How Strategy Can and Should Drive IT Decisions

Business People in a Meeting with Technology Concepts represents IT strategy and information technology strategy
Paroon Chadha Photo
Co-Founder and CEO

5 minutes

4 ways to become a successful digital organization

Sponsored by CUES Supplier member Passageways.

Technology revolutions have had major impacts on life and work since the beginning of time. However, there is a big difference between the advancements of previous eras and the current, decades-old digital computing revolution: the speed of continuous, seemingly never-ending new innovation and improvement cycles of technology. And for better or for worse, credit unions and financial services are being impacted more than most industries.

With budget planning right around the corner, credit unions need to think hard about the alignment of strategy and technology spend. Many organizations feel constrained by IT resources that are absorbed in (one could even say burdened by) day-to-day operational tasks. This causes many important strategic business needs and goals to not receive proper attention.

So, how can you become a successful “digital organization,” driving to be more efficient, effective and agile? How can both the member and employee experiences continuously be improved within the increasingly digital workplace? How can IT solutions and users help drive strategy?

1. Strategic IT Alignment

Most businesses have IT running long, hard and fast to keep up with organization-wide requests and support. There can be a lack of insight into whether these tasks are really aligned to meet business goals and needs. Businesses can begin to feel constrained by IT, who are absorbed in menial projects while the business’s highest-priority initiatives are left unattended.

To achieve true strategic alignment, it is vital to have solid business-IT engagement and collaboration. All IT initiatives, programs or projects should undergo a two-phase approach: 

  • an analysis of business needs and strategic goals and what value—internally to the organization and externally to customers—they provide; and
  • a hard look at internal or external IT capabilities and costs with a realistic timeline for execution. This can be done with a simple value-effort comparison between low-to-high value versus low-to-high effort. High-value/low-effort would be a no-brainer to take on. 

Next, whether an improvement or a new technology solution is needed, measurable key performance indicators or metrics for return on investment, productivity increases, revenue growth, cost reductions and so on should be put in place. As the saying goes, “It isn’t worth doing if you can’t measure it.”

Always ask the big-picture questions: Is our business-IT strategy going to enable our organization to be more “save money” efficient, “make money” effective or profitable (ROI)? Is our business-IT strategy ignoring internal mission/culture, employee engagement or team collaboration that all help drive overall business success?

2. Internal and External Value-Effort

An IT asset portfolio today can be massive, which adds to the complexity of maintaining and upgrading the current IT base. It can be a big hurdle in efforts to focus on business needs and goals. To overcome this, it is necessary for all stakeholders to do a comprehensive analysis of all internal employee as well as external customer facing needs and goals. Similarly, it is important to identify the capabilities needed and available in-house and find the right partners for outsourcing.  Your IT team cannot be expected to be the best at or experts on everything. Go outside the organization if it provides the best value-effort.

Let’s take the example of $823 million ALEC Credit Union, Gurnee, Ill. ALEC selected an intranet provider solution, OnSemble, which freed up IT resources by not having to build the CU’s intranet in-house from the ground up. Non-IT staff now manage the intranet. ALEC has also gone beyond the conventional use of an intranet by implementing permissions to manage systems and technology access and asset tracking, fulfilling Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council compliance guidelines. The savings gained from such IT asset management can be significant, as seen in the Gartner Report, typically achieving 30 percent cost savings in the first year and at least 5 percent cost savings in subsequent five years.

3. Big-Picture Affordability

Be careful not to make IT decisions purely based on cost savings. Strategy should determine the budget, not the other way around. A common objection to any investment or spend is, “We can’t afford that!” However, your organization should always ask, “Can we afford not to do that?”
Another important part of the picture that organizations cannot ignore are hidden costs like the additional staffing and long-term requirements to implement, manage and upgrade solutions over time. This is the long-term value-effort. 

4. Buy-In and Adoption

A key success factor not in any line item of a budget is organizational buy-in and adoption of a technology or solution. Top-down buy-in from leadership and bottom-up buy-in from front-line staff is paramount. However, it is possible to have initial buy-in and still not achieve adoption. You may also experience an initial short-term happy “pink-cloud” adoption brought on by excitement but later suffer from decreasing long-term adoption for a variety of factors. A good example of buy-in and adoption of a solution is $393 million Roseville, Mich.-based Christian Financial Credit Union’s digital workplace transformation, which realized benefits echoed not only in the voices of their employees but from the board of directors.

Aligning strategic needs and goals, determining the best value-effort including internal and external resources, big-picture and long-term costs analysis, and getting solid buy-in and universal adoption will ultimately determine strategic IT success.

OnSemble By PassagewaysParoon Chadha co-founded CUES Supplier member Passageways, Lafayette, Indiana, in 2003 and continues to lead its business strategy, as CEO. He serves on boards at Passageways, Big Brother Big Sister of Greater Lafayette, Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, and TechPoint. He was a founding member of, and is an angel investor in several technology companies. Recently, Paroon was accepted as a member for Forbes Technology Council.

For more information from CUES Supplier member Passageways about OnSemble Employee Intranet and System Permissions, call 765.535.1882, email or visit

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