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CIO Quick Takes: 3 ways to visualize IT

CIO Quick Takes: 3 ways to visualize IT

Communicating the effectiveness of IT projects and the value of your IT strategy can be a time-consuming and even wordy proposition. That’s why these three C-level IT leaders take a more eye-catching approach.

The phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" predates today's IT landscape by more than 100 years. However, the adage — attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who was commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising — seems more relevant today than ever.

As an editor, I still think a thousand words are worth more than a picture— what else would I think? My obvious bias aside, however, the world is full of visual thinkers and using images to convey complex concepts is a proven concept. USA Today demonstrated this in 1982, when the "paper created for the TV generation" debuted. Its focus on infographics over longer articles caused some to label it as "McNews." Fast forward more 30 years and it's clear how "McWrong" that thinking was. We at CIO.com certainly subscribe to the power of visualization as well — which, we hope, shows in our information-packed but visually appealing slideshows and infographics.

rohinee 2
Rohinee Mohindroo, CIO, Rakuten Marketing: 'Data visualization is all the rage these days because it tells a story. Everyone loves a story!'

Of course, knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words is one thing. Applying it is quite another, especially when it comes to visualizing complex technology projects and strategies. To see how technology leaders use data visualization to convey IT value, we again teamed with our friends at the CIO Executive Council. Three of its members responded to the following question:

“How have you visually represented IT strategy/value?”

Rohinee Mohindroo, CIO, Rakuten Marketing

"Always! Conventional wisdom holds that visualization leads to realization, a common technique used by athletes, life coaches … why not technologists? Data visualization is all the rage these days because it tells a story. Everyone loves a story!

dennis pannuto
Dennis Pannuto, CTO, A&E TV: 'We keep the visuals creative, the messaging succinct and friendly in tone, and use as little tech jargon as possible'

"As technology continues to grow more complex, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Visualization is a critical communication tool that easily scales from a one-on-one conversation to an all-company broadcast. It is particularly effective in a global enterprise that spans multiple corporate and national cultures. I have also come to appreciate visualizations as a brainstorming and learning tool as well.

houston ross
Houston H. Ross, vice president, chief operations officer, NN Life: 'Staff were asking how to better understand our value proposition. We wanted to visualize in pictures and words that everyone could understand.'

Dennis Pannuto, CTO, A&E TV

"By leveraging the power of visual communications in A+E's technology department, we're able to create a greater level of engagement and information retention with our employees than we were able to in the past. Taking the approach of having a dialogue with your employees versus speaking at them makes all the difference.

"Our technology projects each have their own unique, visual branding, whether it be the rollout of new software, change management related projects, or relaying timely information about system maintenance. We keep the visuals creative, the messaging succinct and friendly in tone, and use as little tech jargon as possible. The benefits are our employees have a better understanding of the changes taking place, it cuts down on the disruption to their work, and we have less calls to our help desk for assistance."

Houston H. Ross, vice president, COO, NN Life

"In 2012, we built our strategy and were executing well but still felt we could improve awareness and understanding. As we executed our project success rates were up, our costs were down, and we were even delivering bits of innovation. However, staff were asking how to better understand our value proposition.

"We wanted to visualize in pictures and words that everyone could understand, 'We want IT to become a value generator.' That poster now hangs in our IT and operations areas and is a part of every presentation I give. In one view we state our vision, define our customers and show what we deliver in services and costs.

"In summary, a picture truly is worth more than a thousand words, and for us this vision that we have created has become an integral component in our IT communications strategy."

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