A common concern among CIOs today is operating their IT departments as a business. A CIO’s job in 2020 requires high-quality tech support and achieving objectives within the context of their company’s strategic goals. IT leaders must enable success by being there every time a user or department needs help. But they should also be thinking about the cost of such service — and the ways they might provide it more efficiently and effectively.

In a way, these CIOs are beginning to think like COOs. And as they do, they’re implementing changes that lead to improvements in their operations. They’re managing their workflows more strategically and effectively, and that pays dividends for customers. As IT leaders bolster IT operations, they’re also adding value to their companies.

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So how can an IT team intent on internal improvement ensure that its transformation helps the company as whole? I tell my clients to tackle such initiatives in three distinct steps:

1. Start with an Assessment of Your Operations

Of the work that you currently do, what portion involves tactical, keeps-the-lights-on tasks, and what portion involves your team meeting strategic demands? The list of tactical tasks should give you an idea of the resources you’re using and how much it actually costs to run IT. Conversely, the strategic demand side of the equation represents the time and work your team devotes to meeting the needs of the business as new projects arise.

2. Figure Out Where You Want Go

Once you understand exactly where you’re at, it’s time to determine where you want to end up. Transformation requires visionary thinking: Where is your organization headed, and what role will your team have in that future? Lay out the IT department’s strategic goals so you can create a plan that will allow you to achieve them.

3. Find Balance and Set a Realistic Pace

One rule of thumb: Don’t boil the ocean. With a long-term, strategic view in mind, it’s time to start thinking about ways to make it practical. One approach that works for many organizations involves just-in-time maturity. Rushing the process is a recipe for failure, so take each step along the journey to completion only when you’re certain that your team is ready.

After they’ve built the strategic framework for gradual transformation, many IT teams ultimately find that cutting costs and improving efficiencies is relatively easy. They may see that certain services they had provided in person can instead be handled using chat-box portals, for example. Or maybe they can shift some of their work to “self-help” technologies backed by artificial intelligence. For example, CDW is able to provide self-help portals and AI-based support through our partnership with ServiceNow.

In most cases, implementing substantial change across a department takes months or even years. But by deploying digital solutions where useful — and then scaling up business to meet demand — departments that invest in transformation will be rewarded for those efforts time and time again.