• United States



by Jonathan Poe

Value Performance: Achieving Consistent Communication

Feb 12, 20036 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

While CIOs convey clear and crisp messages to their executive colleagues, their staffs are often not as coordinated. To avoid the perception of double-talk and mixed messages, CIOs should establish straightforward messaging plans that are tightly aligned with specific IT initiatives.

META Trend: As the IT organization’s role moves beyond efficiency

to business effectiveness, CIOs will have four primary objectives

in 2003:

  1. Inculcating value management into IT culture;
  2. Using IT portfolio management as a communication and investment vehicle;
  3. Developing human capital management processes that increase IT employee productivity;
  4. Ensuring that core IT processes are singular, understood, consistent, and scalable.

By 2004/05, 50 percent of IT groups will move beyond cost center status to dynamic planning, enterprise architecture development, IT asset management, and business relationship management.

IT organizations (ITOs) are team-based. Clearly, no IT person can perform all the necessary work alone, and no IT executive can start and sustain tight business/IT relationships alone. Experienced CIOs recognize their most valuable constituencies and employ value management processes to continually categorize, capture, and communicate IT organization values. Currently, fewer than 2 percent of Global 2000 (G2000) firms employ a well-defined value management set of processes. By 2005, 45 percent-plus of G2000 firms will employ basic value management processes that include communication plans and value scorecards. As more CIOs find that they cannot perform value management alone, they will create team-based IT marketing plans, programs, brands, and resources.

Through 2009, marketing will mature as an IT discipline. Our research indicates that the current 8 percent of G2000 CIOs with customer-centricity as their primary focus will increase to 40 percent by late 2008. As their tenures increase, more CIOs will recognize the importance of informing while performing and transforming. As more ITOs become “businesses within the business,” they will establish branding programs, public relations campaigns, business relationship manager roles, and detailed customer care strategies.

In addition to developing a customer advocacy center-of-excellence, CIOs create communication plans and procedures as part of the value management process (See Chart 1):

  • Key stakeholders
  • Current level of the relationship
  • Desired level of the relationship
  • Objectives needing fulfillment to improve the relationship
  • Communication vehicles (to the stakeholder)

Key Stakeholders. As exemplified via quick informal polls, these constituencies should always be top-of-mind. Marketing-savvy CIOs frequently test their direct reports, project leaders, and customer-facing personnel on whether they recognize and unanimously agree on who the top three or five stakeholders are for that specific time period. Key stakeholders can change over time and according to organizational priorities. One common mistake is having shareholder lists among IT personnel that are not identical or in identical order. Without a list of key stakeholders, coordinating messages to targeted recipients is an ad hoc activity.

Current Level of the Relationship. IT leaders should be familiar with the current relationship levels (none, basic, preferred, and strategic), their definitions (See Chart 2), and their causes. Not all stakeholders perceive the ITO in the same way, and IT capabilities are not uniform for each stakeholder. World-class CIOs assess both these factors when determining the level of relationship with the customer. Tools such as the META Group Capability/Dependency Matrix are helpful in graphically depicting customer differences and the actions necessary to increase credibility and perception.

When customers are perceived as identical, communication and work become more coordinated, clear, and consistent. Common errors include inconsistent individual perceptions (versus the team’s overall perception), divergent views, and different starting points. When all members of a team start from the same baseline, stronger foundations for relationships and value management are built, and less rework is required.

Desired Level of the Relationship. Although most ITOs desire strategic relationships with all their lines of business, our research indicates that merely moving basic relationships to preferred status creates tremendous IT value. Because relationships are economic and symbiotic, they should be tailored to have the appropriate degree of mutual dependency. Relationships should not be one-way, or beneficial to just one party. If lines of business perceive little or no dependency on IT, an appropriate strategy is to form a basic relationship for IT services until trust and respect can be established. When teams have the same goal and start from the same baseline, execution is swift and sturdy. Teams can also quickly measure progress and communicate stakeholder alignment.

Objectives Needing Fulfillment to Improve the Relationship. After determining the gap between desired and current levels of relationships, experienced CIOs construct specific plans to improve IT credibility and business perceptions. These initiatives often take the form of projects, ongoing work, resource allocations, assigned responsibilities, and documented service-level agreements. Team-based execution requires understanding how individual activities integrate into the common mission. Common blunders are for teammates to not have the same list, order, or composition of objectives. When using a common set of objectives, individuals are more likely to behave as a team. In addition, with the same set of objectives, as individuals finish tasks, they are able to quickly move on to other tasks and complete those, requiring less tactical direction and minimizing “downtime.”

Communication Vehicles (to the Stakeholder). Top-notch CIOs use all communication channels available to communicate the value of the IT organization. Frequently applied vehicles include IT product and services catalogs, status reports, meetings between account managers and clients, databases for frequently asked questions, internal IT Web sites, superuser meetings, informal lunches, one-on-one executive sessions, new product demonstrations, and policy directives. In focusing on completing work, project leaders often overlook communicating progress or interim achievements. Having written repositories of the communication channels available to celebrate successes increases the likelihood and frequency of communicating accomplishments.

Communication plans ensure that CIOs leverage all available communication vehicles and voices toward communicating the ITO’s value. Without nearly identical messaging, customers will question the precision of all messages, eventually leading to declining IT and CIO credibility. World-class CIOs recognize that good, active communication requires anticipation of how imprecise listening can occur, and that even good executors can be inconsistent in their communication. Robust communication enables clarification of that ambiguity to ensure precise messaging. Through good communication, relationships form, grow, and strengthen, as does business/IT alignment.

Business Impact: Precise and proper IT value communication fosters tighter business/IT group integration, making it easier to collaborate and communicate.

Bottom Line: Without synchronized value management, CIOs cannot increase their credibility. With well-defined communication channels/systems, CIOs can install, intensify, and inculcate processes that reinforce dynamic business/IT alignments.

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