Why CIOs Must Rethink How They Measure Success

Many metaphors speak of yardsticks. I always think, why not use a ruler or a protractor or some other device to measure success and failure? When it comes to IT success, Minda Zetlin has her own view of how achievement should be quantified – it has nothing to do with metaphors.

Measuring the Wrong Thing

The most striking aspect of success within large to mid-sized business is that it is measured differently by different units. A Forrester survey found that IT’s #1 metric is whether or not projects meet the business’s expectations, whereas IT ranked technology cost per business service as number four. On the business end, it was the reverse. For CMOs and CFOs, project success ranked fourth, whereas IT cost per business service was top priority. Clearly, there’s still quite a divide between the two units.

If Marketing is any Metric…

One trend that CIOs can’t ignore is the increasing spend that marketing departments require for their crucial functions. At some point in the near future, predicts Gartner, marketing technology spend will outpace IT’s. This should be simultaneously an eye opener, warning, and opportunity for IT folks. If the CIO wants to be in a position to influence business decisions in the future, he or she will need position themselves as enablers of other departments' technologies.

Change is measured by Effective Action

But what can the CIO actually do to effect a positive change in the relationship between the divided units? Zetlin gives four tips for moving a few meters in the right direction:

  • Eliminate the “Us” versus “Them” Rhetoric
  • Share the Sales Mentality
  • Share the Tech Mentality
  • Redefine “Customer”

What must change, in practice, stems from ideology. How can the division between business and IT disappear if the business regards IT as a supplemental operation while IT sees itself “working for” the business? IT is the business, is IT. Let’s move on! By virtue of this new mentality, the value of IT should be measured by how much it contributes to overall revenue growth through sales. Conversely, any risk incurred by new technologies is not “IT’s fault.” Put simply, the business needs to be accountable for every tech innovation that is put on the table. Lastly, the word “customer” is often used by IT to refer to internal (business) users only. *Ahem*, let’s not forget where the business gets its money (pointing to the outside world).

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