IT leader Chris Harrington cuts through complexity to align IT priorities with business strategy
Sharonview Federal Credit Union is a growing financial institution with branches across North and South Carolina. Founded in 1955 with $11,000 in assets, Sharonview has expanded into a full-service financial cooperative with more than 100,000 members and over $1.7 billion in assets.
To support this rapidly growing organization as it takes on the challenges of an evolving financial services industry, Chris Harrington, SVP of IT at Sharonview, is committed to cultivating IT’s partnership with the business. As a strategic IT leader, Harrington’s goal is to provide business stakeholders with the support they need to accelerate decision making, keep pace with new technology, and meet changing customer needs. Combining many years in the profession with a master’s degree in IT, Harrington brings to the table strong experience and a deep passion for the industry.
When he stepped into his current role, Harrington began exploring research and advisory services to help his department navigate industry trends and practices: “Things are evolving rapidly not only in my organization, but in the industry as well. To make sense of this complexity, I looked at what Info-Tech Research Group offered – the playbooks, the surveys, and the methodologies. I realized I could use this service to help lead the IT department and to help organize the complexity around everything that is known as IT. I looked at other advisory firms, but Info-Tech was the most transparent in what they offer and in sharing information.”
Chris Harrington, SVP of IT, Sharonview Federal Credit Union
“I looked at what Info-Tech Research Group offered – the playbooks, the surveys, and the methodologies. I realized I could use this service to help lead the IT department and to help organize the complexity around everything that is known as IT.”
Measuring performance to inform IT priorities
To guide IT decision making, Harrington needed to understand how stakeholders perceived the IT department’s performance. Using Info-Tech’s CIO Business Vision diagnostic tool, feedback was collected via survey and analyzed to produce detailed report cards on satisfaction with IT’s core services. “Using the Info-Tech CIO Business Vision survey to get feedback from leaders at Sharonview helped us understand what the organization needed to focus on,” said Harrington.
One of the opportunities that Harrington identified was the need to formalize enterprise architecture (EA) to more effectively align IT decision making with organizational objectives. EA is a practice that organizes business, information, process, and technology to better execute strategy. Though an expert in EA himself, Harrington turned to Info-Tech’s Develop an Enterprise Architecture Strategy workshop to help educate his team and the business. “We brought in business leaders to the Info-Tech workshop to help understand how we can relate EA with them because it was a new word that they didn’t know. We found that a lot of them understood the concepts without understanding the term. However, a critical thing with enterprise architecture is how you define it, so the definitions are important.”
To gather additional insight, Harrington and his team have leveraged several other Info-Tech tools, including the CEO-CIO Business Alignment program to further improve IT support for the business and the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) program to assess and improve the group’s PPM processes. Harrington also used the IT Management and Governance diagnostic program to evaluate the strength of core IT processes and participated in the Implement DevOps Practices That Work workshop to establish governance around development.
Adapting quickly through uncertainty and change
The efforts made by Harrington and his team in advancing Sharonview’s IT strategies with Info-Tech guidance paid off when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They were able to respond quickly with strategic roadmaps that aligned with the business and kept pace with IT evolution. Harrington reported, “When the pandemic happened, we were able to leverage strategies that we had already created and pivot quickly to identify how to help the organization. We were very successful, and we were able to help the IT teams and senior leadership understand what we were doing to bring order to the chaos of the pandemic.”
Further, the team is seeing the benefit of the progress they have made in enterprise architecture. As the pandemic forces financial services online, Sharonview is exploring electronic mortgage closing processes and functionality such as electronic signatures and electronic notarization. The team’s EA initiatives are helping identify Sharonview’s current processes and systems in order to chart the most effective path forward. “We’ve been able to leverage EA to look at the attributes associated with the business and also identify the architecture – what is our application stack associated with electronic signatures and document management? What are we already doing? What do we know? What are the information assets and data types that are associated with it? Without EA, that’s not captured a lot of the time. Now, we are able to reference that. We can see if we have other systems that we can leverage.” explained Harrington.
“We can’t know everything – technology changes on a regular basis and we get hit with new things. We go to Info-Tech to get the research and to get the results. We definitely view Info-Tech as our partner.”
Stepping outside the box to build partnerships
Passionate about his industry and committed to sharing his experience with others, Harrington has been an active member of Info-Tech’s Retail Banking Roundtable, which brings together industry peers for monthly sessions to explore industry strategies, trends, and technologies. Harrington believes that such collaboration is critical in the face of a rapidly changing industry: “IT is so much more complex than it used to be. IT leaders need to identify how to get in front of it if we can. There are so many new concepts – it’s difficult to understand or know where to start. Part of dealing with the complexity is identifying and prioritizing what is the most important thing.”
In an effort to stay ahead of the curve amid this constant change, Harrington sees partnership with the business as the key to innovation. Leveraging the results of the CIO Business Vision Diagnostic, Harrington collaborated with business leaders to improve organizational understanding of the technology complexity and created the case for BizOps practices that partner non-IT with IT leaders to improve support and delivery environments at Sharonview.
Summarizing his thoughts on IT’s role, Harrington shares this advice with his peers: “What does innovation mean? How do we get our teams to think outside the box? We need to look outside of IT. While it is important, IT can’t exist in a silo. Take it a step further and partner with the other leaders that you’re working with in the business. Look at them as partners. Find that alignment. That’s most important.”