What is the Value of IT?
IT provides a lot of value to the organizations it serves. We all know that; we see and live it each and every day. Most of the organizations we work with could not function effectively without what IT provides. That includes hardware, software, services, and resources. It's so integral in so many aspects that it's hard to image it not existing within organizations. But yet, are we truly more productive as organizations (generally) and individuals (debatable) because of IT? That can be debated in many different ways, and each could probably be correct. But it does lend itself to a question: What is the value of IT? That's what I want to explore this month.
We work with a lot of different types of organizations. Our customers are in media, finance, insurance, state and local government, healthcare, charities, higher education, and many others. Many different types of organizations in many different types of industries. But all have commonality: They are all dependent upon IT. That dependency helps dictate IT's value overall to the organization. And that value can vary widely between organizations.
IT, in all of its forms, (hardware, software, process, resources, services, etc.) is simply tools. Tools to help an organization do what they do better. Yes, there certainly are organizations that exist solely because of IT, but it's still a tool that is subservient to the needs of the business. And being tools, their purpose is to serve the organization by providing value. To help a manufacturer manufacture better. To help an insurance company be a better insurance company. To help a university be a better university.
If IT doesn't help to accomplish that, then what's its purpose? That's a conversation that my colleagues and I routinely have with our customers. Since we are in IT, we admit we like IT and technology. That a reason we all chose this profession. But for most organizations, they don't really care about the technology. They care about how that technology services the needs of their organization. Very simple and we all know it, but it's so true. We routinely speak with our customers on it: If your IT doesn’t provide value, then why invest in it?
When it comes to value and the perception of value, what does that really mean? For each organization that might mean something different. But what is most important? Email, Wi-Fi, network, servers & storage, availability of business applications; all of them; some of them; which? It depends. For some it's all out how using IT will differentiate them from their competitors to provide them with a competitive advantage. For others it's just making sure the technology is up and running. So the value pendulum can swing wildly.
Some value is what I can "forced value" versus voluntary or planned value. Organizations that are heavily regulated, such and financial and healthcare institution are required to have their IT provide value just to remain compliant. That forces value. In how they use and protect data, in how they interact with their customers, and how they project their corporate image and brand to the world. This is important value, to be sure, but in many cases it's something that they have to do.
There are organizations that still see IT as a liability and cost center versus something strategic that can help drive value and differentiate themselves out in the market place. They see it as money being spent versus invested smartly. Again, a different perspective around value. I strongly believe that money well spent on IT can produce dividends and provide strong value. Perhaps we are bit biased given what we do, but we see firsthand the value received through IT. Conversely we also see the challenges that organizations face when IT does not provide expected value. When it doesn't do what it's expected to do.
A trend we continue to see is where CEO's are tasking CIO's with driving value through IT. CEO's are asking (and demanding) how IT is going to help make money and drive strategic value, versus just being a cost center. I believe it's great move. It causes people to truly reflect on what IT can do, versus just being technology that is just there to fill a need. IT can be much more valuable and it requires leadership and vision to help drive it to being strategically important. It's can also require a change in culture as well. But a good change.
How can organizations do that and why would they? Value, of course, can be found in different types of hardware, software, services and resources. Some see more value in strong hardware or cloud platforms to run their business applications. Some need software tools and efficient processes to help drive value within their environment. Some need services and resources to tie it all together to ensure optimum value. Most need a combination to find the value that they need.
You've heard me say before but this absolutely where good partners can help. A good partner can help you find the value in your IT. In the hardware, in the software, in the services and resources to help you understand and realize the value that can be expected. Good partners bring the experience of working with lots of different types of organizations who have similar challenges. As the saying goes: they've been there and done it before. There is enormous value in that. There is undeniable value in hearing from and working with a partner that has helped many organizations with similar challenges and issues. I believe they also should be proactive in wanting to tell you about where they've done it before. That is the mark of a good partner. Not necessarily what they can do (but that is of course, important), but where they've done it before. That's powerful. That brings the value out of IT. In a way that is valuable specifically to them.
Getting value out of your IT (in all forms: HW, SW, services, resources) is critical, otherwise why invest in it? Also recognize that that value can change and most likely will grow over time. That's a good thing, which means the organization is growing and its needs evolving. And IT can be there to help if it's approached and done right. It's our job as a partner to ensure our customers are doing it right and seeing value, and it's up to our customers to embrace and see the value of IT. That value will lead to business success. And there's lots of value in that.
Until next month.