A New Framework for IT Value

If you threw out everything you’ve ever head about IT value and built your own IT value framework from scratch, what would that look like?

In this very late morning session, Steven John (CIO of Agriliance) and Kevin Humphries (senior vice president of technology services at FedEx) gave conference attendees a peek at the dynamic IT value tool they created as co-chairs of the CIO Executive Council’s IT Value Taskforce.

John and Humphries volunteered to lead the effort to create an IT Value Matrix and Knowledge Center for the council – presumably before they knew it would take a full 18 months to come to a consensus on what comprises IT value.

Their goals were straightforward:

  • To enable senior business executives to understand how IT impacts an organization’s financial and strategic performance
  • To elevate the mainstream business understanding about IT and the role of the CIO
  • To demonstrate how CIOs can drive their organizations’ revenue model

To that end, they wanted to create an adaptable success model that illustrates a CIO’s most effective route toward delivering IT value and offer a compendium of tools, articles and resources to support the success model.

Agreeing on a flexible model for IT value that could adapt to the wide assortment of situations a CIO might find himself in was the trickiest part. John, a rare second-generation CIO, said the task reminded him of something his dad always told him: The soft is hard and the hard is easy. “The technology is easy. The alignment, leadership and communications part is hard. And that’s what determines whether we provide value and succeed.”

John walked the audience through the IT Value Matrix the executive council finally settled on, comprising some 130 boxes that connect up, down and sideways, organized in three major areas:

  • Stakeholder alignment—Knowledge and Actions
  • CIO Role – Leadership and Accountability
  • Communication – Why and How

Though the presenters could only provide static images of the matrix, it’s a Web-based tool that allows executive council members to drill down for more information in any particular area.

John stressed the dynamic nature of the tool – as well as the concept of IT value. “This is the start of journey, not the end of journey," he said. "We’ve created a context to share information about how to achieve value in organization. This matrix will change for the better.”

But Humphries noted that after “wrestling (with the matrix) for 18 months,” it hasn’t fundamentally changed in the last eight months, indicating that they were successful in creating a stable foundation.

Both stressed that this framework for IT value is not prescriptive and can be used in any number of ways. John uses it to help his direct reports during their performance approaisals and also as a tool for self assessment. Humphries says he uses it as “the agenda for discussions with my staff, my peers and the business.” The model is also being used as a foundation for new curriculum at Case Western Reserve’s MBA program, Northeastern University, and Swinburne University in Australia.

Since formalizing the matrix, John and Humphries have also created an online repository of information on IT value that allows peer-to-peer sharing on every subject represented in the matrix.

The IT Value Matrix will appear in the February issue of CIO magazine. But the  online matrix and all the related tools are accessible anytime for CIO Executive Council members. Guest access is also available, but no vendors allowed.

--Stephanie Overby

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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