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Why You Should Run IT as a Business

IT as a business

There is a lot asked of IT leaders. They’re expected to be tech experts, yes, but they’re also expected to understand how that technology impacts business value for better outcomes. 

That’s why we spoke with Cynthia Stoddard, Adobe CIO, at SaaSMe 2022 to share her experience instilling the business-driven mindset for IT at Adobe. During this session, she discussed the lessons she learned on the journey to make IT’s role and contribution to the business transparent, efficient, and proactive. 

In the process, she shared with us the importance of creating a strategy, establishing good fiscal stewardship, and culture. 

Here are the key takeaways from the session. 

IT as a Business: Start with Strategy

Strategy is the foundation of running any business, including IT. IT strategy allows you to plan and prioritize what IT can deliver to the business and stakeholders by setting objectives, hypothesizing approaches to achieve these objectives, and defining metrics to gauge success.

According to Stoddard, every good IT strategy requires three key components: vision and outlook, objectives and outcomes, and a well-defined roadmap.

Vision and Outlook

The vision of a strategy should be an idea to guide the organization further. It involves considering what IT should look like 3 years from now, and then asking yourself what needs to be achieved in the next 2 to 3 years to get there. From there, consider what is needed for the next coming year to achieve this 3-year vision.

“Each outlook funneling closer to the present day,” said Stoddard. “Should get more and more granular and attainable.”

Objectives and Outcomes

Following an established vision and outlook, a business-minded IT strategy needs to consider its desired objectives and outcomes. Here IT will establish the business impact it intends to deliver over the course of the coming year. However, Stoddard stresses this is not the stage to define how you will create an impact but to define the desired impact itself.

From here, you can align your objectives vertically and horizontally across IT functions and business partners so everyone is pursuing the same goals.

“Have the team give presentations of their work to you,” said Stoddard.” And have them tie their accomplishments to the objectives so that people can see the connection.”

After establishing our objectives, Stoddard recommends setting outcomes. These will show you the progress you’ve made against deliverables to measure success. Outcomes need to be specific in order to act as milestones that deliver measurable value to the business. 

Roadmap 

To tie your strategy together, your vision, outlook, objects, and outcomes need a roadmap for success. This can come in the form of a document that establishes the programs and initiatives that IT will deliver to achieve its objectives in the coming year. These programs can then be measured by the outcomes we discussed.

While designing your roadmap, be sure to consider your strategic investments to prioritize and balance your portfolio.

“Think about your roadmaps in terms of capabilities.” Said Stoddard. “These are the products and services that you provide as an IT organization. These capabilities should grow and mature over time.”

IT as a Business: Maintain Good Fiscal Stewardship

Beyond strategy, running IT as a business requires you to be a strong fiscal steward of the budget entrusted to you. This means managing investments with budgeting and optimizing third-party spending for software. 

To this end, Stoddard shared three success stories of effective stewardship since she came to Adobe. 

A Governance Council

Organizations have many ways of approaching SaaS portfolio management. For Stoddard, this meant creating a governance council responsible for providing visibility and oversight into software investments. When she joined Adobe, they created what they call a technology functional council.

This council allowed them to review investment decisions, contracts, approved requests, and reflect on past investment decisions.

“The council has been a real success.” Said Stoddard. “It provides visibility on my organization’s investments across the organization, across Adobe dependencies and opportunities. It acts as a feedback loop by giving guidance on IT financial strategy alignment and facilitating discussions on risks and trade-offs.”

Software Standardization

At this stage of the journey, Stoddard partnered with Zylo to manage their entire software inventory across Adobe. Zylo’s box categorization of software offered easy integration and helped identify titles they were using. 

Using Zylo, Stoddard’s team was able to take an inventory of all their software. Which they used to find over 2,500 titles in Adobe’s portfolio. In turn, they used this information to standardize software titles for each category. In the process, they identified almost 200 preferred standard titles, and consolidated more than 50 applications and contracts for meaningful savings. 

Centralized Software Acquisition

With Zylo’s help, Stoddard’s team was able to create a centralized app catalog that allows employees to download pre-vetted software titles. Better yet, these titles were available for download in a self-service format that also allows them to request exceptions for unlisted titles through the catalog’s UI. 

IT as a Business: Develop Culture with People at Heart

The last insight Stoddard shared with us was on culture. Successful IT organizations, according to Stoddard, recognize that culture impacts the business’s bottom line. It drives productivity and retention, and that’s why it’s so important to identify and nurture a healthy company culture within IT.

After all, people are at the heart of everything your business does. 

Identify Organization Culture

Before you can utilize culture within your organization to drive business benefits, you’ll need to identify its current state. Organizational culture is an organization’s collective behavior as influenced by the organization’s values; the way of working adopted by your team.

“Culture and values provide the foundations upon which everything is built.” Said Stoddard. “Culture can either be an accelerator leading the organization with high velocity or a weight dragging the organization down with attention and lack of engagement.” 

Evolving Culture Based on Data

During Adobe’s culture journey, they focused on evolving their culture to best serve employees, the business, and their customers. By engaging team members across Adobe, Stoddard’s team was able to define the future of Adobe’s culture by utilizing the employees’ voices to continually try and refine ideas. In addition, their team was able to utilize data from their employees to inform their culture change, giving them an idea of what to focus on. 

Create a Measurable Impact for Your Business

At the end of the day, running IT as a business allows you and your team to create measurable impact on business values and better outcomes.

It takes a strategy, responsible fiscal stewardship, and a culture that drives business objectives and employee productivity.

To see the full session on what you can do to run a successful IT organization from Cynthia Stoddard, and other meaningful insights from IT experts, check out our SaaSMe on-demand today. 

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