Inform and perform

Inform and perform

It is all well and good to come up to scratch, but it is not much good unless you can convey your competence to the powers that be, says Mary Ann Maxwell.

One morning in the next few weeks you will pick up the newspaper and read about the latest CIO departing to "pursue other interests". You will say to yourself, "I wonder what happened? It sure looked like he was doing a good job." And you know what, he probably was. Most CIOs today are performing a good job ... delivering service excellence. But many CIOs fail to inform while performing. CIOs should not underestimate the importance and power of delivering a con-sistent IT value message to key stakeholders - especially in a business environment that challenges them to continually substantiate and defend IT investment strategies.

High performing CIOs should create a strategic plan to document the alignment of the IT organisation (ITO) with business imperatives and communicate the value of the ITO to the enterprise.

An important component of such a program is the adoption of a public relations (PR) and marketing campaign, with specific action items designed to communicate the value of the ITO's activities, as well as designated account executives charged with communication and relationship-building with business executives. So what should a savvy CIO do?

Conduct a customer survey

Most companies rely on survey research to obtain needed intelligence about their business. Such research can help the ITO better understand customer preferences about a particular product or service, gauge employee and end-user satisfaction, and identify IT product and service market opportunities.

Measure performance

For every innovative ITO, there are many others that are just getting by - reacting to business demands versus proactively identifying and managing ways IT can enhance business performance.

As has been shown many times, there is a strong correlation between measurement and improvement in IT performance. Measurement is a necessary prerequisite to effective action.

Catalogue and promote IT products and services

The ITO's product and services catalogue is the IT playbook - it describes what services and products the ITO can provide, how to obtain them, and their value to the organisation.

In developing the catalogue, ITOs must ensure their products demonstrate business value. CIOs might consider implementing a feedback process in the creation of product catalogues to include customer descriptions of the value, benefits, pricing and availability of IT products and services.

Deploy BRMs

The focus of the business relationship manager (BRM) is to identify and frame opportunities for technology to create business value, bring these opportunities back to the ITO, and sponsor them from approval through to final implementation.

Adopt a PR/marketing program

CIOs should adopt a simple ITO marketing plan and ongoing PR campaign that answers questions of perception and value from the CEO and other business executives.

The following are the five major activities the CIO should adopt as part of the ITO marketing plan:

Perform a baseline assessment: This involves determining the ITO's current position, with a focus on vision, mission, business model and technology architecture.

Build a 'value' case and communicate the value message: In an effort to enhance the internal perception of the ITO, "good news" stories of successes/project milestones should be regularly promoted.

Communicate the sourcing strategy: Has the ITO defined and communicated its sourcing strategy and firmly established its role as the general contractor?

View threats as potential opportunities to create and communicate value: This may be an opportunity for the ITO to tackle the threat head-on and assume a leadership position, fill the need, and demonstrate value to business and senior management.

Focus on the products and services that produce the greatest benefits: CIOs should focus on those products and services that provide the most value to the enterprise. Pareto's Principle (the 80/20 rule) can be interpreted to state that 20 per cent of the products or services produce 80 per cent of the value. Therefore CIOs should actively focus on that 20 per cent as portfolio applications and market them as high-value-added services.

High performing CIOs recognise the importance of a structured marketing process and its positive effect on managing the enterprise's perception of the IT organisation's service value and contribution.

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