Malzahn Strategic - Minneapolis, MN skyline

Does Your CIO or IT Leader Understand Your Corporate Strategic Plan?

Does your CIO or IT leader understand your corporate strategic plan?

Does your CIO or IT Leader Understand Your Corporate Strategic Plan? I love IT people. They are talented individuals who have a gift to understand technology and “how things work” behind the scenes that not many people have. And we also know that their number one gift is usually not communications nor being “touchy/feely” type people. From experience, being married to an IT person, having been an IT Director for a nonprofit and a community bank, plus having managed many IT personnel through the years, I have learned how to communicate with them and also how to engage them in the strategic discussions of the organization.

“IT people" as we call them, are very smart people but so are the rest of us. In many corporations, there is a noticeable gap in communication between the leadership team and the CIO. This manifests itself in the gap between the corporate strategic plan and the technology strategic plan—if there is one in place. For example, if your institution wants to grow 15-20% in assets in the next fiscal year, do you have the technological infrastructure to support that growth? How soon do you start planning for the continuous growth you are projecting in your strategic plan? What type of infrastructure (both physical and logical) do you need? Do you have the appropriate security controls in place to handle new customers and to offer brand new products or services? Do you have an enterprise risk management risk assessment process in place that incorporates how the new technology will or could impact the organization?

These and many other important questions need to be part of your risk assessment and strategic planning process in order to coordinate and have an integrated IT infrastructure to support your organization. To bridge the gap, therefore, IT professionals need to learn corporate talk, company politics, become very familiar with the company’s strategic plan/goals. At the same time, the leadership team needs to learn about technology—not only what systems they need to run their companies but also what type of technology would benefit their company most in order to ensure continued success.

Communication is the crucial component for a successful marriage between IT and the company’s strategic plan. Including the IT Director/CIO (or whatever title you choose for your company’s IT leader), is key to successful communication. Once the IT leader understands the needs of the company, where the company is going, and feels like a valuable team member, he or she will come up with the right technology solutions to support the company. Your IT strategies will then align with the company’s strategies

The IT infrastructure of a company is the foundation of the organization and all the pipes/framework have to be in place correctly—and from the start—just as you build your own home. I used to tell my team, “Our pipes can be full of customers but if our pipes are broken, we’re all going home!” Meaning, the sales staff and processes are just as important as the organization’s infrastructure. We’re all in this together and are part of one team, one company!

The IT Security Program includes having a strong IT Strategic Plan, which in turn should be integrated with your overall company’s Strategic Plan.

Community Bank CEO Succession Planning

Community Bank CEO Succession Planning

When we think of community bank CEO succession planning, we immediately think of only the CEO and/or President. A succession plan is crucial to 1) have in place or 2) at least for the Board of Directors to have documented discussions about their succession plan. However, part of enterprise-wide risk management is to think of the entire institution as a whole. Community banks face the challenge that because they are small, they don’t have the luxury of having depth of staff. Therefore, one person ends up wearing several hats—sometimes too many. From one perspective, that is a great opportunity for employees because they get to learn about the various areas of the bank and that makes them more marketable. From the risk perspective, however, this situation presents a challenge for banks if that key employee leaves, gets promoted to another position, or simply goes on vacation for a week!

The topic of community bank CEO succession planning falls under various areas of bank management. Succession planning is part of talent management, which entails assessing the talent of the organization to see if there are internal candidates to potentially fill key positions within the bank. Talent management should be integrated into your community bank strategic plan so the bank can clearly see the type of talent needed in the future. At the same time, succession planning is critical to enterprise risk management because if the bank’s leader is no longer there, the bank must have a plan to implement immediately. I call it “disaster recovery plan” for the CEO. But what about the other crucial positions in the organization such as the operations person who has been with the bank for 30 years? What about the employee who knows how everything is done and holds an immense amount of knowledge in his or her head? Who will do their jobs when they move on—whether that’s unexpectedly or planned?

When we work with bank clients on talent management, we first identify all the key positions throughout the organization—regardless of title. Then we implement a backup plan for all the critical positions of the bank, which includes cross training employees and establishing procedures that anyone can follow. Having backup and cross training are two strategies that avoid a crisis not only on unexpected situations but also for the planned vacations, so bank operations can continue to run smoothly while key employees are out. The next step is to write the succession plan for all critical positions and make it part of your strategic plan. Regulators usually ask for the CEO and senior management team succession plan but it is wise to also have it ready for other vital positions in the organization.

Having a community bank CEO succession plan at all levels is crucial to the continued success of community banks.