Show Me the Money in IT

Last week I was approached by a prospective customer who was struggling to get buy-in from their senior leadership team for a project they would like to start. I asked her, “what’s the value of your project?” and she proceeded to tell me about how much the project would help the organization and the huge impact it would have on their internal customers.

After listening for a bit, I agreed with her reasoning, but what was missing was the financial value of the project and how it helped external customers as well. These are the two things her business truly cared about. Often times in IT, we have great ideas that never get fully realized because the full business case is not presented. More importantly, there is not a very good way to prove the business case when the project is over.

In other cases, projects do get approved, but never finish. This puts an additional financial burden on the IT organization and pulls resources away from other “valuable” projects that would finish and provide higher value to the organization. However, most of the IT organizations I speak with do not fully understand the true cost of unfinished projects. Clearly, an unfinished project has no value to the business.

Why do IT organizations struggle so much with talking to the business? It’s exactly just that, they talk TO the business. IT organizations and even some IT best practices (i.e. ITIL) have talked about ALIGNING with the business. Alignment is an interesting word. Alignment generally means to work in parallel. In order to be fully successful and prove value, IT organizations have to be INTEGRATED with the business. IT organizations generally struggle in speaking with the business because they talk in technology terms and not in business terms. Start shadowing your business customers. Learn what it is to be in their shoes and understand what is important to them. Meet with your business counterparts and see how the business is actually managed and how IT can help. This is especially true for commercial enterprises, but the same is important regardless of the type of industry. Public institutions should care about cost and the ways costs are allocated to ensure money is being spent in the right places, instead of spending our tax dollars on unfinished projects. In comes the discipline of Technology Business Management (TBM).

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