What is “value?”
Think back to the last time you made a major purchase, like a car. Why did you choose the car you did? Perhaps it was because of the features installed on the car, like a satellite radio or a retractable moon roof. Perhaps you have a long commute to and from work, so you bought your car because of its high fuel efficiency rating. Maybe it was because you wanted a performance car. Perhaps you needed the ability to seat six people or occasionally carry some cargo or larger items. Maybe you bought your car strictly based on price.
Whatever the reason, you bought the car based on what you value. And for some, you were willing to pay more to have what you value in a car.
The point is that value is a perception. What is valuable to you might or might not be valuable to someone else. But this difference in perception doesn’t make one right or wrong. In fact, they’re both right.
Perhaps this is why some IT organizations struggle to describe how they deliver value. Those IT organizations describe value in terms of technology or activities or cost, and not in terms of business value.
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What Is Business Value?
In a recent CIO.com article, Mike Sisco described business value as including five very specific things:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease cost
- Improve productivity
- Differentiate the company
- Improve client satisfaction
Does your IT organization have a role in delivering these five things? Absolutely it does. But does your organization know what IT does to deliver business value? Unfortunately, in many businesses the answer is “No.”
IT Has to Toot Its Own Horn!
Here’s the thing. It’s not the fault of our business colleagues that they don’t know what IT does to deliver value. Let’s face it, our business colleagues are focused on doing their respective jobs, not what IT is doing. I would argue that IT has to educate the business it serves regarding how IT delivers value.
But to do so means that IT has to become comfortable tooting its own horn. IT has to tell its own business value story. Because if IT doesn’t tell its story, someone else will—and IT may not like what is being said. But many of us in IT are not comfortable tooting our own horn because it takes us out of our comfort zone. We resort to talking about IT in terms of bits, bytes, number of tickets, and other factoids that have no relevancy to the business.
The other thing that gets in the way of telling the business value story is that IT has a tendency to only share “bad news.” We talk about outages. We talk about failed changes. And much like a wildfire, bad news spreads quickly.
And while we in IT have to deal with these kinds of issues, is this all that we deal with? Of course not. There’s a lot of great work that is being done inside of IT, but many IT organizations struggle when it comes to talking about that great work. Is it because those in the IT organization aren’t sure of what is valued by the business?
It All Starts with Your Organization’s MVG
Helping your business realize IT value first begins with IT understanding what the business values.
How can you find out what the business values? A powerful way to learn what the business values is by reviewing your organization’s MVG, or Mission, Vision, and Goals.
When it comes to telling your business value story, the closer you can relate what IT is doing to the organization’s MVG, the more successful you will be in telling your story. Here are three ways to tell your business value story:
Define a Strategic Framework. I described the strategic framework in a previous post for HDI. When you develop the strategic framework for an initiative, it does two things to help IT tell its business value story:
- It answers the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question for each IT stakeholder group.
- It enables business-like conversations with senior leaders regarding how IT initiatives help the organization achieve its MVG.
Capture the Voice of the Customer (VoC) and Define Critical to Quality (CTQ). This is a Lean IT concept that helps the IT organization and business colleagues define and agree on what is most important for the delivery of value. The VoC captures what business colleagues require as well as what would be “nice to have.” Then, using the VoC as input, CTQ then helps business colleagues and IT mutually agree on what is the right mix of those requirements and “nice to haves” that would result in value.
Define Services in Terms of VOCR. Defining services in terms of Value, Outcomes, Cost, and Risk (VOCR) is the most important and effective way for IT to discuss its business value. Unfortunately, many organizations define and promote their IT services in terms of things or activities, such as ordering a new laptop or resetting passwords. While these activities are certainly important, it actually devalues IT by depicting IT as a “order taker.” And honestly, setting up a new laptop or resetting passwords can be done by anyone. If these kinds of things are what you’ve defined as your services, your service catalog really doesn’t articulate or differentiate the value of your IT department. Defining IT services in terms of business value and outcomes enables a completely different discussion about IT. The discussion is no longer about what technology, but how the value and outcomes resulting from the use of technology enables business functions and processes. Defining services in terms of VOCR enables the organization to directly map what IT does delivers to business results.
Just Telling Your Story Is Not Enough
While telling your business value story is important, just telling your story is not enough. IT also has to deliver, not just demonstrate business value. Back up your words with measurable, impactful actions. Telling your story, backed up by action, makes IT credible and trustworthy.
IT has to deliver, not just demonstrate business value.
Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than 20 years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow Doug on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.