Hays in Australia has suggested that technology is breaking out of the server room and into the wider business domain. The latest solutions are being seen as a crucial tool to keep organisations competitive and therefore, as IT aligns with the overall corporate strategy, business acumen becomes just as important as technical expertise.
“Advanced digitisation is pushing technology into every corner of the business world and IT professionals should be looking for opportunities to expand their commercial knowledge within the increasingly homogenous corporate space,” says Adam Shapley, senior regional director at Hays. “By embracing opportunities both inside and outside of their organisation, IT professionals will be able to build their corporate know-how.”
There are many different paths IT professionals can take to enhance their business acumen but regardless of the route, they should aim to gain a broad base of commercial experience by exposing themselves to as many different areas of a business as possible.
Hays shares the following advice for IT professionals to develop their business acumen and endure long-term career success:
• Understand the bigger corporate picture: To increase your knowledge about how your company operates, it is helpful to know the company’s core values and use this as a foundation to build your awareness and understanding of the business’ objectives.
Volunteering to attend any all-hands meetings, reading annual reports and getting involved with internal initiatives are great ways to become more engaged and cultivate relationships with individuals in other departments. Additionally, attending meetings with your manager will provide you with insights into how and why certain decisions are made and will enable you to align your work with the same strategies as the business.
We also recommend working with a mentor in your organisation who you respect and admire in a non-IT related role. This will help you further extend your inter-departmental knowledge.
• Grow your business knowledge: Look outside of your organisation to be aware of emerging trends in your industry. By reading industry related news and materials, joining professional associations or industry bodies, enrolling in educational courses and attending networking events you can proactively build your broader business knowledge outside of your organisation.
• Do you understand the customer journey? Technology is enabling better user experiences to answer to changing consumer behaviour. Organisations value employees who are in-tune with such changes and can suggest new ways for the business to adapt and further improve customer service and experience.
Make sure you build an understanding of the end user into your work, so you appeal to your target audience and the commercial market.
• Showcase your business acumen: Once you have started to build your commercial and corporate knowledge, demonstrate your new skill set proficiently, either during an interview (if you decide to apply for external roles) or every day within your company to improve your internal career opportunities. For example, talk about how you worked within your team and collaborated with other non-technical teams to achieve specific business goals.
“Today’s IT leaders are not boxed in within the technical sphere, but they provide wider business solutions,” says Adam. “IT experts with a genuine desire to improve their business knowledge are in a unique position to act as a link between the corporate and technical worlds and this will lead to long-term career success.”