IT gets its report card

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The IT leader who can't explain where the IT function is and where it should be won't be around for long

IT leaders at all levels, right up to the CIO, need to be prepared to respond to their toughest critics. That may be the CEO, another C-level officer or even the company chairman. One of these people, one of these days, is going to confront you with some very to-the-point questions about what IT is doing, what it should be doing, and how the IT function can perform for the business better. It would be wise to think about those questions now, so that, when the time comes, you will be ready with answers that demonstrate that this is not the first time you have contemplated such questions.

The toughest question of all, the one whose multiple parts get to the heart of how you should be thinking about the IT function, goes something like this: "Is our IT function where it needs to be? Do we even know where it needs to be? And how will we know when we get there?"

Your answer to this big question cannot be equivocal, and for your response to be both satisfactory and useful in the future, it must be delivered in the language of business.

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