Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) have long been strong motivators in the IT decision-making process. The fear of missing out on The New Economy fuelled much of the dotcom investment. The uncertainty of how systems would address the new century date generated significant moneys for Y2K remedial work. It was thought buying certain brands made you immune to failure. The reality is that IT suppliers have cried "wolf" more times than Little Red Riding Hood and business has become immune to these tactics.
For example, in today's computing-intensive, information-dependent world, business continuity planning (BCP) needs to be done. However, it doesn't make sense to justify BCP with the rationale that it will shield the organisation against a potential attack from Al-Qaeda. While the events of September 11 were obviously catastrophic, and businesses certainly went under as a result, local executives disturbed by these events are unlikely to feel comforted just because IT has spent megabucks on a belts and braces disaster recovery plan.
Instead the need for such arrangements must be couched in terms with which the executive can identify. Just such an approach was one taken by a Melbourne InTEP member several years ago. He worked at Yellow Pages where each year the production of the latest directories sends the company into a frenzy of activity. The CIO chose this time to pose some scenarios to his CEO, such as: "What would we do if there was a fire in the Brisbane office this week."
He did not ask for the world. Instead he requested $50,000 to study the company and its processes in order to identify vulnerabilities and to assess some strategies to address these risks. When these were developed he then sought funding to implement the proposed solution.
However, at the same time, he also argued that this study would document the company processes for the first time and pinpoint opportunities for it to streamline or automate activities.
The modus operandi proved enlightening. The business not only got a plan to address possible risks, it also got a view on how to reduce costs. The approach was not IT with its hand out; instead the CIO was identifying a business issue and a potential source of ROI. For business the request was modest while IT was allowed a golden opportunity to really study the mechanics of the business for the first time.
I have no doubt that there is still considerable fuel left in the IT tank. In eight years of running InTEP I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of organisations that believe they have fully exploited IT's capabilities. The potential is exciting and many organisations will work with renewed vigour to harness it. However, this time the IT suppliers are dealing with a much more astute business community. Those that succeed will recognise that the way to engage the business is not with FUD but with quantifiable business outcomes.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.