CXO

Performance, image, and exposure important for IT success

The performance, image, exposure model is commonly used to help individuals manage their careers. The same model can also be applied to the IT organization as a whole and can prove quite useful in managing IT's role in the enterprise.

I was reminded the other day when reading a career column on mentoring about the P.I.E. model to career success. In a nutshell, the model asserts that your career success is based on your performance, your image, and your exposure. I wish I could tell you who came up with the idea (I was first exposed to it in Grad school) but my research proved inconclusive. Despite my inability to give credit where credit is due, there is a ton of information available on the topic. I do believe in the model and its assertions and it's valuable when thinking about your career.

However, during my research I found nothing that talked about the model and its relation to an organizational unit. This surprised me a bit because I think there is a natural extension of the model into management and leadership. Let's assume that you are head of your IT department and are looking at ways to put together a scorecard on how well your unit is doing as part of the organization. Here's what using the P.I.E methodology in this case what it might look like:

Performance indicators

There is no lack of research on performance metrics for IT. From service level agreements to measures of uptime, throughput, cost benefit, ROI and more, the list of how and what to measure is extensive. The important thing here is to choose those measures that are meaningful to your organization and make sure they're quantifiable. Don't choose too many but make sure the ones you choose get at the core of what your unit does and how it relates to your organization's strategic plan.

Why is this important? Clearly, if your unit doesn't perform well it won't be held in high regard in the organization. People will complain about the work performed and this will eventually make both the unit and management of the unit suffer. Years ago, organizations were forced to put up with bad IT performance. These days, it's too easy to find an alternative to service provided by IT and the organization is savvy enough to know there are alternatives. In fact, there are vendors telling your senior management daily they can do it better, cheaper, and faster than you can. Thus, it is critical to perform well.

Image indicators

It's easy to imagine a person and understand what image means, from what they wear to how they speak and their mannerisms and actions as well as a multitude of other factors.

Image for a unit takes a little more thinking about. When it comes to image for a unit I think of branding and perception. Image is about how your unit is perceived as it performs its work. Image is a reflection of staff and management. Is staff that interacts with others in the organization courteous, professional, and positive? I used to tell my staff that three minutes spent in an elevator with the CEO can enhance or destroy months of hard work if one's behavior is unprofessional.

What about ease of use? Is your IT organization easy to work with or a bureaucratic nightmare? Would people do without rather than have to deal with your unit? Is your unit perceived as an enabler or a discourager? When people think of your IT organization, do they think it is a class act or a circus? Are you viewed as a unit that is constantly improving its product or is falling behind? Keep in mind that performance has a somewhat inverse relation with performance. Poor performance can have a horrendous effect on image, yet perfect performance can have little to no effect. If you are viewed simply as a utility - you have an image problem.

Exposure indicators

Again, this is an issue more easily thought about for an individual than a unit but not impossible. Exposure for a unit equals funding, a seat at the senior management table, and that synergy with business units that IT always seems to be striving for but not always achieving. These are achieved by making the IT unit known. IT has a reputation for invisibility. They can be the life's blood of the organization but totally out of sight and out of mind unless a problem occurs. Some feel this is appropriate for IT and if that is the case then they are comfortable with being a utility or a commodity and eventually outsourced.

Exposure is about telling IT's story, getting involved with business units, and letting the organization know that IT is more than network and applications - it's about innovation and problem solving. I have written before that IT needs a communication mechanism - newsletters, an impressive intranet presence, even its own TV channel if the organization has its own in house broadcasting. These are some of the tools IT can use to get the word out on its success and to manage the effects of problems as they occur.

Getting involved is a management strategy where leadership has made a conscious decision to get people to the table and get involved in the day-to-day business of the organization. There are numerous ways to do this, from asking to sit in on staff meetings with other business units, assigning liaisons to business units, or just working the phones and visiting with other management to let them know IT is there to help. This is the one area that is most ignored by IT because they often feel overwhelmed by work and feel that any time not spent on performance is being wasted. This could not be further from the truth. It is my firm belief that if an IT organization is doing performance and image at least moderately well, exposure will allow them to get what they need to boost all areas. Not doing so will keep IT obscure and seen as an adjunct to the core business of an organization.

Each of these areas is a white paper in and of itself, but I encourage you to explore the PIE model both personally for your career and for your IT organization. Coincidently - if you are head of your IT organization - doing well managing PIE organizationally will help with enhancing your career!

Editor's Picks