Additionally, the CIO can set an example for the entire IT team by focusing discussions on the business - inside and outside the IT organization. One means is to encourage and reward IT personnel for discussing the business in business terms - for example, in CIO staff meetings, in IT governance councils and in meetings between business unit executives and their IT support and relationship management personnel. Another technique is to "get physical" by embedding IT personnel in business units at multiple levels.
In short, conversations should always be about what the business can do, when, where and how - not about what the technology can do. Above all else, CIOs must drive this message home at every opportunity.
To show that IT investments produce value, CIOs must ensure that the business performance improvements are harvested and measured using a systematic approach that includes planning, review and audit, and measurement. The pay-off for the entire enterprise is better business performance resulting from: 1. superior planning and prioritization for investments, and 2. management attention to the activities that ensure that benefits are harvested.
In measuring value through improved business performance, CIOs should be aware that there is a lag between IT investment and the delivery of value. This is why benefits must be harvested and measured over a period of time that matches the business cycle for the initiative. The organization needs time - typically one to two years for a major change - to assimilate new processes.
In effect, when CIOs talk and act like business executives focused on business performance, sooner or later they will be perceived as business executives. The first sign of this change is being invited to the CEO's staff meetings. The next sign is being asked to manage business initiatives outside the realm of IT.
CIOs who can deliver business performance via IT face a future of great opportunity and increased influence.
Andrew Rowsell-Jones is vice president and research director for Gartner's CIO Executive Programs
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