Every Chief Information Officer (CIO) has a big job on their hands when it comes to proving the value of the IT systems they implement. CIOs are responsible for managing and executing the tech systems of a company, and ensuring that the IT goals align with the broader business goals of the business.
This is all very well if your CEO and leadership team is tech savvy and gets behind IT innovation. However if you’re working with more old school leadership teams, it can quickly become apparent that proving IT value will be harder than it looks.
For CIOs to succeed in proving value to this tough crowd, they need to be able to break down jargon, make innovative proposals and prove business value in a way that people understand. During our time working with CIOs, we’ve discovered how the successful ones prove the business value in their grand IT innovation plans. In this article we’ll be looking at how they do just that, in order to demonstrate value and get people behind their big ideas.
A skilled CIO will endeavour to speak to business leaders using the language they understand – KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and ROI (Return On Investment). Whilst as a CIO you may be passionate about the technology, and deeply understand how it will revolutionise how the organization runs, your CEO and heads of departments really want to know one thing – what will you measure, and what do you expect the results to be.
Delivering these kinds of predictions enable a talented CIO to set the goals from the start, and display how the business will benefit overall from the IT changes. Many companies fall into the trap of thinking that technology for the sake of technology is a good idea, or that it pays to have the best technology. In some cases this may be true, but on the whole you can assume that if a company doesn’t have clear KPIs and ROI estimates then the amazing technology they’re investing in won’t be used to its full potential.
Defining KPIs and ROI show that the technological advancements of the company will have the goal of generating value. This is key to proving overall business value. After all, if the IT systems aren’t making life easier and creating value, then they are probably just vanity projects.
When demonstrating the value of IT systems, it pays to do it little by little. This is because people can often get frustrated if their work is disrupted by IT upgrades, or if they have to dedicate an afternoon of their precious time to learn a new system.
It is much more effective to demonstrate value little by little. For example, showing people how to use a new tech upgrade in small weekly time slots, is often more effective than sitting everyone down and running through every aspect of the IT upgrade in one go. People only really want to know about the aspect of the upgrade that relates to them, so there is no point in causing disruption and taking away from other strategic efforts to showcase every new tech win.
Whilst it may be important for the IT team to celebrate their wins, it isn’t vital that every member of every team needs to know why the new tech system is so amazing. Demonstrating value little by little, and in a way that genuinely helps people perform their roles is much more effective when dealing with general team members.
Successful CIOs are able to draw upon past experience to support their case. It is so important that CIOs prove business value by showing how a similar IT system was implemented in the past and what the results of that were.
A sure fire way to lose trust and make people feel flat is to offer predictions that are completely out of whack. When proving ROI estimates of any IT idea, it’s crucial to give real world examples that demonstrate business capability.
Brian Thomas gives a great example of how people are always thinking “what’s in it for me?” when a CIO presents an idea. Each department leader wants to know “how will this make my life easier?” or “how will this solve a problem that I have?”.
Brian Thomas aka Divergent CIO states that for each business area it is important to:
Realize what their pain points are
Identify areas of improvement, specifically in relation to IT
Provide a strategic advantage from a productivity perspective
Work on developing a partnership mentality
Demonstrate value instance by instance, with clear objectives
Often when CIOs prove value, they focus on the return on investment and the financial benefits. However, there is a lot to be said for the satisfaction of people, both within the business and externally.
There is a lot to be said for technology improving the customer experience, boosting customer satisfaction and maximising employee time. Technology has an incredible capacity to help people – whether that is helping people to fully utilize a product or service, or to help people to do their jobs. When CIOs focus on the human benefits of the IT solution, they are usually much better received.
Interviewing customers and employees to better understand their satisfaction with a service, and noting how that can be improved is a great idea here. Showing how you can improve how customers interact with your product is a great way to prove business value beyond just the numbers.
Often CIOs fail to demonstrate value, because they’re not clear on what their teams are actually looking for. Technology can be an amazing asset, but if the broader business doesn’t understand how it benefits them then you’re preaching value to a deaf audience.
Some of the most successful CIOs work collaboratively with all elements of the business to break down Silos and get a holistic picture of the organization and its needs. Working in collaboration with the wider employee network will help prove value longer term, and to a broader range of people.
Communicating the business value of IT is one of the central functions of a CIO. Being able to translate the importance of new tech projects to the leadership team and employees in a way that they understand is key to ensuring that the organization successfully funds important IT projects.
Whilst proving value is probably one of CIOs least favourite jobs, Gartner predicts that through to 2025, CIOs who can communicate this business value will maintain 60% higher funding levels than their peers.
This in turn will mean that their organization will have access to the technology they need to innovate and drive their business forward. Without this demonstrated value businesses will fall behind, leaving it until it’s too late to realize that they need to update their technology systems.
If you’re like the 63% of CIOs who struggle to communicate IT’s value, it could be time to look externally for guidance. Working with an innovation team like ENO8 can enable CIOs to understand their ideas, and translate their technological performance metrics into succinct selling points. Discover the services we offer today to learn more about how you can demonstrate the value of your IT ideas.