Opinion by Al Kuebler

What it takes to be a proactive IT leader

The idea that IT professionals don't need business acumen is a destructive myth

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Let me be very clear: As an IT professional wishing to make a lasting and strategic impact on your enterprise, you must be a proactive partner in realizing what its leaders wish to achieve.

The value of IT is under assault every day. You might chalk this up to business leaders who just don't get IT; that's what I used to think. But then I learned a much more productive approach, encapsulated in the IT value proposition (see chart below). I recommend it to any IT leader who wants a lasting career leading teams that make significant contributions to the performance of the business (while getting all of the recognition due them). Business leaders are not likely to get IT until you explain its value to them in ways they understand. Once you begin to do that, you will earn their respect. They will consider you a proactive partner and a powerful ally in achieving success for them and the enterprise.

In my book, I present many lessons from my career in information technology, but collectively, they are summarized in that opening paragraph above. If you don't want to run the risk of being just another CIO whose initialism stands for "career is over," I strongly suggest that you take it to heart.

I know that many of you will protest that the attacks on the IT function simply aren't justified. Well, some of them are, though I agree that many of them are not. That isn't the point, really. I've seen well-intended and capable IT managers at all levels attacked for problems with business profitability and growth that were completely the responsibility of the business unit making the attack. When it happens, what matters is not whether the attack is justified; the important thing is how the IT manager addresses it. IT managers who believe that what they are doing is an isolated and reactive specialty and the only thing in the enterprise that is worthy of their focus are often caught off balance by such attacks. And they usually end up being replaced.

Chart1

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