Pinpointing the business value of IT isn’t a new endeavor, obviously. But, as Steven Norton writes in the Wall Street Journal, proving the value of IT today means more than reporting on the performance of IT investments. By analyzing business outcomes, IT can identify areas where technology has potential to improve revenues, and build tools to address them.
Intel’s IT group, for example, used information about what made a successful sale to build model that told salespeople which resellers to contact in which order. The project made salespeople more productive and generated $76.2 million last year.
How have you changed the way you measure IT’s contribution?
Past presidents of four universities weigh in on why every college graduate should be educated in the humanities. The upshot: it’s how we get critical, creative thinkers. People who can, as former University of Wisconsin President Kevin Reilly writes, “write clearly, speak persuasively, analyze data effectively, work in diverse groups, and understand the competitive global knowledge environment.”
When you’re hiring, how do you screen for communication skills? For empathy with customers? For ability to put themselves in the end user’s shoes?
When a new CEO comes on board, CIOs must be ready to come clean about the state of IT and how it will impact his or her priorities, writes Kim S. Nash in the Wall Street Journal.
What’s your strategy for bringing a new CEO up to speed? Nash says, for example, that creating confidence in how the company manages the risk of cyberthreats is top of mind now. If you’ve been through this process more than once, how have you changed your approach over time?
If you’re going to transform your organization, you have to transform your leadership, argues Charlene Li, CEO of Altimeter Group, in her new book, The Engaged Leader. To do so, you need social media in your arsenal. Employees, vendors, customers and others increasingly expect business leaders to interact with them directly. “Leadership means constantly reinforcing the direction an organization is taking,” Li writes. Engagement, using digital tools, “opens up new and better ways to steer business transformation.”
She contends that, although using social media may be uncomfortable at first, you can overcome your misgivings if you set goals and choose the platforms (internal or external) that serve them best. Much of the book consists of practical examples for doing just that.
How do you use social media as a leadership tool? What did it take to convince you that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your internal social network could help you advance your goals for your organization?
Research from McKinsey indicates that the pressure on companies to compete as digital businesses is throwing IT for a loop. Asked about their performance on a wide range of tasks, fewer than one-third of technology executives said they are very or completely effective at most of them.
But technology leaders give themselves higher marks when they are closely involved with shaping business strategy. Having more input into strategy would help to close the greatest gaps between IT and non-IT leaders when it comes to IT priorities, the report suggests. Although they rank many goals similarly, IT leaders consider cutting costs to be much more important than non-IT executives do, while non-IT executives give much higher priority to getting information to support planning and decision-making.
What obstacles have you had to clear in order to participate more actively in business strategy? What steps have you taken to get IT in position to do so?
Tesla has hired more employees who used to work at Apple than from carmakers, according to Bloomberg Business. And automakers are competing for Silicon Valley engineering talent. As companies develop IT-enabled products and services, what role do CIOs have recruiting and hiring technologists to work on product design and operations?
If your big data efforts are flagging, one problem may be that your processes are in the way, according to a recent article by McKinsey “In more established organizations, management-approval processes have not kept up with the advancements in data analytics,” writes David Court. “For example, it’s great to have real-time data and automated pricing engines, but if management processes are designed to set prices on a weekly basis, the organization won’t be able to realize the full impact of these new technologies.”
While that isn’t a surprising observation (what big IT initiative doesn’t upend existing workflows?) major technology shifts have a way of uncovering standard operating procedures that may not have been questioned for long time. What are some business process changes you discovered you need to make to move your big data initiatives out of the experiment stage? How are you managing these changes?
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has weighed in with recommendations for addressing the data privacy and security risks from the Internet of Things. Among them: limit the data you collect from consumer devices. Doing so might reduce your appeal as a target and reduce the damage consumers suffer if a breach occurs, officials suggest.
This is one of among several recommendations aimed at encouraging businesses to design their devices with data security in mind. Have you made security a priority as you explore IoT? What steps have you taken to ensure your CISO is involved?
A study by the MIT Center for Information Systems Research concludes that the quality of a company’s IT portfolio (and in turn, it’s financial performance) is influenced heavily by two factors: 1) how well senior executives understand IT, and 2) the extent to which they are engaged with IT in an ongoing conversation about the contribution IT can make to achieving business goals.
MIT calls the latter “demand shaping.” Researchers observe that more companies are engaging in demand shaping practices such as cost transparency, creating roadmaps for change, and using agile methodologies. What is one practice you’ve used to improve the quality of IT investment decisions? Why do you think it works?
Over the last three decades in this industry, I’ve seen many impressively disruptive waves of technology, but I have never witnessed as many waves hitting simultaneously as we are seeing today.
While we can and will pursue many of these, as CIOs in a hypercompetitive global environment, we have to catch the wave that makes the biggest impact on enabling the business and accelerating our revenue and business growth. In 2015, I predict the highest priority for CIOs is digitization.
As the digital economy pushes enterprises to analyze and solve problems faster, businesses are asking CIOs and IT professionals to help reduce complexities, improve synergies across organizations, and leverage existing information regardless of where it resides. For instance, my team is extending our data lake architecture capabilities to enable multiple organizations to make data-driven decisions and accelerate the value for the business like never before. To do this, CIOs and IT professionals must:
- Start at “home” by automating and digitizing critical IT processes and services. This is essential for IT-as-a-Service to be successful.
- Partner even closer with our businesses units to truly understand their requirements and how we can help them.
- Take advantage of the analytical and data science knowledge and activities that have been surfacing throughout the company, so we leverage existing best practices and prioritize projects rather than reinvent the wheel.
- Explore how we can build capabilities and flexibility into our data lake solution to allow users to incorporate more publicly available data into their analyses.
- Capture and share all the incredible data science knowledge we have in the company to train and help our users to go beyond analysis paralysis and get the most out of the wealth of data.
- Build data-driven apps that simplify the experience for our users and allow them to have the information they need at their fingertips.
While we still love technology, CIOs are now strategists and business enablers. In 2015 and beyond, we must strive to help our companies differentiate their products and services; reduce development and sales cycles; and optimize business processes and performance. Digitization (and big data analytics) is essential.