If there’s one IT subject that has real staying power it’s the issue of how to prove IT’s value to the business. Countless books, papers, research, events, and consultancies have been dedicated to helping CIOs do a better job of communicating the value of IT to their business peers.
I’m not about to tell you that this problem is solved, but there is another book on the subject (“The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value”) from two experts on the topic—George Westerman, research scientist in the Center for Information Systems Research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Richard Hunter, vice president and chief of research at Gartner, Inc.
They base their research on surveys and discussions with dozens of C-level executives. In particular they sought out successful CIOs to find out which practices have worked best for them. They note, of course, that the path to delivering on the IT value message is not easy. They say you need to start by thinking differently. “It’s not about IT,” they say, “it’s all about business outcomes and business performance, whether you’re communicating IT’s internal performance or IT’s impact on business operations and financials.”
You also need to show that IT provides specific value for the money invested in it—offering the right services, at the right level of quality and at a competitive price—and improves business performance. Finally, you need to define how you, as the CIO, have value to your organization beyond IT.
At one time becoming the CIO was about as far up the corporate ladder as any IT executive could expect to reach, but today there are other possibilities. The authors call CIOs who achieve influence inside and outside their organization the CIO-plus. Some may ultimately end up as CEOs, a career path that would have seemed improbable just ten years ago. But many more CIOs will gain additional non-IT responsibilities, such as business process improvement, enterprise strategy planning, innovation office, procurement management and so on. Randy Spratt, CIO of McKesson, predicts in the book that the CIO role will move from a technology focus to one that is oriented to rapid delivery of new products and services. “It’s not about technologies; it’s about strategy and change leadership,” he says.
The authors say that CIOs should start planning their next steps and IT managers should be figuring out how to get the experience they need to move into a CIO role or business role. “There has never been a better time for a capable executive to take on the role of CIO,” the authors say. What do you think? Is this a good time to be a CIO?