The typical workday looks much different today than it did just a few months ago. Instead of driving to work and walking into the building, employees are going online and signing in to their messaging or collaboration tools.
Instead of physically taking a document to a client for a signature, they’re being sent digitally for electronic signatures.
Instead of popping into an office, managers are checking in with employees via texts, instant messages, and video calls.
As many businesses continue to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that technology is keeping the business together. Because of this, IT has to move into a more strategic role. For years, experts have been advising IT leaders to take their seat at the strategy table and be involved in the larger business decisions. Many IT leaders have jumped at this opportunity while others have struggled to figure out how to demonstrate IT’s ability to be more than a support function.
This shift of IT from a support function into a strategic partner can start with a simple shift. The shift from focusing on outputs to outcomes can make a world of difference for IT organizations.
Outcomes vs. Outputs
Let’s begin by addressing the difference between outputs and outcomes.
Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. They are quantitative and easily measured.
Outputs could include:
- Moving files and documents into the cloud
- Closing tickets in record times
- Installing new technology
Many IT organizations measure outputs as a way to illustrate their productivity and value. The thinking is that the more outputs they complete, the more the rest of the business will see IT as being valuable.
While outputs are important, outputs only tell part of the story. The real measure of value is the outcomes that are enabled by those outputs. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve.
Outcomes are business objectives such as:
- Increased market share
- Higher customer satisfaction scores
- Increased profits
For example, the outcome of moving computing capability to the cloud is a more mobile and flexible work environment. The output enables the outcome. For every output IT is completing, the CIO must know and communicate what the business is now able to do as a result, or outcome, of that output.
That means before listing an output on a project list, IT managers must ask: “What outcome is this going to enable?”
By doing this, you can cut down on the amount of busywork or projects that are not contributing to the bottom line. It will also show what outputs are ineffective. In some cases, IT delivers an output that doesn’t enable or deliver any real business outcomes. If this is the case, you’ll need to review the output and determine if it is truly needed.
This shift may also show that some of your metrics and KPIs are ineffective ways of measuring IT’s performance. For example, if your team has a high first-contact resolution rate but employees are still reporting poor service, then the first-contact resolution rate isn’t a good indicator of your performance.
How to Make This Shift
What do IT leaders need to do this to make this shift in their organizations?
Build Business Relationships
IT leaders need to understand the outcomes the business wants to achieve. They should seek out key stakeholders and have regular conversations about their technology needs and their goals and objectives. This will allow IT leaders to begin to see the end-to-end value of their outputs and initiatives.
Define and Map Services
Once you know the desired outcomes, you can map IT services to them. Map how the outcomes of your services connect to business objectives.
It’s not enough to simply list off the number of outputs your team completes each month. Engage your stakeholders to identify outcomes and how an output contributes to an outcome.
The Future of IT
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that IT has no choice but to evolve now. The way we work will be changed forever. Even when businesses return to the office, there will be different expectations around flexibility and how technology enables flexible mobile workforces. The business will want to be prepared for the future, should anything like this happen again and they’ll be looking at IT to help plan and prepare for those possibilities.
CIOs and IT leaders must approach their goals and initiatives differently if they want to rightfully play a leadership role in their organizations. Connecting IT outputs to business outcomes enables IT leaders to help shape the future of their organizations.Share