Secret Sauce for the CIO – More Visibility Provides More Control

December 16, 2015

Imagine if you were asked to drive a car that looked just like a normal car, but when you sat in the drivers seat it was missing the steering wheel and dashboard. The car was turned on, the gearshift engaged in “drive,” and the gas tank full. You were told, “go ahead and hit the gas, let us know when you get there.” You would think that this is crazy – someone is going to get injured, right? (It might even be you.)

This is very akin to how many CIOs are feeling while driving their IT portfolios. The #1 piece of feedback that we get from CIOs is that they need to figure out where the inefficiencies are in the portfolio, and how their technology investments deliver business value to support corporate strategic imperatives. They want to be able to tune up the engine and make the most out of limited resources.

Unfortunately, the project management systems and spreadsheets that are in use today provide very little visibility into how IT investments support strategy, or whether the CIO is getting the most bang for their buck. They are designed for executing projects – ensuring that all of the gears work together to move the car forward. The CIO is left to stare down at this gearshift and yet is trying to answer for senior executives and the board where he or she will drive the car, and if it is possible to drive it in a way that delivers success, beats the competition, delivers profitability, is agile, etc..

Ultimately, the steering wheel of a car enables the operator to guide the car (the resources under his/her control) towards a destination which was selected for a particular reason. Similarly, the technology portfolio needs to be guided in a way that enables the driver, or CIO, to strategically prioritize what aspects of the portfolio most deliver towards the objectives, and provides the most bang for the buck when doing so.

But unlike a car, an IT portfolio is much more complex. There are multiple and different reasons that each project needs to be executed. There are many stakeholders involved, often with competing priorities. IT projects have dependencies on one another for completion, and scheduling this complex dance to deliver the capabilities in the timeframes required while using resources judiciously is a difficult problem at best. This is something that the “gearshift” was not designed to handle. It requires executive collaboration, the ability to strategically prioritize and to quantify both tangible and intangible objectives, and to run scenarios to test various assumptions and to look at how the outcomes change. A rigorous methodology with the aid of advanced algorithms can alleviate these issues – use technology such as Decision Lens to drive topspin and trajectory of the IT portfolio investments.

For the CIO, 5 key questions:

  • Do you have visibility into the inefficiencies within your IT portfolio? If you believe that you do, how are you measuring value?
  • How, specifically, does your IT portfolio contribute towards strategic imperatives? Are you able to explain why you made specific resourcing tradeoffs and scheduling plans to deliver the capabilities in the way that you have them programmed in the plan?
  • Can you hold your team to account for the efficiency and contributions of the portfolio, or are they able to play an easy shell game because nobody has the necessary visibility and transparency across the portfolio?
  • Is your team able to articulate how and why the investments that they are recommending deliver to the organization and at the same time are the best bang for the buck compared to the things they elected not to fund?
  • Are you allocated towards both “running of the business” and “transformation” in the right relative amounts in order to stay ahead of the competitive curve?