IT IS the Business

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A recent article in InformationWeek made some very interesting observations about the latest IT Trends Study from the Society for Information Management.  First, it reinforced earlier findings by other surveys that two of the top three priorities for CIOs are analytics and business intelligence as well as cloud computing & services.   Secondly, the lead researcher Leon Kappelman made a very important  point. Discussing the usual rhetoric around IT-business stakeholder alignment, he said:

The ‘alignment’ measure has always bothered me because it’s an us vs. them thing. IT is the business. IT leaders think: I’m a business person, not an IT person. It could mean we need a new definition of the measure.

Kappelman’s point highlights the long overdue shift in perception of IT from a service provider to a fully-fledge business contributor. It also underscores the importance of IT leaders to use business-level analytics to both measurably improve IT performance and visibly quantify the impact IT initiatives have on the rest of the business. This is exactly what leaders of other lines of business do to manage their respective organizations. If IT is the business, then why should CIO’s settle for anything less?

CIOs should look for three key benefits as they think about analytics for the IT function:

  1. A tailored set of IT performance metrics – The CIO should be able to quickly and reliably assess her business and implementation results. A well thought out analytic application will provide actionable analysis using visual dashboards while sourcing data from various sources of interest in measuring performance of the IT business. While many of these would be IT operational metrics (such as conformance with various SLAs agreed upon with lines of business), what makes these more impactful is the addition of financial context to these measures. A CIO can use this to measure the fully loaded cost of providing a services, optimize their spending to provide the most business impact and have a fact based discussion with the business stakeholders
  2. A common business vocabulary: A CIO must measure, analyze and project his business the same way his peers such as the CMO of GMs of business units do. The dashboards provided by the analytical application can be exposed to the lines of business and can incorporate data and metrics pertinent to them. The result? Transparency leads to alignment.
  3. Cloud-based, cost efficient and easy to use: There is no easier way to showcase the power of the cloud than to leverage a cloud based analytic application, especially one that sources most, if not all, its data from cloud sources. As CIOs very well know, the lines of business owners are in fact the biggest drivers of moving to cloud based cost effective, easy-to-deploy applications. Furthermore, business users now expect a consumer grade experience and a choice of user interfaces including tablets and smartphones. Finally, the information should be ubiquitous and timely. A range of interfaces and the ability to proactively push metrics and dashboards through email and to mobile devices makes this possible.

The survey points out that the largest portion of time CIOs spend is evangelizing IT and business contributions.  It seems to me that there is no better way to do this than to measure and then share specific and tangible analysis on the performance and business impact of the IT function – through a cloud based analytics application. What do you think? Let us know…

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