Released this October from Harvard Business Press, The Real Business of IT, How CIOs Create and Communicate Value is the first book to crack the code on not only how CIOs can communicate IT value to the enterprise but also how they can deliver more value.
“After 40 years of IT, a growing minority of CIOs have figured out how IT is done,” said Richard Hunter, Gartner vice president and co-author of the book with George Westerman of MIT’s Sloan Center for Information Systems Research. “They have cracked the code on communicating value. As a result, these CIOs have opportunities that go all the way to the CEO’s office.”
The book had its genesis in the Gartner EXP CIO Agenda Survey, which is now in its 9th year. Consistently, year after year, CIOs have told Gartner that communicating the value of IT to the rest of the executive team is one of their most important priorities, if not THE most. The authors began researching how the most successful CIOs do that and the result was an EXP report, followed by the book.
When asked what key mistakes the authors see CIOs making to keep them from fulfilling their potential, their answer is clear.
“The most important mistake CIOs make is failing to communicate about the value of IT—indeed, about everything IT does—in terms of business outcomes and business performance, “ said Mr. Hunter. “The language of technology is so automatic and natural to many CIOs that they don’t realize how deeply it’s ingrained in their every word—and how it separates them from the rest of the organization. Why do IT personnel talk about network uptime when everyone else in the business wants to talk about call center uptime?” he wonders.
To change their behavior, CIOs should understand how to overcome what the authors term value traps. A value trap is a behavior that once made sense, but that now creates a wall between the IT organization and the rest of the business. For example, talking about “business and IT alignment.” Sales manufacturing personnel don’t talk about “aligning” those functions “with the business.” Why should IT talk in those terms? According to the authors, alignment is not a business outcome. Increased sales is a business outcome.
The Path to IT Value
What the authors discovered in researching their book is that successful IT leaders communicate value in a particular way and in a particular order. This is true regardless of industry, company size, or the portion of the company’s revenue that is represented by its IT budget. It is true of public and private sector enterprises. It is true in good times and bad. It is simply how creating and communicating IT value is done.
They call this approach The Path to IT Value. In broad outlines, the steps are:
- Step 1: Change your thinking to avoid the value traps. The road to (IT) hell is paved with good intentions. Avoid the value traps: practices that seem to be good ones but actually prevent IT from delivering and communicating value.
- Step 2: Show that IT provides value for money. As the “cheap information officer,” you and your team demonstrate that the IT organization is providing the right services, at the right level of quality, at a competitive price.
- Step 3: Show how IT improves business performance. As the “chief improvement officer,” you and your team help everyone make the connection between investment in IT and improved business performance.
- Step 4: Show how you have value beyond IT. As the “CIO-plus,” you operate as a peer on the executive team, providing value beyond IT itself.
Successful CIOs don’t skip steps, and they don’t run them out of sequence. They don’t try to demonstrate IT’s potential power as a strategic weapon until they’ve shown that IT is beginning to deliver good value for money. They avoid value traps, and they steadily increase the executive team’s perception of, and involvement in, the value delivered by IT.
Richard Hunter and George Westerman will be signing copies of their new book, The Real Business of IT, tomorrow (Wednesday, October 21) from 5:45 to 7 p.m. at the ITxpo showcase. Copies of the book are also available Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Gartner/Barnes and Noble Bookstore located just inside the Dolphin foyer near Registration. Priced at $35, the book is also available at retail and online bookstores worldwide.
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