Demonstrating the business value of information technology (IT) to the rest of the organization is a challenge for many a chief information officer (CIO), says a Telus Corp. executive.
Kevin Salvadori, executive vice-president of business transformation and CIO at Scarborough-based Telus, sat down on Tuesday for a one-on-one with IT World Canada’s John Pickett, vice-president and editorial director, during a ‘CIO Canada Frankly Speaking’ breakfast in Toronto.
The event – that drew other industry CIOs – centred on best practices to effectively align IT with the direction of the business.
An essential pre-requisite for achieving this, Salvadori says, is that CIOs learn to better market IT’s wares. Quite often, he says, IT is perceived as the organization’s support group or supplier. In fact, it is “an enabler of business strategy” – and this needs to be demonstrated.
“It’s important to frame your strategy in terms of what’s important to your business partners,” he says – as opposed to painting the picture that IT exists solely for IT’s sake.
One way this can be done, says Salvadori, is by explaining the business value of IT’s deliverables in terms of a tangible return on investment (ROI).
For instance, he says, a plan to shorten the average product development cycle from 12-15 months to 90 days will offer an outcome that’s clearly relevant to the business.
However, the ability to align IT and business often depends on fostering the right relationships, too. Specifically, it involves collaborating with business partners, says Salvadori.
“I don’t think that if you build this wall between IT and business, you’ll be successful in driving the change.”
CIOs should first acquaint themselves with the organization’s strategy and understand how IT supports it, he suggests. Then, they should take advantage of opportunities – whether they are one-on-one discussions or senior leadership meetings – to convey that approach.
“Then they’ll see the direct tie. It’s a key tip that’s worked well for me,” says Salvadori.
However, it has often been the case that IT has to first prove its position before it can begin to contribute to business strategies, he says.
Consistently delivering on projects and maintaining IT systems will pave the way, says Salvadori. “Those are foundation points to earn the right to have value-added discussions.”
While delivering on promises can earn IT credibility, part of aligning IT with the business can be as simple as semantics, says the CIO. He cites his own group’s name – ‘business transformation’ – that explicitly relays a function with clear ties to the business.
“This immediately conveys a different connotation from what IT has traditionally been perceived as.”
The discussion also addressed the business value of Integrated Communication Technology (ICT) – an emerging area in many organizations.
Specifically, the CIOs shared thoughts and ideas about the relationship between ICT and employee engagement and productivity, and how this could drive a business value conversation.
And given that CIOs must ensure IT architecture consistently aligns with business strategy, it’s crucial to be able to measure whether this relationship exists, says Salvadori.
To that end, Telus – in collaboration with Toronto-based analyst firm IDC Canada Ltd. – designed a self-assessment tool that organizations can use to ensure its investments are supporting the business.
Business Value of Integrated Communications Solutions (BVIC) measures the investments that organizations are making in technology and communication applications.