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Three Tips for Creating a Business-Savvy Information Technology Staff

Three Tips for Creating a Business-Savvy Information Technology Staff

Your information technology staff is a great resource for competitive advantage, but only if you help your employees understand how the company makes money.

Connect IT and Business Operations

At Accenture, all new employees -- from entry level to seasoned pros -- get extensive orientations to learn about Accenture's mission, priorities and its business practices. They also learn how IT is organized and run, as well as the ways IT interacts with the business to understand its needs and priorities and then translates these into IT initiatives

The corporate orientation is reinforced periodically through memos from Accenture leaders and executive blogs. Employees are also encouraged to listen to quarterly investor calls which discuss the company's performance and key plans, as well as attend periodic companywide meetings that cover Accenture's strategy and competitive position.

Robert Kress, Accenture's senior director of business operations (who reports to CIO Frank Modruson), says these meetings are crucial for his IT team because they provide context for what is happening within Accenture. Such deep understanding of what makes the business tick has led to money- and time-saving innovations, including one recent project to improve personnel scheduling.

Finding the right people for each engagement at the right time is critical for Accenture's consultancy business. But this was a problem area: Kress knew, from the data he collected about the total cost of ownership for every application, that he was spending too much on the existing scheduling application. Internal surveys told him end users were unhappy with it. One criticism: "The application was not as intuitive as our customers wanted," Kress says.

Kress's group worked closely with HR to develop the new personnel scheduling system, which reduced the time it took to make assignments by one-third. The new process also costs 50 percent less to run. "The fact that we understood key metrics, such as the time it takes to get people scheduled, enabled us to provide innovations," he says.

The job-shadowing program at Choice Hotels provides hands-on, cross-functional internships to employees throughout the company. The company's organizational development and learning department enables any corporate group to create a job-shadowing opportunity. Employees can also request that an opportunity be created or accept an opening that is already available. Despite the word shadowing, "this is not just watching someone do their job; these are interactive experiences," says Davis.

For the duration of the assignment, employees do the work of a front desk or marketing employee, for example. And so, a software developer who is working on an application can get a firsthand understanding of how his application will be used and how it might be improved.

Software development teams bring the knowledge gained through job-shadowing back into the software development cycle, where it sparks ideas on, for instance, how to improve user interfaces for a more streamlined business process flow.

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