In many enterprises, IT is still seen as a support function rather than a direct driver of revenue growth. To change this perception requires changing the narrative of IT at your company, said Peter Moore, president of Wild Oak Enterprises, in a session at the 2017 Midmarket CIO Forum in Savannah, GA.
"Today, if you're any kind of a business that operates with a consumer, you have to deploy all of the new consumer technologies, whether it be social, mobile, or cloud," Moore told TechRepublic. "If the company doesn't see you in that role of initiating new ideas and collaborating with business partners to find new ways to engage with customers in a digitally-mediated world, you've sub-optimized the opportunity technology has to make you a more competitive operation."
In order to add value, IT must determine the next wave of useful tech that the company should invest in, Moore said. "This is a dialogue that should go on week in and week out between the key people on your team and internal stakeholders," he said. "If you don't start deploying these new tools, you're half a step away from your Blockbuster or Kodak moment. The market won't let you be as successful or impactful."
An important part of ensuring that IT has the ability to add business value is changing the language your team uses, Moore said. For example, instead of using the term "cost center," use "business enabler." Swap "support function" with "strategic partner," and "uptime" with "time to value."
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CIOs should also refer to budgets as "IT investment portfolios," Moore said. "You're given money by the company, and you should look at that as a willingness to make investment decisions with internal partners to get the best return, impact, and value for that money," he said. Instead of starting a budgetary conversation with a statement like: "Should we move the tech from A to B," you should say, "What are the business capabilities that we can help you enable through technology so that you can generate more revenue for the company?"
"It's a totally different conversation," Moore said.
To craft a compelling IT story, start by laying out the circumstances that will provide the context for the content you want to deliver, Moore said. Present real characters and conversations to give your story credibility, and use real examples of conflict and solutions found by IT.
To assess your IT business value story, you and your IT group should assess the following questions, Moore said:
1. How do you tell the IT business story in your company today?
2. How well is that story being received?
3. What are the biggest misconceptions about IT at your company?
4. What metrics do you use to measure the value IT brings to your business?
5. What could help you improve your ability to tell the IT business value story?
"Don't have a defeatist attitude," Moore told TechRepublic. "This is the most opportune time to be a CIO ever, because you are the ones that can introduce the value that technology brings."
Developing business cases is also key, Moore said. "We can document evidence of where tech has been engaged, and as a result, new revenues were created, new markets were penetrated, and new products were successfully launched," Moore said. "It's important to develop them, but also to document and communicate them."
"Change the narrative about IT," Moore said. "Tell that story—it's a very powerful story, and it is a story that every company needs to be aware of."
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.