by Chris Potts

It’s the company’s investment culture. Always was.

Jul 31, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

As people now move on from wondering about the value of IT, the way clears for the question that everyone has been implicitly asking all along.  That question, and its answer, radically enhances the CIO’s role as a corporate strategist and leader of change.

The debates and concerns about the value of IT, that have occupied many people for so long, are on the wane.  People are reaching a point where they’ve decided on an answer, or that the question no longer matters like it used to.  Thank goodness.  It has long disguised the underlying cause:  the ability of the company culture to create value from investing in change (whether that involves IT or not).

I spent a day recently collaborating with the CIO of a global company, formulating the next generation of strategy for him to lead.  At the beginning of the day, neither us knew quite what that strategy would be.  By the end of the day we did. 

We documented it on one side of paper, using the “Promise, Principles, Tactics” format that I described in “Let the Business Drive IT Strategy“.  Nowhere does it mention IT or technology.  It’s all about the company’s next few years of investing in change, during which they are likely to make radical innovations in their business model. 

They don’t yet know what all those radical innovations are going to be, or indeed the preferred scenario for the resulting business model.  The CIO’s strategy is about making sure that – whatever the chosen business model and innovations – the company will create maximum value from investing in change, and as efficiently as possible.  The CIO is part of the team shaping the business model scenarios, and the CEO will soon decide on the preferred scenario.

One early and vital stage in our one-day formulation process was to explore the company’s culture for investing in change.  Any CIO is extremely well placed to do this, since she has more experience than most of that culture in action, even if it’s limited to the changes that involve IT. 

We used a simple framework that looks at the investment culture from different dimensions, drawn from a causes-end-effects map of how companies make, execute and exploit investments in change. Armed with the results of that exploration, the CIO then decided on tactics for developing the culture as everyone prepares to invest in changing the business model, and then executes those investments.

The value a company gets from investing in change is a much more significant question than the subset of value it gets from investing in IT.  Indeed, it says something very important about a company’s investment culture if the value-of-IT question is eclipsing the value-of-change one. 

So, as everyone settles their minds on the value-of-IT question one way or another, at last the mist is clearing on the true answer to the issue that people have been struggling with all along.  Not sure what value we’re getting from our investments in change [involving IT]?  That’s down to our company’s investment culture [not IT].  Now, we realize, it always was.  Better have a strategy to sort it out.