Building Strategy: IT’s Move From Backroom to Boardroom

IT is playing an increasingly important role in top-level decision making at many organizations. Here’s one association executive’s take on the future of IT evolution.

Gone are the days when IT was merely a fix-it department, dealing with broken printers or email bugs.

It is now more effective to have IT as a proactive and strategic element within organizations, said Thad Lurie, CIO of the American Wind Energy Association, when I interviewed him for the “Talking Tech” column in the February issue of Associations Now.

Really at this point the only way for organizations to be successful is to leverage IT as effectively as they can.

“As things have developed, what we’re finding now is that so many things that organizations do are digital or electronic or online or they have online components,” Lurie said. “Really at this point the only way for organizations to be successful is to leverage IT as effectively as they can.”

And to do this, it’s important to incorporate the guidance and expertise of an IT expert—for example, when choosing and implementing new technology.

“Trying to choose an AMS system, the backbone of your infrastructure and your data without having an IT person at least involved or hopefully leading that process—what are your chances of really being successful if they don’t have experience in that and they don’t understand the consequences and ramifications of the decisions that are going to come at your organization 12 months, 18 months, 36 months from now?” Lurie said.

Taking it a step further, Lurie recommended making room for IT at the executive level.

“Having an IT executive involved will allow you to be much more thoughtful when you’re doing planning, when you’re looking at trying to promote efficiency within operations,” he said, and he’s not alone in expecting the growing importance of a high-level IT staff member.

By 2015, 25 percent of organizations will have a chief digital officer, technology research firm Gartner predicted.

“The chief digital officer will prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead, and IT leaders have the opportunity to be the leaders who will define it,” said David Willis, vice president and analyst at Gartner. “The chief digital officer plays in the place where the enterprise meets the customer, where the revenue is generated, and the mission accomplished. They’re in charge of the digital business strategy. That’s a long way from running back office IT.”

To illustrate the importance of IT as a strategic player, Lurie used the example of organizational print publications, which are more and more likely to begin converting to online-only versions in the next five to 10 years.

“And who do you need to lead the discussions on that? You need pubs people and tech people,” Lurie noted. “To do otherwise is just extremely shortsighted.”

Ultimately, it’s important for organizations to realize the value of including IT at a strategic level to help achieve business goals.

“I would avoid looking at technology as a separate and isolated business unit,” Lurie said.

How has your association incorporated IT into its strategic plans?

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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