What goes around comes around. Just when we were on the point of convincing our chief executives that we were an investment worth investing in, along came a recession, and once again our top three priorities are justification: that we understand business, that we add value to the bottom line, that we deserve to exist.
How can we do these, fast?
When faced with this position, tinkering will do nothing, one has to go deeper. Complaining will not do us much good, either.
We must act. It is time for positive, powerful and proactive action. Time to stand up and be counted, to announce that we, and everyone in our department will, from this moment on, be measured against the return on investment they bring for the organisation.
Financial priorities will remain at the top of chief executives' agendas for some time. Recession, project delivery, staff costs, budget expenditure, all combine to support the view that IT is there to take, and not to add - a drain on natural resources.
And our experiences with the Y2K and dotcoms have not appeased our bosses.
This has to change. IT leaders must decide to measure the real ways they and their departments are adding real value to the business, at every level. They must find ways to prove that they are all, fundamentally, business people.
The IT director who is serious about delivering a quantifiable and measurable return on investment must do many things differently:
- Be absolutely clear where you are going, and unite your team behind that clear, concise and compelling future - and do this fast. If your company does not know where it is going, take the lead
- Create outstanding measurement, reporting and communicating infrastructures - find out the key things people need to know and deliver them fast
- Provide a clear contract (service charter) setting out what you will deliver, and when - forget service level agreements
- Put in information systems that track the use of desktops/PCs - and quantify the value they bring by keeping track of PC applications
- Market the IT department through powerful interpersonal relationships, at all levels - make sure people catch you doing things right -perception is everything
- Quantify the real costs, benefits and ownership for all projects - every project is a business project, there is no such thing as an IT project
- Relate everything you do, and plan to do, directly with the company's bottom line - this includes ensuring your IT people use business language and not technology jargon, all day, every day
- And make your chief executive your best friend (whether you like or dislkie him or her is not relevant). Invite him or her to dinner at your house.
Focus on these areas and lead the transformation.
All IT services come down to a fine balance, between what a company wants and what it can achieve. Achieve this, and you will focus on business first, and be at the heart of your organisation.
David Taylor is president of IT directors organisation Certus and author of The Naked Leader