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Achieving-"IT"-Together
Murali Krishnan
VP, IT-Advia Credit Union
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The need has never been greater for strategically leveraging technology across the organization.

Many strategies exist in pursuit of the "perfect" IT solution, especially when it can enhance or improve a business opportunity. Invariably, these techniques can lead to a potpourri of solutions supporting interconnected processes, causing redundancies, complexity or unclear best practices. As an IT professional, establishing a robust technology strategy and governance plan that enables you to manage and control both the approach and outcome are essential in delivering technological excellence.

When Everyone is a Champion of Technology, the Organization Wins

A result of having spent more than a decade in leadership roles, managing and overseeing IT delivery, the significant difference becomes apparent when you can drive technology progress holistically. The best approach is one that encourages structure, agreement and feedback from various business units, with participation from all levels of the organization - inclusive of the front line employee to the C-suite executive. A holistic approach can also deliver strategic outcomes to proactively build, support and manage technology. It enables you, the IT professional, to successfully propel your enterprise level undertakings towards technology's fundamental goal: enhancement of the organization's overall business value.

In previous roles as a technology leader for Harland Financial Solutions (now D+H) and MPI Research, looking forward and planning for new opportunities was always a priority. That same forward-thinking philosophy applies to the team here at Advia. Why not learn from or build upon the ideas of others? Being an astute IT professional, look to the best practices and insights from other industries and leverage those strengths within your operations. From strategic planning to quality and compliance, credit union technology can benefit from the framework and methodology insights of many, including the medical, governmental and automotive industries.

What are your goals and vision?

Your organization's chosen strategy should provide a clear and prioritized approach to reaching technology goals, supported by a detailed operational plan. With this direction, you can maximize technology and resources to meet stakeholder needs. Your goals may include evaluating various delivery channels supported by technology and enhancing their intended benefits. Other goals may be promoting self-service capabilities to members across digital channels; delivering a richer user experience; reducing duplicative systems; or, gaining insight into the needs of all stakeholders.

Overall planning should also take into account developing roadmaps for different technology layers across the organization, or specific to the individual business unit. For example in the banking sector, this could include technology road maps for the branch operations, digital channel, business systems and organization's infrastructure. As a leader in IT, you could also facilitate educating the organization on enterprise portfolio management process, in addition to establishing a business function matrix, and system ownership. You can provide guidance on enhancing the business continuity planning process as well.

Leverage Your Talent with Clear Expectations

What is your organization's expectation of any given IT function? More importantly, what is not? How do you determine which activities you should manage internally versus outsourcing? All are key questions; however, when you achieve the right blend, you can focus on meeting the needs of your stakeholders and leverage partner-vendors as an extended IT team. For example, it may be more cost-effective to outsource 24/7 security monitoring services than hire internal staff to manage those functions. Outsourcing also allows internal staff freedom to tackle high-profile projects proprietary in nature or projects that require a deeper understanding of the organization's values, goals or cultural expectations.

The focus on integration needs to be a part of evaluating both your current and new technology solutions. If you are evaluating a solution from an existing vendor that meets 80 percent of your required functionality, your organization can benefit from working with that same vendor to build the remaining 20 percent. It may be more operationally efficient to leverage existing partnerships rather than looking for a new system or vendor. This strategy can also be extended to technology design considerations to customize or maximize programming interfaces.

Technology and Rubik's Cube

Just like the cube, IT has dimensions and functions that need to be solved and aligned effectively to deliver a total value of service. Business units served by IT naturally tend to focus on how IT impacts their own operational needs and delivery. Unfortunately, a narrow view can result in not understanding or even undervaluing IT's full responsibilities. Duties may include strategic planning, project management, data management, R&D, compliance and audit, security and risk management, system administration, performance analysis, identity and access management, infrastructure engineering, support, backup, disaster recovery capabilities, and more. When each business unit can grasp the criticality of these IT functions as they relate to managing the virtual world, the entire organization will reap the benefits of technological excellence. Or, as in the above analogy, the Rubik's Cube is solved.

The risk of an organization not fully understanding the broader IT functional spectrum (and planning in silos), can be mitigated and even turned to an advantage. At Advia, for example, the solution is an IT Steering Committee, which has the representation of executive leadership from various business units. The Committee collaborates in shaping the technology road map beginning each July as part of the annual strategic planning exercise, followed by a written operational plan in the fall, culminating in January when the plan kicks off into actual implementation mode. The Committee also meets quarterly to review and provide guidance to this plan. This process has helped in promoting transparency of IT functions within the organization in addition to building consensus among the senior leadership on the technology expectations and value.

IT Steering Committee Benefits:

-Encourages all units to work together on IT goals
-Ensures organizational need is the focal point
-Prioritizes projects based on current or future strategic value to the organization
-Supports IT staffing and budget to reach technology goals
-Channels continual feedback and directional support to IT
-Increases engagement and adoption levels for a technology roll out in the organization
-Provides everyone with a voice and representation to champion technology

Strategic project requests are funneled through the Committee, planned for or re-evaluated through the course of the year. If a project request is not timely, or an idea not fully extracted at that particular time, it may be put on hold for future consideration or implemented the same year depending on its benefits.

The process creates buy-in from all business units, and the power of data is used to guide the organization in making strategic decisions. Understanding what data to collect and what to use it for is part of the planning process, not an afterthought. Ultimately, success for a technology solution is in its adoption levels by the intended audience. An effective IT Steering Committee can help your organization identify what you want to achieve as a team and drive progress.

Position IT as a Strategic Partner

Only then can IT deliver its true value to the organization. Naturally, technology may experience some level of failure during their lifecycle, but the ability and timeliness of its recovery as a team are what will define and highlight the maturity of the organization. When business strategies and technology solutions are synchronized and executed as a team, amid a cooperative effort, the entire organization is able to fully realize the strategic effectiveness of technology.

Whether in the context of a process, product, or person, technology will continue to transform the way an organization performs. Success will be much more likely with a strategically engaged organization, one that is achieving "IT" together!
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