A brand is a promise: Building IT brand impact

Several times a year Gartner Executive Programmes conducts an academy for experienced CIOs. This year I had the immense pleasure of attending a Gartner CIO Academy in Oxford. This live-in event was conducted over four days and attracted 30 very experienced IT leaders from 16 different countries. During one very lively conversation between participants, the conversation turned to the reputation of IT within the organisation and how poorly this aspect of the relationship with the organisation is managed.

Patrick Meehan, a Gartner research director whose CIO career was with the prestige fashion brand Louis Vuitton, recently led some exciting research on the branding of IT. The underlying tenet of Patrick's findings was that a brand is a promise -- and that IT leaders need to maximise their business impact with a strong IT value promise.

What is this elusive thing called brand? And how does it apply to an IT organisation? A brand is most definitely not a logo, or a vision statement, or even a derivative of the IT strategy. A brand is a perception and a promise. It is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or company. A brand is defined by a perception, good or bad, that your customers or prospects have about you. One CIO Patrick interviewed said: "CIOs need to remember that if they don't build their own brand, it will be built for them ... reputation management is essential".

The most recent Gartner CIO survey revealed surprisingly low levels of digitisation of the front office -- technology deployed in marketing, sales or product development that drives revenue, user engagement, or development and bundling of new products and services.

This finding contrasts starkly with data gathered from Gartner CEO and Board surveys -- which clearly show that business leaders expect technology to power the business's success in driving new models of engagement, creating new products and services and entering new markets.

For the business to succeed in the current tumultuous environment, IT needs to step up. Until now, IT has rarely been seen as a credible provider of business solutions. IT's ability to make this move comes down to a branding problem. IT must be seen as an innovator -- moving into the front office and powering new business solutions.

Your current IT brand has been formed over time by combinations of how you engage with your colleagues, how you contribute to your business, how you establish your IT agenda and how your contribution is perceived.

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The following is a very quick and informative assessment of your current IT brand. Answer it candidly to determine your current brand position.


We listen to our colleagues 1

We engage our colleagues 2

We educate our colleagues 3


We gather needs 1

We look for opportunities 2

We propose business solutions 3


The business tells us what to do 1

We tell the business what it should do 2

We collaborate and then just do it 3


We are a cost centre 1

We are a service centre 2

We are considered to be a value centre 3

Now add up your scores. Here is the relationship between your score and your how your business partners perceive you.

" 4 -- 7: Mired in supply-side IT with reactive demand management

" 8 -- 11: Mired in supply-side IT with limited proactive demand management

" 12: Fully engaged in business solutions; ready to move on to the front office

Knowing your current brand is an important first step in any rectification process. The second step is understanding what this means in terms of your IT organisation's current status on the relationship journey.

All IT brand categories are not equal. They range from arms-length transactional relationships to close partnerships. Gartner proposes that four types typically exist:

At risk: Where the CIO and IT deliver below business expectations. Credibility and trust are very low, and the only focus is improving IT service delivery to achieve satisfaction. This relationship type is not sustainable.

Transactional: Where the CIO is viewed as delivering to enterprise needs, with the business leaders and CIO engaging mostly on functional issues related to delivery of services that help the business run. Most relationships are here.

Partnering: Where the CIO has achieved credibility for IT service delivery, engages the CEO and business unit leaders on business issues, and leads some business initiatives, such as enterprise wide program management or business process improvement.

Trusted ally: Where the CIO behaves as, and is viewed as, a true business leader, leading significant proportions of the business. This relationship type is still relatively rare.

Assessing your current IT brand and understanding your current position on the relationship journey are vital in terms of planning IT brand and maximising your business impact with a strong value promise.

Linda Price is group vice-president, executive programmes, Gartner. Email comments to Linda.price@gartner.com

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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