This week on NVTC’s blog, Kristina Olanders-Ipiotis of member company LMI shares how getting creative can help align information technology with strategic goals. Olanders-Ipiotis provides three reasons why you need to get creative and think about initiating an IT Center of Excellence

Technology plays a critical role in helping you serve your customers better and meeting your organization’s mission. But, if you are like many other managers, aligning information technology (IT) with strategic goals often means chasing down a moving target.

Building an IT Center of Excellence (COE) can help you build a team and a shared facility that provides leadership, evangelization, best business practices, research, support, and training to improve IT management and strengthen accountability and oversight. Here are three reasons why you need to think about initiating a COE.

Drive efficiencies in IT spending

IT assets are critical to your organization’s performance. Yet, pressure from budget cuts means you must justify IT spending using business outcomes. A COE offers opportunities for independent and objective review of IT assets, their costs, and how they impact business and customer satisfaction. With a COE, you continuously align your IT portfolio with evolving business needs.

How does it work? Business and IT stakeholders work together to inform IT investments—supporting areas of business growth, while reallocating resources away from business functions that no longer are relevant. Deciding whether to leverage legacy systems to meet business goals, purchase new ones, or integrate the two is an IT governance problem a COE can resolve. Minimizing system redundancy is another.

Create multi-level collaboration and communication

Business leaders often consult with IT managers late in their planning process. At the same time, IT manager may make technology decisions without considering the full range of business ramifications. The disconnect results in missed opportunities to think strategically and reduce costs.

A COE brings enterprise-wide perspective to IT governance. Rather than address needs piecemeal by introducing applications one at a time, a COE encourages more holistic organizational transformation by including business stakeholders who are impacted by IT system changes in the decision-making process.

Business and IT stakeholders have important roles to play in the IT governance process. Both groups have important information about performance goals and objectives, as well as evolving requirements and anomalies, which sometime pose significant challenges to IT architecture.

Instituting a COE at the top of your management structure brings stakeholders together, not only to educate themselves about the usefulness of IT strategy, but also to detect issues in time to deal with them proactively.

A COE provides a transparent vehicle for leaders to work through difficult issues without threatening the governance process. It also becomes the ground for meaningful collaboration between IT managers and business leaders on all levels of your organization.

Encourage innovation and change

A COE enables informed investment decisions about technology. While the goal of individual IT departments is to support day-to-day operations, the goal of a COE is to shape and improve business performance across the whole agency. By providing leadership, best practices, research, support, and training, the COE develops and implements organizational learning needs. It becomes the place for people to explore how technology aligns with business needs, raise new concepts for discussion, experiment, and develop innovative solutions.

Kristina Olanders-Ipiotis is the director of LMI’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) group. She has proven leadership and expertise in planning and managing programs and implementing large federal government IT programs. In her role as a director, she has helped agencies with IT strategic plans, target architectures (including business functions and organizations), capital planning and investment control (CPIC), transition plans and road maps, business cases, and business process improvements.

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