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The burden we create by what we value

by Mike Rollings  |  December 10, 2010  |  1 Comment

The notion of value is ambiguous and abstract.  An object or an act is not intrinsically valuable.  We define what is valuable.  We have a choice.

Some cultures decided that stones would be used to reflect something of value that can be exchanged — their currency.  Eventually, the stones were so large that they could no longer exchange them.  Instead, they would communicate the exchange.  Eventually, the stone currency changed to something more transportable.  They made a choice.  They changed their notion of value.

Organizations have the same choices to make about what they value from IT.  For instance, many organizations have valued speed of delivery and the adherence to budget, without the commensurate adherence to desired scope and quality.  They celebrate hitting the delivery date and spending the budget allocated, but they do not measure to see if the benefit received equals the benefit expected.  It may be that they are fearful of measuring what they already know — benefits are not equal to expectations. The burden this creates is the burden of lost benefits.

Application portfolio bloat is another burden that can be created by the sole attention to delivery and budget.  A development team receives $1M to deliver a defined scope. They deliver it for 50% of the projected cost.  Instead of returning the remaining funds to the next worthy project investment, they spend the remaining funds on additional enhancements.  It’s not like they did not receive any value.  However, they are not working on the priorities that are expected to deliver the most value.  This condition enlarges the burden of lost benefits and further increases the unplanned expansion of the application portfolio.

Solely valuing delivery and budget takes your eye off of the sources of measurable value — the scope and the quality required to provide the return.  The value is not delivered through the management of the budget, but in how the budget is applied to those things that provide the real return.  Like ancient cultures who tire from carrying larger and larger stones, we can change what we value if the burden has grown too large.  We can define value in new ways that reflect today’s needs.  We can change our organization’s notion of value.  But we must begin recognizing and demonstrating the burden created by what we currently consider valuable.

Category: it-governance  management  transformation  

Tags: behavior  business-outcome-mindset  it-delivery  production-mindset  value  

Mike Rollings
Research VP
5 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Mike Rollings is VP of Gartner Research within the Professional Effectiveness team. His research discusses what IT professionals need to know about transformation, innovation, human behavior, contextual strategy, collaborative organizational change, communication and influence, and cross-discipline effectiveness . His research can be read by IT professionals with access to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) research. Read Full Bio

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