The days of getting sign-offs on major IT investments with nary a raised eyebrow have gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger. Today savvy CIOs are building 'street cred' with the business.
Recognised globally as a leader in best practice in the effective application of IT, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has seldom found it much of a challenge to prove the value of its IT investments. Indeed, most of the time that value is pretty self-evident to the statisticians and non-statisticians alike who depend on IT to help them deliver world-class statistical services to Australia.
But, as you might expect from a bureau devoted to rigorous analysis of a broad range of statistical data, CIO Jonathon Palmer says even an organisation where IT has always enjoyed sufficiently high levels of credibility to encourage executives to take the value of future investments on trust must find a range of ways to assess and prove the value of all its IT investments. It's just, he says, a whole lot easier to do in an organisation where IS has a track record of providing quality products and services tailored to user needs.
A recent convert to the use of proof of concept-type implementations to demonstrate the value of IT, Palmer points to Gartner research on the IS Credibility Curve to make his point. The higher the IS section's credibility within an organisation, Gartner maintains, the higher the business value of IT. The research suggests the credibility of IS organisations accrues in stages, with each stage depending on programs and practices learned at previous stages and each stage capable of enhancing businesses' overall economic value of IT. So, Palmer says, one excellent starting point for proving IT value is to pull out all stops to gain that necessary credibility with the business.
Palmer says the ABS is at the highest level - Stage 5 - where business leaders actively seek advice, counsel and innovation from IS organisations that enjoy the full respect of their customers. He says it has been at Stage 5 for as long as he can remember. And he says being there puts the ABS in a different position from many Australian organisations, and means it has less to do when it comes to proving IT value. "I always think the most credible position to lobby for new investments from is one where everything is currently working," Palmer says. "If your network is going down all the time your clients are hardly going to be excited about your proposal to go and buy a portal. They'll just say: 'Well why don't you fix the things that aren't working?'"
With the ABS comfortably up there with the best of them, it simply does not have the same burden of proof as less credible organisations when it comes to proving future IT value. Even so, it still adopts manifold approaches to proving value - the latest being the proof of concept approach - and it works hard at ensuring it never talks about IT value in isolation from business value. Organisations lower down the credibility curve can only watch with envy, knowing their burden is much greater.
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