IT executives share insights into running IT as a business

How IT execs can communicate the cost, quality and value of IT investments to their business partners – and how this results in their C-suite colleagues recognizing IT as a respected, value-driven business- outcome organization.

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While working at BMC software, I met with many CIOs who shared their challenges with effectively communicating the value of IT to business users. If you are a CIO who has this challenge today, you missed a great opportunity to network with fellow IT executives at the Technology Business Management Council (TBMC) annual event, held in early November at the Bellagio Convention Center in Las Vegas.

At the event, IT executives shared how they communicate the cost, quality, and value of IT investments to their business partners; and how this results in their C-suite colleagues recognizing IT as a respected, value-driven business- outcome organization.

But first, let me explain the challenge. Company executives, as well as company boards, are beginning to recognize that technology needs to be a core component of their business strategy; and as such, need to understand the cost and value of IT better. However, IT executives have always struggled with communicating the value of IT to their business users. The challenge is how to translate the cost of technology (servers, people, data centers, etc.) into actionable and data management that businesses can use to make insightful decisions leading to measurable business outcomes.

Fast forward to Nov 2019 when 1800 IT executives – including Ashley Pettit (State Farm), Adriana Karaboutis (National Grid), Atticus Tysen, Sharon Hutchins and Gregory Moreau (Intuit), Chris Burger (IHG) and many others – gathered for TBMC 2019. Here they shared success stories of how companies have mastered the concepts of Technology Business Management (TBM) that enable business leaders to make smart decisions as they analyze and plan the technology investments that create new customer experiences, optimize operational processes, and even support new business models.

I attended the event as I continue my research for my next book, “Strategic IT Governance 2.0,” where collaboration is a key component to successful project discipline, process optimization and leadership excellence.

These principles build upon my last book, The Strategic CIO, which provides a four-phase transformation model for CIOs to navigate to leverage the strategic value of technology. What I found most interesting from listening to the speakers at the TBMC, was how collaboration is a key component of the APPTIO solutions they use to support the concepts of TBM. The following are some highlights from the event.

Fireside Chat: Adriana Karaboutis, Group Chief Information & Digital Officer (National Grid)

adriana karaboutis and sunny gupta Apptio

Sunny Gupta, founder and CEO of Apptio, and Adriana Karaboutis, Group Chief Information & Digital Officer, National Grid.

One of the most interesting conversations was a fireside chat with Sunny Gupta, founder and CEO of Apptio, and Adriana Karaboutis, Group Chief Information & Digital Officer, National Grid. Gupta asked Karaboutis about the challenges CIOs have in today’s digital world. Karaboutis articulated the need for greater transparency, for providing insights, and for working more effectively with business partners.

She mentioned how today, we are in a digital world where we “shape, change and disrupt” business models in how we engage with our customers. Karaboutis brought the audience to a roar when she said:

“I now tell my staff not to use words like ‘it’s a lot’ or ‘we have an issue’ or ‘it’s not that big of a problem.’ No more adjectives anymore…I just want data. Show me dashboards.”

One of Karaboutis’ key points was how company boards seek knowledge on the business value of IT. This is where CIOs can play an important role in providing awareness to company boards to help them understand the business value of IT. Her final thoughts were that CIOs need to understand how the business operates – how they make money – then find people in the business who you can benefit and go make it happen. Great advice from a seasoned business executive.

Business Value Realization: Ashley Pettit, Sr. VP and CIO (State Farm)

CIOs always are challenged to identify the business value IT provides the business. And this was Ashley Pettit’s challenge back in 2017 when her organization struggled with answering the question about how best to determine the business value of IT. One of the biggest gaps for Pettit was “understanding our cost structure” that hampered IT’s ability to measure the value provided by IT investments.

By adopting the TBM philosophy, IT was able to see identify, analyze, and determine the appropriate insights into the cost structure of applications and associated services more clearly and measure the true business value. Companies who don’t truly understand the value provided by IT limits their ability to leverage the strategic value of technology.

Pettit and her team have overcome this hurdle and are now collaborating with business leaders on how to leverage technology strategically for competitive advantage. By providing business with the true business value of IT investments. And for accomplishing this, State Farm was the recipient of the Business Value Realization award at the TBM2019 conference.

Reaching the Value Layer of IT: Chris Burger, VP Global Technology (IHG)

Burger discussed the need for “driving enterprise business value” and how IT is the business; a message I’ve been touting for years. “Our challenge is to reach the value layer and help enable business outcomes that drive value through leveraging technology.” His key messages centered around the need for effective collaboration and how IT needs to be intuitive, intelligent, and most importantly impactful in helping managers make business decisions that lead to effective business outcomes.”

As Burger entered after being introduced, he walked briskly across the stage waving a piece of paper. In his hand was 100,000 IHG hotel points he offered for bid, where the entire proceeds would go to the ZOE Foundation – an organization that funds art programs for cancer patients throughout the US. The ZOE foundation was founded by Kim Hammonds, former CIO at Deutsche Bank and Boeing, and who received the TBM2019 Lifetime Achievement Award earlier in the day. Hammond has a legacy of driving IT Transformation and enabling business outcomes through leveraging technology for competitive advantage. Hats off to Burger and IHG for doing this…and thanks to Apptio who donated over $100,000 to the ZOE foundation in past years.

Cross-Functional Partnerships Unlock Insights: Atticus Tysen, SVP & CIO, Sharon Hutchins, Director, IT Business Operations and Special Services, Gregory Moreau, Senior Manager, Finance (Intuit)

I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation by Intuit describing how collaboration formed the core of a successful implementation of the Technology Business Management framework. There are many examples of enterprise implementation that failed due to the lack of an effective cross-functional partnership within the IT organization, but Intuit mastered the formula. Through a thoughtful series of critical milestone events (kick-off events, communication transparency, value-based dashboards, enterprise-wide update meetings, etc.), Intuit succeeds at gaining new insights through custom dashboards that reflect the costs and allow them to communicate the value of IT in a language that the business can understand.

My message to all CIOs and IT executives is that you can benefit from the concepts of Technology Business Management as you strive to move from a cost center to a value-based business partner. To do so, you must look at IT financials and measure, analyze, and translate them into a language the business can understand. Only then will you be able to change the conversation from “How much is IT charging me this month” to “let’s have a conversation about how technology can improve business outcomes and drive revenue and company growth.”

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6 digital transformation success stories