Monday, August 29, 2005

A good question or a sign of a distressed partnership?

Business leaders do not ask themselves "Does IT matter?" until there is a big disconnect between IT and business. The value of IT is usually brought to into question due to our behaviors and the lack of internal IT marketing and communication.

Instead of asking "does IT Matter?" I'd like to suggest other questions which should be on the minds of business leaders as they ponder their relationship with IT:

  • How can I capture more market share?
  • How can I increase sales?
  • What are my customers' behaviors?
  • What is my strategy?
  • What does my competition do?
  • What are my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?
  • Etc.

Gartner agrees that business leaders should take a different approach to understanding the value of IT: “What is on the minds of the business leaders?”

As IT leaders, our challenge is to use IT to help answer these questions while enabling the business to execute. On, I came across this list of guidelines for to help us ensure that we focus on the right business problem and avoid the question “Does IT matter?”

  • Don't talk about IT, talk about what IT enables. IT by itself does nothing. What matters is what IT enables the business to do differently or better.
  • Don't ignore change management. Your business must be able to absorb the change in technology, processes and people. Developing a competency in adapting to change will differentiate one business from another.
  • Focus. There are two major components to your IT budget: expenditures that are necessary simply to keep the "IT lights on" and discretionary investments where you actually have an opportunity to improve your business. The problem is that just keeping the lights on consumes, on average, 80 percent of our budget. Don't let it consume 80 percent of your time. Focus on that precious 20 percent of IT investments that can transform your business.
  • Be proactive. Don't be a victim of a business strategy that someone else defined. IT should be represented at the table when the strategy for the business is defined. Proactively bring ideas of what IT can enable to the discussion.
  • Become a business process expert. The processes of your business are where the realization of your business strategy meets infrastructure constraints. Understand the top 10 expense and revenue-generating processes of your business and proactively bring ideas to the table on how IT could improve these.
  • Make IT an enabler, not an inhibitor, to changes in the business.
  • Speak in their language not yours. MIPS and MHz carry no weight. Customer retention rates and reductions in inventory shrinkage do.

(Source: Neil MacDonald, Group V.P. and Director of Research, GartnerG2)

If we do these things as IT leaders, we stand a good chance of better connecting with our business partners so we can all focus on the real opportunities. And if we achieve that goal, then nobody needs to ask "Does IT matter?”


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