • Understand and manage the risks
  • Clearly articulate the full potential of leveraging technology
  • Get your arms around the challenges posed by the unintended consequences of leveraging that technology

As a former corporate executive and CIO, I see huge potential to grow business through leveraging technology within your company and across your partner network.

A good example is the ability to leverage the massive amounts of data now available. Understanding that data can help you create new products and/or streamline your processes to become more effective. You will need to ask yourself the following:

  • How does this change our strategy?
  • How does this change how we view our business?
  • How does this impact our product and services?
  • How will this motivate or de-motivate our internal associates and partner network?
  • How will this improve our value proposition for our customers?

Paradigm's experience indicates that successful leaders recognize that all of these questions must be objectively addressed at the outset. Furthermore, the process of thinking through the business impacts requires every leader across the company to be open minded and positive about the opportunities and the ability to confidently identify and manage the risks.

Remember that perhaps the greatest risk of all for leveraging technology may be the people risk-not the technology risk. Ask yourself whether or not you are actively addressing all the risks, including the human side of the equation. If the answer is "Not really" or "I'm not sure we are doing enough," I suggest you take action now.

This is an area where trusting your gut is critical. You can ask the right people the right questions, and you will frequently get the right answer. But in the end, if your gut tells you that you are not addressing this area effectively, then you probably are not, regardless of data showing otherwise.