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Performance Artist

Performance Artist

Business performance is the measure of IT value — full stop

Position IT investment as the cause, not the effect, of improved business performance. In many enterprises, IT investment is seen as a trailing indicator of improved business performance. ("I'm getting more customers so I have to buy more servers."). A more accurate view is that careful investment in IT drives business growth by providing the capacity in infrastructure, operations and management visibility that makes improvements in business performance possible. ("I want and expect to grow, so I need to build the infrastructure that will support growth.")

To make the point that IT investment drives business performance improvements, the IT organization needs to benchmark and measure not only its own performance but also the performance of the business units. It takes terrific effort to change the business's perception that IT is a trailing cost - even when business executives know that IT matters.

CIOs will know when the corner is turned because the nature of the conversation will change. The CIO will no longer sell technology but will advise on investments.

Think different, act different, be different. IT is one lever an executive team can pull to improve business performance. But CIOs must know enough about the business to know when IT is and is not the right lever to pull - and say so.

To know when IT is the answer and when it is not, CIOs must keep the following in mind.

  • The value of an IT investment is always measured in terms of business performance.

  • The CIO's job as an executive is to boost business performance, not IT's.
It means knowing that IT is the answer when, and only when, it is a way to improve business performance, taking into account all business costs, risks and alternatives. Thinking and talking in those terms are what make the CIO part of the executive team, as opposed to the "IT guy".

Thinking like a business executive also means paying attention to personal style. How does the executive team dress? What do they talk about? What do they read? What do they do for leisure? External signs and adherence to norms for personal behaviour indicate membership in the team. How else could an observer tell at a glance who plays for which side at any organized sporting event? The personal influence and value of CIOs depend a lot on whether they are perceived as being part of the executive "tribe".

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