In the United States, a Sadie Hawkins Dance is a school-sponsored semi-formal dance, in which, contrary to the usual custom, female students invite male students. In the world of information technology (IT), a Sadie Hawkins Dance is an enterprise-wide initiative, in which, contrary to the usual custom, a strategic business transformation is driven by IT.
Although IT-driven business transformation might seem like an oxymoron, the reality is a centralized IT department is one of the few organizational functions that regularly interacts with the entire enterprise. Therefore, IT is strategically positioned to influence enterprise-wide business transformation—and CIOs might be able to take a business leadership role in those activities.
Wayne Shurts, the CIO of Supervalu, recently discussed how CIOs can make the transition to business leader by “approaching things from a business point of view, as opposed to a technology point of view. IT must become intensely business driven.”
One thing Shurts emphasized is necessary for this shift in the perception of the CIO is that other C-level executives must realize “technology can be transformative for the organization, especially since it is transforming the consumer behavior of customers.”
Business Transformation through IT
David Steiner and Puneet Bhasin, the CEO and CIO of Waste Management, recently recorded a great two-part video interview called Business Transformation through IT, which you can check out using the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Transcript
“From day one,” explained Steiner, “I knew that the one way we could transform our company was through technology.” Steiner then set out to find a CIO that could help him realize this vision of technology being transformative for the organization.
“If you’re going to be a true business partner,” explained Steiner, “which is what every CEO is looking for from their CIO, you have to go understand the business.” Steiner explained that one of the first things that Bhasin did after he was hired as CIO was go out into the field and live the life of a customer service rep, a driver, a dispatcher, and a route manager—so that before Bhasin tried to do anything with technology, he first sought to understand the business so that he could become a true business partner.
“So the best advice I could give to any CIO would be,” concluded Steiner, “be a business partner, not a technologist. Know the technology. You’ve got to know how to apply the technology. But be a business partner.”
“My advice to CEOs,” explained Bhasin, “would be look for a business person first and a technologist second. And make sure that your CIO is a part of the decision-making strategic body within the organization. If you are looking at IT purely as an area to reduce cost, that’s probably the wrong thing. To me the value of IT is certainly in the area of efficiencies and cost reduction. I think it has a huge role to play in that. But I think it has an even greater role to play in product design, and growing customers, and expanding segments, and driving profitability.”
John Dodge recently blogged that business transformation is the CIO’s responsibility and opportunity. Even though CIOs will eventually need their business partners to take the lead once they get out on the dance floor, CIOs may need to initiate things by inviting their business partners to A Sadie Hawkins Dance of Business Transformation.