CIOs Should Learn the Two Metrics That Matter

CIOs need to be prepared to explain how their expensive IT project will improve the numbers every CEO cares most about.

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Twenty years ago I was geared up for a meeting with the CEO. I was all ready to tell him how much better the new IT projects were going to be.

When I walked in to meet with him, he looked at me and said, "So, regarding today's discussion, will this sell more stuff--or save me money?"

I wanted to die.

The new IT would be better. It would be faster. Long-term it would be cheaper, but initially it was going to cost a lot of extra money. I felt like it was the right thing to do, but I was not prepared for his simple question. How would what I wanted to do either sell more stuff or save the company money?

A new book, Business Cases that Mean Business, by Jim Maholic, makes much the same point. He lays out in great detail how to create and present a compelling business case for a big IT project. But he says it all starts here: "A business case is about business. Business is about money--making more money than we spend and spending effectively so that we either make more money or spend much less money."

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