Collector - April 2018 - 10

BESTPRACTICES

A Clear Path
How an IT steering committee can help align business strategy
with technology functions.
By Anne Rosso May

A

money pit. A bottleneck. A
necessary evil. Company leaders
don't often have the most
favorable views of their IT department.
This is in large part because even the most
hardworking IT staff's efforts are often
opaque. "What are you doing?" and "Why
can't we do that?" are all-too-common
questions posed to IT directors.
This lack of transparency can be a serious
problem because IT staff should be playing
a key role in a company's strategic goals,
working with senior leadership to determine
how technology can help the organization
gain a competitive advantage.
ACA International member company
State Collection Service Inc. needed to better
align its strategic goals with its technological
resources, so two years ago Jim Warner, chief
technology and security officer, helped create
an IT steering committee to do just that.
"I feel strongly that if you don't emphasize
IT in the business process, the company will
suffer because IT won't be seen as a valuedriven department," he said.
Warner explained how the IT steering
committee benefits State Collection Service
and offered tips to help other companies
create a group of their own.

MAPPING A COMPANY'S
PRIORITIES
The purpose of State Collection Service's
IT steering committee-which Warner
named the Technology Roadmap Team-is
to align the company's strategic technology
initiatives with the business's overall goals
and direction.
"You can't do everything at once," he
noted, and that's where the IT steering
committee shines, mapping each tech
decision-from application upgrades to
major infrastructure investments-to the

10

company's broader goals, and prioritizing
accordingly.
An effective IT steering committee will
include a cross-section of the company:
senior leadership, IT representatives and
department heads from both operations and
support functions. Giving these leaders a
seat at the table not only gets you insight on
where the company is going and how IT can
help, but it also increases buy-in with the
committee's decisions.
"Without that cross-functional type of
support, most initiatives will flop," Warner
said.
The group also breaks down departmental
silos, giving business leaders an opportunity
to share what's happening in their respective
areas, and is part of the reason why State
Collection Service's committee was created
in the first place.
"I'm always trying to show the business
value of IT because I truly feel IT is the
engine that helps drive success in any
organization," he said. "I don't see this group
as just another layer of bureaucracy. One of
the biggest ways it's helped State Collection
is by supporting a culture of communication
between the business units. What is IT
doing? Well, let's sit down and communicate.
Let's collaborate and execute on our
corporate strategic plan together and make it
more meaningful."

MAKING THINGS HAPPEN
The committee lifts the technology
components out of the company's annual
strategic plan and creates a roadmap based
on those objectives. All additional technology
work requests and proposals are filtered
through the committee, which meets monthly.
"We initially met weekly, but then we
would just sit there repeating ourselves
because the size of the projects often don't

move as quickly as needed for frequent
updates like that," Warner said.
For each proposed IT initiative, Warner
creates a business case presentation that
outlines the current environment, the
initiative's objectives and its estimated
return on investment.
Then the IT steering committee
discusses the business case to ensure
it's sound, and passes it to the executive
leadership for approval.
The team sets milestones and
anticipated completion dates for each
project, but Warner must regularly remind
committee members that these are moving
targets, and the company won't always hit
them as projected.
One of the biggest projects to emerge
from the committee recently was moving
the company's Microsoft Office products,
including email, to the cloud. This was a
large project that took a lot of time and
effort to come to fruition, but it's one that's
close to Warner's heart.
"That project was a long time in the
making because a lot of what IT does is

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