Working in IT today can feel like parenting a rebellious teenager. Like teenagers, many of today’s employees and organizations, act like they can do everything on their own – and only turn to you when something goes wrong. And then they seem totally ungrateful for the help. The time has come for IT to prove its value and necessity in a time when many people are doubting its utility – but this is no simple task.
How do you prove yourself as necessary, when the work you do is in background?
Gone are the days when you could restrict employees to certain devices and applications, and give value by being the authority. IT consumerization, when employees force technologies into the business, is one aspect of this change. Along with the increasing variety of Cloud technologies that employees now have access to, the standing and power of IT within enterprises and organizations is profoundly changing.
CIO’s in today’s technological environment are finding themselves standing by the sidelines while employees determine their company’s technological future. Here lies the fundamental problem IT faces: how do you prove yourself as necessary, when the work you do is in background?
Proving value from the sidelines
Most departments in organizations now deal with their own IT issues: for example, by contacting a buggy software vendor’s help desk, or searching online for quick fixes. When IT admins are contacted to repair issues, adapt programs or create integrations, they are left out of the loop once the work is done. All they can show for having spent time and money is that they completed a task that helps employees be more productive.
This makes the IT department one of expenditures: it is easy to show where money is going, but much harder to show how spending that money is working toward business goals. IT doesn’t easily generate measurable, direct profits the way other parts of a business do.
Values such as preventing loss of productivity are too vague to make a difference in a budget meeting. Measurable value and data exists, but knowledge about it isn’t in the hands of the CIO. When IT creates a unique integration for the marketing department between their tools and a CRM tool, only Marketing can collect hard numbers and know what the value added has been (such as increase in customers, etc.).
The bottom-line benefit
It all comes down to showing bottom-line value, something that is challenging IT departments everywhere. Communicating business value hinges on presenting definitive benefits that your department creates, in the case of IT these are demonstrated almost exclusively through reports.
That leaves IT in a unique problem of proving that the value it is creating actually exists in a very data-heavy and concrete medium. So what kind of reports should the CIO be producing for boardroom meetings, and what should they highlight? On the flipside, what should the CEO be demanding to see from IT in the new era?
We will continue to explore these issues, and more, that surround IT and the business in the era of consumerization, BYOD and the Cloud, in a series of posts: The new IT era.