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How to talk to the boss

How to talk to the boss

Business technology is the new information technology, says Forrester Research's VP and Research Director Laurie M. Orlov. The new term represents IT's future, according to her recent report "Business Technology: Do Business Execs Get IT?" "IT organizations are becoming more focused on the business of the firm, and not necessarily the technology or IT of it," Orlov says. But in order for IT and business to align, "all execs must be able to pass an IT knowledge test," writes Orlov.

Orlov recommends CIOs ask themselves five questions about their fellow CXOs (see the whole quiz). For example, CIOs need to know whether executives are measuring and reporting on the impact of BT investments. "If the business execs are scoring below 50 percent on these, the CIO needs to do something," says Orlov. "It could mean that your IT house is not in order, but it could also mean taking the scorecard to the boss for a heart to heart."

If it's the latter, Orlov has some advice for CIOs preparing for a sit-down with other business execs.

1. Know what type of IT group you are and what the business units expect from you. "If you think you are one type of organization and the business expects something different from you, then you've got a mismatch, and IT is going to have to realign itself," says Orlov. For example, some units may expect IT to provide reliable infrastructure at a low cost, while others expect IT to drive revenue-generating ideas.

2. Advocate process change. IT often waits for business groups to ask when they need something done, Orlov says. But because IT sees across various business divisions, it needs to be more proactive.

3. Speak in business terms and avoid the acronyms. "Talk to the business units about how IT is going to affect profitability, revenue and service to customers," she says.

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