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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.
In a recent CIO.com article, Mike Sisco described business value as including five very specific things:
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.”
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?
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:
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.
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