Should IT Seek Responsibility for Non-Core Business Activities?

June 23, 2017

IT Managers and CIOs have become masters at managing complexity.

This has not escaped the notice of senior business leaders who sense an opportunity to use this skill for managing some of the other, non-core business functions such as facilities, maintenance and others.

It is quite easy to see how this could save costs for the business, but what does it mean for the IT leader who wants to grow?


This question is especially important when considering how critical digital transformation has become to most organisations as well as the leading role IT is expected to play in it.

In other words, is this an opportunity for the IT leader to accelerate the digital agenda by demonstrating how these non-core business functions could be digitalised or is this just another way to get busy with activities other leaders see as low value?

One of our IT Leader Mastermind groups recently tackled this question. Here is a summarised version of the outcomes.

The Mastermind Answer

Successfully digitalising non-core business functions confirms the belief that the IT leader is good with the “nuts and bolts” of operations.

Unfortunately, this is an image every good IT leader already has and just doing more of this operational work (irrespective of its complexity) is not going to accelerate the digital transformation journey.

In fact, all these additional time-commitments will most likely slow down any form of digital progress quite significantly.

It is therefore strongly recommended to divest, or at the minimum reduce IT leader responsibilities in activities that are considered not core to the business and rather work with business leaders to establish how IT could take a much more active role in digitalising core business operations and improving customer experiences.

An easy way to kick-start this process would be to recruit at least one senior business leader as a mentor to help bridge the business IT divide and create a real understand of how value is created.

Some More Insights

  • Like most people, IT leaders tend to prefer doing more of what they know well than to steer on a bold new path into the unknown. But this is exactly what is needed to have a real chance of becoming a top business leader over the next few years. For more info on this opportunity read “Business CIOs Urgently Needed – But Most IT Leaders Still Don’t Get It”.
  • IT leaders need to stop feeling uncomfortable when everything is under control and there is nothing tangible to dive into. Instead, this should be seen as an opportunity to get closer to the business and figure out how to bridge the devastating business IT divide and kick-start digital transformation.
  • IT leaders are often surprised to learn just how big the appetite of business leaders is for digitalising business offerings and processes. Asking good questions and continuously beating the digital drumbeat will help to ensure business leaders see them in a different light.
  • When searching for a mentor, keep in mind that not all business leaders are equal and that their perspective is greatly dependent on the role they fulfil. A helpful starting point would be to classify leaders based on which one of the 4 digital value propositions they would play a role in (see “A Mid-Sized Business Needs At Least 4 Strategic IT Leaders”) and to approach leaders that are most aligned with what needs to happen next.

Pro Tip

Like entrepreneurs, IT leaders need to find ways to work more on the business than just in the business.

Other Links

  • Still confused about digital, digitalisation or digital transformation? For a good overview read What is Digital?.

About the author

DX Sensei, Mastermind Facilitator, Abundance Thinker or CEO, call me what you like, but know this: I am extremely passionate about helping IT leaders from mid-sized businesses discover their true potential and realise just how important they are to helping their employer survive and thrive in our increasingly digital world.

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