Technology is one of the biggest and most important investments that any organization can make. In the past, many decisions about technology investments were made within the C-suite or demanded by other departments and IT simply complied with those requests.
But as the world has become more dependent on technology, IT has started to play a larger role in influencing technology investments and decisions. I would actually argue that IT should play a major role in helping the organization make good decisions, not just about IT and technology, but also the overall organization. Why?
Organizations need data to make decisions. Having the right data at the right time enables the organization to make good decisions. And who manages the systems and services that produce most of that data? The IT organization. Therefore, it only stands to reason that IT should be involved in most organizational decisions. But for some organizations, this means a mind shift change about the role of IT in decision-making.
The good news is that this shift doesn’t require a bigger budget, more staff, or even the encouragement of upper management. Every IT organization can start making these changes and begin to play a larger role in helping the business make data-driven decisions.
Shift the perception about the value of IT
This first step is easier said than done, but this needs to be a consistent effort for IT leaders. IT does much more than troubleshooting computer problems and keep everyone connected to WiFi.
But to shift this perception, you must be measuring outcomes not just outputs. Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve. Outputs contribute to outcomes. They are the activities that IT has accomplished, such as the number of calls to the service desk or number of influencer records.
The context of driving business value and influencing business decisions, it’s outcomes that matter more than anything. IT has to start thinking and talking in terms of business not in terms of IT. For example, if you were to say “98% availability” this doesn’t mean anything to your business colleagues. But instead, if you shifted your message to say “Provided system available to produce 10,000 products,” they can understand how IT’s work contributes to the bottom line. Look in terms of outcomes then document every outcome that IT helps achieve. Report on those outcomes and share these wins regularly with IT and the rest of the organization.
2. Follow the Value Streams
Following the value streams means understanding how value flows through an organization and identifying where there may be improvements. IT has to map the value streams. A value stream map, as defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute, is a simple diagram of every step involved in the material and information flows needed to bring a product from order to delivery.
A value stream map is a holistic view of a process so it requires everyone’s input – from IT and other departments. What is should do is identify show where there are steps in the process that don’t add value to the end goal. The objective of a value stream map is a smoother, more efficient process that the entire organization agrees on.
Mapping value streams, not just within IT, but also including other departments will help IT (and the rest of the organization) gain a clear picture of where value is created and how it reaches the end customer — and perhaps just as importantly, where it’s not reaching the customer.
3. Identify services
With value stream maps in place and a clear understanding of the business outcomes you’re working to achieve, you can then identify IT services and how those services influence and drive those business outcomes.
A service is a means of delivering value for a customer by facilitating outcomes or results that the business wants to achieve. For example, providing someone a tablet without software or network connectivity doesn’t contribute to an outcome. It’s just giving a piece of technology. But, if the tablet is part of the value chain and can help someone perform their job remotely so value continues flowing the organization, you now have completed service.
IT services should align with organizational value stream maps so that the IT contribution to co-creating value is clear. Look at the map and identify where technology enables the value stream. You need to define services that support and enable the technology or process that drives business value.
4. Experiment from ‘knowing’, not ‘guessing’
Once you start doing these first three things, you’ll begin to gather meaningful, business-relevant data. But be prepared! The data might be good. You might see where all that value is being created and clearly how value reaches the end customer. You might see that technology is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Or the data might be bad. You could see that value is leaking within the organization or that IT services aren’t effectively driving desired outcomes. More likely, you’ll see a combination of the two.
It’s important to be open to whatever data you find. The data will point you in the right direction. If the data is telling you that IT services aren’t driving the desired outcomes, it’s not a bad thing. It just presents a bigger opportunity.
This is the place of knowledge from which you can start experimenting with services, technology, and workflows. In these uncertain times as businesses continue to pivot, experimentation is going to become more mainstream, but experimentation will work best if you start from a place of knowledge.
Be willing to make changes to the defined services, the workflows in a value stream, or even the technology you use to enable these services and workflows. Continue to measure the data as you go so that you can see what actually creates a more efficient, cost-effective value stream.
You and the rest of the organization need that place of knowledge from which to start innovating. With this data, plus the understanding of how IT works with the organization, everyone can make better decisions around the use of technology, where to make investments, and how to grow the business.
When you are ready to tap into your data, I recommend downloading the CIO’s Guide to Navigating Shifting Priorities. It includes 3 of my most recent webinars (both the video and audio versions) designed to help CIOs lean into innovation, leverage what is working, and pivot along with the rest of the business. Download the guide here.Share