The first article I ever wrote for CIO magazine, way back in 1999, was about \u201cdemonstrating IT value.\u201d\u00a0 How, I asked our readership, can CIOs change the conversation about IT from one of cost to one of value?\n\tWhile CIOs have come a long way in providing value to their companies, the \u201ccost to value\u201d conversational shift is still a goal for many CIOs.\n\tThe Simple Solution\n\tGerri Martin-Flickinger, CIO of Adobe, has worked hard to change the conversation about IT in her company. To her, the first order of business was to educate her business peers on the different roles that IT plays. \u201cMy business leaders don\u2019t spend a lot of time thinking about IT legacy debt,\u201d Martin-Flickinger says. \u201cSo, I work very hard to separate for them what is legacy and what is strategic. To me, that is what a good CIO does.\u201d\n\tA few years ago, Martin-Flickinger had a revelation: \u201cWe were using all of these complex financial models to report on how we were spending our IT dollars,\u201d she says. \u201cBut the model was too complicated to tell the right story.\u201d In particular, Martin-Flickinger was finding that her executive peers glossed over the role that depreciation plays in the IT budget.\n\t\u201cI had to get my business partners to realize that the projects we do today have a large capitalized component that will show up as operations expenses for the next five years,\u201d she says. \u201cThose costs can stack up like stair steps: a little money this year, and a little money next year.\u00a0 If you don\u2019t keep an eye on depreciation, it can over take the rest of your OPEX budget very rapidly.\u201d\n\tMartin-Flickinger realized that, as with so many things in IT, simplest was best.\u00a0 While she continued to use complex financial models to determine IT spend, she changed the presentation of those numbers to something very simple.\u00a0 \u201cI started using a pie chart that had only three sections: operations, new delivery, and depreciation.\u201d\u00a0 The dashboard was concise and clearly illustrated the impact that IT had on the business.\u00a0 \u00a0\u201cThis made a major difference with my CEO,\u201d \u00a0say Martin-Flickinger.\n\tOnce she started putting the pie chart on every dashboard and report she gave to the executive committee, Martin-Flickinger noticed a change.\u00a0 \u201cEvery time I went in to talk to the executives, I brought that pie chart with me.\u00a0 I found that the dialogue changed to focus on the three parts of the budget.\u201d\n\tThanks to the pie chart, Adobe\u2019s executive team now understands the costs of IT, the value of IT, and the role that depreciation plays.\u00a0 \u201cThe pie chart solution sounds so simple,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger. \u201cBut for me, it was the secret sauce in focusing our executives on how we are spending our IT budget.\u201d\n\tConvergence is Key\n\tEducating the executive committee on the budgetary difference between operational and strategic investments is one way to shift the dialogue to value; getting IT out of the back-office is another.\n\tA few years ago, Martin-Flickinger and her team moved Adobe\u2019s back office functions to a services oriented architecture. \u201cWe run 15 different approval systems which created a lot of complexity for our employees,\u201d she says. \u201cWe wanted to present a unified experience for our employees whether they were working on travel and expense, recruiting, or purchasing approvals.\u201d\n\tSo, Martin-Flickinger and her team built an SOA model that provides a buffer between employees and a large number of back-office and SaaS solutions.\u00a0 The simple user interface is delivered across platforms, so employees can do a range of approvals from their mobile devices in one interface with a simple click.\u00a0 Taking this approach has allowed the IT department to evolve their back-office systems and move more to SaaS offerings, while not disrupting their user community.\u00a0 \u201cEmployees love the interface for its ease of use,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger.\u00a0 \u201cIT loves it because it gives them increased architectural freedom.\u201d\u00a0\n\tHaving built a single successful SOA-based solution coupled to Adobe\u2019s back office functions, Martin-Flickinger and her team realized that they could do more.\u00a0 They could build a services layer that could be used right inside the Adobe product.\n\t\u201cTraditionally, our product engineers have been responsible for any functionality that goes into the product,\u201d Martin-Flickinger says. \u201cBut today, Adobe\u2019s IT organization is providing a services gateway that handles all e-commerce transactions across Adobe Creative Cloud products and services.\u201d\n\tWhen customers enter Adobe\u2019s Creative Cloud, everything they see on their screen was developed by the Adobe product engineering team. But when they get to the point where they enter their credit card information to buy the product, it looks from a user experience perspective that the e-commerce functionality is embedded right in the product. \u201cBut it\u2019s not,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger. \u201cIt\u2019s actually being delivered by a web service that\u2019s run by IT.\u00a0 We put IT offered services right into the product.\u201d\n\tWith IT providing this functionality to the Adobe product, product engineers have time to focus on customer-facing features. \u201cIt\u2019s a win-win-win,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger.\u00a0\u00a0 \u201cIT engineers are providing functionality that helps product engineers deliver products to market faster, which makes our customers happy.\u201d\n\tAdobe\u2019s business operations team is delighted as well, because all of the core systems are also consolidated; there are no shadow systems. \u201cThis kind of work shifts the mindset among our executives about the value of IT,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger.\n\tSome advice\n\tTake your time:\u00a0 According to Martin-Flickinger, you have to deliver before you ask permission to play at the bigger table.\u00a0 \u201cDo not rush into these innovative initiatives,\u201d she cautions. \u201cYou have to make that back-office sing before you move closer to the product.\u201d\n\tSend in a mole: \u201cFind one really smart engineering type in your IT organization and put them on a skunk works project with one engineer,\u201d Martin-Flickinger advises. \u201cYou need to identify an IT person who looks and smells like a product engineer; it needs to be someone the engineering people like.\u201d\u00a0 If you do this right, says Martin-Flickinger, that person will become your ambassador.\u00a0 \u201cThat way, when someone in engineering says, \u2018what do you think of involving IT in this?\u2019 the engineering team will be supportive.\u201d\n\tWhether you use a simple solution like the pie chart or something much more complex like embedding SOA in your product, your work in focusing on the strategic role of IT will pay off. \u201cI just came out of a meeting where we talked about the implication of usage-based billing for our products,\u201d says Martin-Flickinger. \u201cThat\u2019s the kind of conversation I want IT to be involved in.\u201d\n\tAbout Gerri Martin-Flickinger and Adobe\n\tAs senior vice president and chief information officer, Gerri Martin-Flickinger oversees Adobe's global Information Technology team, providing strategic direction and management for the company's IT infrastructure worldwide, including its hosted services. In partnership with the business, Martin-Flickinger also has responsibility for developing innovative enterprise solutions built with Adobe products and technologies that solve business issues and reduce IT costs.\n\tMartin-Flickinger has more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale global IT organizations for companies experiencing explosive growth through acquisition, global expansion and\/or implementing new business models. Her expertise includes leading organizations through transformational change, connecting IT to the needs of the business and aligning IT costs.\n\tBefore joining Adobe, Martin-Flickinger was CIO of VeriSign, where she oversaw corporate information technology services for the company's 60 offices worldwide. Prior to VeriSign, she served as CIO for Network Associates, Inc. and McAfee Associates, Inc. Before joining McAfee, Martin-Flickinger held several senior systems roles at Chevron Corporation, including serving as process consultant to Chevron's executive staff.\n\tMartin-Flickinger holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Washington State University.\n\tAdobe is the global leader in digital marketing and digital media solutions. Our tools and services allow our customers to create groundbreaking digital content, deploy it across media and devices, measure and optimize it over time, and achieve greater business success. We help our customers make, manage, measure, and monetize their content across every channel and screen.