Opinion by Al Kuebler

IT gets its report card

The IT leader who can't explain where the IT function is and where it should be won't be around for long

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IT leaders at all levels, right up to the CIO, need to be prepared to respond to their toughest critics. That may be the CEO, another C-level officer or even the company chairman. One of these people, one of these days, is going to confront you with some very to-the-point questions about what IT is doing, what it should be doing, and how the IT function can perform for the business better. It would be wise to think about those questions now, so that, when the time comes, you will be ready with answers that demonstrate that this is not the first time you have contemplated such questions.

The toughest question of all, the one whose multiple parts get to the heart of how you should be thinking about the IT function, goes something like this: "Is our IT function where it needs to be? Do we even know where it needs to be? And how will we know when we get there?"

Your answer to this big question cannot be equivocal, and for your response to be both satisfactory and useful in the future, it must be delivered in the language of business.

At the very least, you need to be able to say that the IT function is actively striving to be where it needs to be, but because the business it serves is itself always evolving, the IT function must constantly be reassessed. The important things are to understand the direction it should be moving in, and to realize that improvement must be constant.

We know the IT function is moving in the right direction when:

* Business leaders perceive it as a powerful ally to the enterprise.

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