One of my colleagues, Karen Rubenstrunk, is a principal advisor for our CIO Executive Program. I’ve known Karen for close to 20 years; she is a superior CIO coach. Recently, we found ourselves discussing the challenges CIOs have communicating business value. Here is Karen’s point of view:
If you’ve been around tech management as long as I have, at some point you’ve had the conversation that keeps on giving (like heartburn): how to better communicate the value of technology to the business.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve continued to wonder why we keep having this conversation over and over and over.
At a recent CIO Group Member Meeting, I found myself drawn into this conversation yet again — and being the lone dissenter in the room about what to do about it. While we kept talking about which new technologies or recent economic trends were making the task of communicating value so difficult, I’ve learned that the real problem isn’t technical, it’s personal: CIOs need to focus on perceptions and invest in the power of personal relationships with business peers.
Perceptions Drive Value
Technology’s perceived value to the institution is directly related to the maturity of the relationship between technology management and other functional managers and their teams, and that relationship is built on two fundamental perceptions: 1) the business’ perception of its dependence on technology, and 2) the business’ perception of technology management competence (see figure below).
I recently had the chance to spend some quality time with Dell in Singapore at their event for Forrester analysts in the Asia Pacific region. As Dell is a company traditionally known for its hardware products, I had low expectations – to date, few of my CIO clients would consider Dell a “strategic” supplier.
However, I was pleasantly surprised – Dell is reinventing itself from a PC and server supplier into an IT solutions provider. The benefits of the acquisition of Perot Systems and various software assets in North America and around the globe are starting to pay dividends in Asia Pacific.
As a late entrant into many of the newer markets they play in, they have the rare advantage of being able to do things differently – both from a solution and a pricing standpoint. From data centre transformation through legacy migration and application modernisation, to networking solutions, Dell is attempting to be disruptive player in the market – simplifying processes that were typically human-centric, and automating capabilities to reduce the overall burden of owning and running infrastructure.
Their strategy is to stay close to what they know – much of their capability is linked directly to infrastructure – but their open, modular, and somewhat vendor agnostic approach is in direct opposition to the “vendor lock-in” solutions that many of the other major vendors push.