Peter Reed

Lead Advisory Partner

Pete joined Headforwards in 2022 as lead Partner in our CIO Advisory division. He has worked as a senior IT Executive for over 20 years, his most recent industry role being Chief Information Officer for AXA Health. At AXA, Pete provided IT across both UK and Global business lines supporting strong business growth and profitability.

Considering IT as a support function is an antiquated concept. And having a separate IT strategy neglects to consider how significant the advancement of technology has been in recent years.  

We are all now technology consumers and there are very few businesses and organisations out there now that don’t have a considerable technology footprint. How you use technology and how you make use of data is something both technical and non-technical leaders need to be thinking about.  

IT strategy therefore, should be developed as part of the wider business strategy because it has such a crucial underpinning role in ensuring business can deliver and continue to compete effectively. And to avoid creating a divide between the business and IT teams. 

How can less technical business leaders own the technical side of the business strategy? 

Senior business leaders need to understand how technology is being consumed by and benefiting their customers, as well as driving forward business and organisational goals. The technology being deployed itself, can be a red herring. Providing your IT teams and engineers know how the software is working, senior leaders don’t need to feel as though they’re not technical enough to engage.  

More than anything, when integrated with business strategy, IT strategy needs to clearly communicate how IT is supporting the business to meet its objectives. How is what we’re doing making a difference to where we’re going? 

On the other side of the coin, the technology team need to have a very clear understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, and not just at a high level, but in specific detail. Is it more sales? Enhanced customer service? Better processes? What problem are we trying to solve, why and how are we going to measure it? 

Is a cultural reset as important as the IT strategy details? 

The technology solution is rarely the problem, but rather the problems the technology is trying to solve are not always fully understood. Buy-in is not always shared across all those individuals and teams affected by the IT strategy, and this is again where clear communication is required. 

It can be a mistake to concentrate only on what a particular technical solution can bring without considering the communication, culture, processes, and other aspects that may need to change to make best use of the new tools. Similarly, different businesses may make very different use of the same new technical tool, according to their own culture and processes. 

What other pitfalls can affect implementing an IT strategy? 

One issue is the technical debt that may need to be tackled to adapt or interact with existing systems and infrastructure, while implementing the new technology and not adversely affecting the customer experience.  

Again, it comes down to communication, in this case the need to communicate to the business the importance of tackling such technical debt to improve security and make things easier and simpler to change. 

Another thing to consider: as a result of the IT strategy what is being removed? If you’re not taking things away, you’re still adding cost and complexity. 

With the IT strategy being integral to the business strategy, success is measured by the business achieving its goals in, for example, growth, increased productivity, and improved customer satisfaction. 

How do you ensure the appropriate people are involved in technology decisions? 

All stages of a successful IT strategy, and especially a large project such as a digital transformation, will involve subject matter experts. This will include IT specialists, as well as the process owner representing the business and potentially a customer representative.  

The value that the process owner brings needs to be communicated to them, especially if they are not especially tech-savvy, so they are made to feel part of the IT strategy journey. 

What’s more, engaging people and teams that deal with your customers is vital. 

How will AI fit into the IT strategies of the future? 

As technology advances, AI will play an important role in many IT strategies. The important thing is for business and IT leaders to ensure they can leverage such technology in a positive way.  

Attempting to use new tools like AI when an organisation may not have the required know-how and capacity is unlikely to have a good result! It may be better to be pragmatic and include new tools in the IT strategy for which the organisation has, or can develop, capacity to use. 

Careful consideration will also need to be made to the regulatory, compliance and risks associated with using AI, which businesses shouldn’t ignore.  

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