How to Increase IT's Value to the Business
Last week I was the keynote speaker at an event for a services organization in an energy company. I spoke on the topic of adding more value to the business. This is an important topic for IT, because it’s very easy for your organization to see itself as a cost center (or to not think about it at all).
As a CIO, you need to get every one of your IT employees to understand what it means for IT to be adding value, and what it means to them personally, in their job, to be adding value.
If your employees do not understand how the business makes money, what it sells, and how IT impacts profit, you will have a hard job leading an organization that is seen as adding value to the business.
When that happens your credibility as a CIO suffers and your job gets harder.
So what adds value?
How will your team add more value? What will they do specifically? Just saying, “Add more value,” doesn’t tell them what to do differently when they get to work in the morning.
Here are some ideas and challenges you can give your IT organization to develop a more business and value-focused view of their job and their role in the company.
Who uses my work and what do they need most?
- Who are the consumers of each piece of work that I do?
- Do they still use it? Do they still need it?
- Do they pass it on to others? What do those people need?
- Can the content I deliver be modified to be more useful or relevant?
- Can the manner in which I deliver it be improved to be more useful or relevant?
Note : Find out the answers to these questions and stop producing work no one cares about!
I know so many IT organizations that are over-busy delivering services no one uses, or delivering unnecessarily high service levels on too many things because they fail to understand the business drivers for which few services matter most, when, and why.
Don’t burn up your time and resources on things that no one cares about. Do actively learn what they find most useful, and tune what you deliver to be more valuable based on those findings.
What business outcomes does my work drive?
- What is the business outcome that happens as a result of my producing this work?
- How does my work impact profit?
- Does my work impact quality, innovation, efficiency, competitiveness, cost reduction, process improvement, sales effectiveness, etc.?
- Can I tune my work to create a better or different business outcome?
Note : If you can’t connect your work to a business outcome, you are in danger of being irrelevant.
If you are not relevant you are not adding enough value. You need to stay educated on the most important outcomes the business is driving and make sure IT stays connected with or ahead of them.
Even for the parts of IT that are strictly a cost center providing an internal service, you need to find ways to improve efficiency or usefulness. That impacts profit and that adds value.
What does my work cost?
- How much does it cost the company for me to do this work?
- Can it be done for less?
- What happens to my work after it's delivered?
- What are the downstream costs of the things that I do?
- Who else does my work cause work or costs for?
- Is there a way to make my work more efficient for others?
Note : Improve the business outcomes of your work, not just delivering the work.
Always find ways to take out cost. If you produce 50 reports, maybe 20 higher quality reports would do? (Everyone will like 20 reports better than 50 anyway!)
If you do things manually or in a chaotic reactive mode, how many people are impacted by this? How can you create a process to streamline the work, make it less complicated, and require fewer touch points, questions, or follow-ups?
What has changed?
- What has changed in the market since I started this job?
- What has changed in our customers' business since I started this job?
- What has changed in our competitors' business since I started this job?
- What has changed inside our company since I started this job?
- Do these changes require a change in the way my job is done?
Note : If you are not evolving your job, you will no longer be qualified when the game changes.
Or you will be doing the wrong job, and your job will get eliminated. Be the one to recommend changing your job to meet the evolving business needs, not the other way around.
Does scale matter?
- How much has the company grown since I started this job?
- How much does the company plan to grow in the future?
- What still works in the way I do my job if the company is much bigger?
- Which things about how I do my job don't work if the company is bigger?
Note : When companies get bigger all the jobs change.
You can’t keep using the same way of working. It doesn’t scale. You need to be the one to build a new process that will scale or ... you can be the one who gets pushed aside by someone with experience at a bigger company.
How do I help others (and therefore myself)?
- What can I do to communicate better?
- How can I share more knowledge?
- How can I teach someone to be more effective?
- How can I help someone step into a bigger role?
- How can I help someone believe that something bigger is possible for them?
Note : If you are not helping others, you are not adding enough value.
The other upside is that helping others can put a meaning into an otherwise unfulfilling job. If you are feeling unsatisfied about being in a corporate role that doesn’t make enough difference in the world -- help someone. When you help someone else, you change the world for that person and yourself.
I see a lot of people thinking that answering these questions is not part of their job. They wait for others to answer them, and await new instructions from their manager.
It’s dangerous to rely on your job description to tell you what to do, or to wait for your manager to tune your job along the way. It’s much safer (and your are adding more value) when you do it yourself.
Take that weight off your manager. If you can get more people in your IT organization thinking like business people, and personally caring to add more value, the value of IT in your company will increase substantially.
Yes, you need to do your job, but you also to think about how to improve the way your job is done. Don’t wait to be asked or directed. You decide what needs to get done to drive the future goals and continue to add the most value. Sort it out on your own and make a recommendation.
That’s what high performers do.
Patty Azzarello is an executive, author, speaker and business advisor. She is known for being straightforward, practical and non-annoying. Patty became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33. She ran HP's $1B OpenView software business at the age of 35, and was the CEO of an IT software company, Euclid Software, at the age of 38.