by Chad Quinn

Are you a broker of value? Ask these 4 questions

Aug 20, 2015
CIOIT Leadership

CIOs have become brokers of IT capabilities for the business. Here are four questions IT leaders must ask to convey value more effectively.

As CIOs confront internal organizational changes as a result of disruptive technologies, roles and responsibilities are rapidly evolving. As “CIOs to become in-house brokers – and that’s a good thing” states, CIOs are no longer builders of operational services – they are brokers of IT capabilities for the business. Now, IT leaders are expected to be more than service brokers, to the extent that their predominant role is to define, track and measure the value of connections between the business and IT. 

When the CIO is able to provide a clear answer to the question of value, she or he fills a strategic gap in the C-suite. Yes, the CIO is a business enabler with technology. Yes, the CIO brokers IT services and connects them to the business. But that’s not the whole picture. Now, the critical question for the CIO is how and why the implementation of specific technologies and services provide true value to the organization.

A senior partner of recruiting for executive-level IT leaders spoke about the concept of the IT leader as a broker of value at the 2015 CIO Executive Leadership Summit. (His response to the “CIO as a Value Broker” presentation is at the end of this video.) [Disclosure: The video includes footage from my keynote at the CIO Summit.] He said, “This decade, very clearly coming out of the great recession in ’09-’10, has been about creating value…whatever you can do to create value, which means driving revenue [and] driving profitability.”

For technology to serve as a business enabler, IT must not only coordinate various vendors and technology capabilities – but also clearly identify the value that these capabilities provide and measure their success post-implementation.

Conveying the value of IT investments is a responsibility that many CIOs I’ve talked to are eager to address. The challenge lies in the tactical implementation of conveying that value. It requires new processes, leadership, and an organizational-wide commitment to shifting the investment conversation from that of cost and features and capabilities, to that of value and implementation outcomes. For many organizations, this is a new frontier. To begin, here are a few questions for the CIO to ask in order to identify growth opportunities:

1. How can I maintain focus inside and outside of my organization?

In order to broker valuable services for the business, the CIO needs to truly understand the business problems that need to be solved inside of the organization. Once the business problems are defined and clearly determined, then the CIO can focus outside the organization, to orchestrate the best ecosystem of services, partners and technology to solve the business problems.

 2. What resources and processes should be implemented to define the value of investments?

CIOs are investing in business technology to transform the organization’s ability to serve customers. As a result, CIOs are tasked with creating new business direction and new processes and systems in order to do so. 

To successfully create these new processes, IT leaders can encourage a focus on value so that it is a company-wide priority. It requires strategic development of new processes that begin with an aligned  understanding of intended outcomes, and conversations around the value of each investment that are both forward looking while also assess past value.

The following graphic outlines three steps in the process of how the CIO could address the value of an investment. The CIO is uniquely positioned to communicate insight to the business (value discovery), identify the benefits of the investment (value realization), and project value going forward (value optimization).

value lifecycle

3. Who should have ownership of organizational value messaging?

An ability to understand the technological nuances of a new product or service does not equal an understanding of the business value that the product or service will create. Identify leaders who can understand the improvements that the technology will provide–and what that means in terms of benefits to the business. Which leaders will have enough oversight to understand business priorities and also be able to communicate these priorities effectively?

4. How can IT jargon be eliminated from my value communication?

In his post “CIOs Discuss How They Convey IT Value to the Business,” Steve Snyder says that the “most effective communication happens after I throw out the IT jargon and speak in clear business terms.” Eliminating jargon depends on the ability to understand the strategic value of the product or service. Identify that value first, and then the jargon can fall away and a refined value message can be provided to each stakeholder.

How else can the CIO build an organization focused on value?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the topic, so please share. I may respond in the next post to your insight and feedback…