Forrester: Déjà  Vu All Over Again, Or Why CIOs Still Fail At Communicating Value

ATN-300InsightaaS: Forrester Research is one of the world’s leading IT analyst firms — it is generally thought to be a key source of insight into and influence over use of new technologies. The company’s blog page acts as a “roll-up” of blogs by its analysts. Today’s post is a little unusual for two reasons, and typical in a third. One of the unusual factors is that the post relatively old – it dates back to February, but I somehow missed it in the months between then and now. A second unusual feature is that unlike most blog posts, it isn’t really a  first-party perspective: in it, Peter Burris (who is not typically shy of first-party perspective!) is quoting CIO coach Karen Rubenstrunk. What is typical is that the post contains important insight for It management. Rubenstrunk believes that “CIOs who suffer from a supposed inability to make the value case with their business partners are usually looking for the set of unassailable metrics or the great business case or the perfect communications plan, while those who have mastered the value issue have set their efforts squarely on maturing the relationships with their partners and the underlying perceptions that support those relationships.” She goes on to explain that effective connections between IT and business management are formed across two axes: the business’s perception of its dependence on technology, and its perception of the competence of technology management. She believes that generally, IT managers are positioned as “supporting the business” – relatively low on these dimensions – rather than “strategic partners” who score high in both areas. Effective CIOs, Rubenstrunk argues, act as educators to the business, while ensuring that they have created “a clear and compelling [technology] value statement” within the IT organization.

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…

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