Category Archives: CIO
With the increasing importance of enterprise analytics, the question becomes who should own the analytics and data agenda. This question really matters today because, according to Thomas Davenport, “business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation.” For this reason, Davenport even suggests that businesses that create a sustainable right to win use analytics to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”.
The CFO is the logical choice?
In talking with CIOs about both enterprise analytics and data, they are clear that they do not want to become their company’s data steward. They insist instead that they want to be an enabler of the analytics and data function. So what business function then should own enterprise analytics and data? Last week an interesting answer came from a CFO Magazine Article by Frank Friedman. Frank contends that CFOs are “the logical choice to own analytics and put them to work to serve the organization’s needs”.
To justify his position, Frank made the following claims:
- CFOs own most of the unprecedented quantities of data that businesses create from supply chains, product processes, and customer interactions
- Many CFOs already use analytics to address their organization’s strategic issues
- CFOs uniquely can act as a steward of value and an impartial guardian of truth across the organizations. This fact gives them the credibility and trust needed when analytics produce insights that effectively debunk currently accepted wisdom
Frank contends as well that owning the analytics agenda is a good thing because it allows CFOs to expand their strategic leadership role in doing the following:
- Growing top line revenue
- Strengthening their business ties
- Expanding the CFO’s influence outside the finance function.
Frank suggests as well that analytics empowers the CFO to exercise more centralized control of operational business decision making. The question is what do other CFOs think about Frank’s position?
CFOs clearly have an opinion about enterprise analytics and data
A major Retail CFO says that finance needs to own “the facts for the organization”—the metrics and KPIs. And while he honestly admits that finance organizations in the past have not used data well, he claims finance departments need to make the time to become truly data centric. He said “I do not consider myself a data expert, but finance needs to own enterprise data and the integrity of this data”. This CFO claims as well that “finance needs to use data to make sure that resources are focused on the right things; decisions are based on facts; and metrics are simple and understandable”. A Food and Beverage CFO agrees with the Retail CFO by saying that almost every piece of data is financial in one way or another. CFOs need to manage all of this data since they own operational performance for the enterprise. CFOs should own the key performance indicators of the business.
CIOs should own data, data interconnect, and system selection
A Healthcare CFO said he wants, however, the CIO to own data systems, data interconnect, and system selection. However, he believes that the finance organization is the recipient of data. “CFOs have a major stake in data. CFOs need to dig into operational data to be able to relate operations to internal accounting and to analyze things like costs versus price”. He said that “the CFOs can’t function without good operational data”.
An Accounting Firm CFO agreed with the Healthcare CFO by saying that CIOs are a means to get data. She said that CFOs need to make sense out of data in their performance management role. CFOs, therefore, are big consumers of both business intelligence and analytics. An Insurance CFO concurred by saying CIOs should own how data is delivered.
CFOs should be data validators
The Insurance CFOs said, however, CFOs need to be validators of data and reports. They should, as a result, in his opinion be very knowledgeable on BI and Analytics. In other words, CFOs need to be the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for corporate data.
Now it is your chance
So the question is what do you believe? Does the CFO own analytics, data, and data quality as a part of their operational performance role? Or is it a group of people within the organization? Please share your opinions below.
Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform
CFOs Move to Chief Profitability Officer
CFOs Discuss Their Technology Priorities
The CFO Viewpoint upon Data
How CFOs can change the conversation with their CIO?
New type of CFO represents a potent CIO ally
Competing on Analytics
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
We are way past the point where the architecture needs to be aligned with business goals and value delivery. That is necessary but no longer sufficient. We are now at the point where architecture needs to be central to the creation of an organization’s strategy process. Not to get hyperbolic, but anything less is risky for your career.
The Challenge: Digitization
I just came back from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) research forum. One of the leading topics was digitization and how every business is becoming digitized. To those in the High Tech industry, this may be an “of course” topic, but to most other industries it is a wrenching change. Even those who are comfortable with the idea of digitization risk taking this too lightly.
The fact is that most products and services will have a digital component to them in the near future and an increasing number of products and services will be entirely digital. The fact is that digitization and the technologies that enable it are going to bring about a period of increased disruption. This will mean:
- New competitors. Examples: autonomous cars, sports equipment with embedded sensors that provide feedback, personal assistant fully capable of making decisions and taking action. Gartner is predicting that almost everything over $100 will have a sensor by the turn of the decade.
- New competitors jumping across industry boundaries. Examples: Apple iTunes and Google cars to name a few.
Why Architects Are Important
Architects are in a unique position to not only understand the technology trends driving this disruption, but they also to know how to leverage these trends to drive business value within their organizations. The very best architects are going to be those who are deeply involved in defining the organization strategy, not just figuring out how to implement it.
Evidence of Change
Many architects and CIOs currently report very little interest from upper management in IT. That is about to change, and quickly. At the MIT CISR forum I attended last week, they presented research around this area that is very telling:
- Half of Board of Directors members believe that their board’s ability to oversee the strategic use of IT is “less than effective.”
- 26% of Boards hired consultants to evaluate major projects or the IT unit.
- 60% of Boards want to spend more time on digital issues next year.
- Board members estimate that 32% of their company’s revenues are under threat from digital disruption.
That last bullet is the really interesting piece of research. 32% is a huge impact.
The Role of Data in Digitization
Digitization by its very nature is all about data. The winners in this space will be those that can manage and deliver relevant data the quickest. The question for architects is this: Do you have the architecture and agility to take advantage of the coming disruptions and opportunities? Are you actively advising your organization on how to leverage them? As we have documented in many previous blogs, many organizations are poorly positioned to manage their data as a discoverable and easily sharable asset. This will essential for:
- Delivering business initiatives and showing value faster (agility).
- Enabling business self-service so that IT is not the bottleneck in new analyses and decisions.
All of this requires new thinking around enterprise data architecture. For fresh thinking on this subject see Thinking “Data First” to Drive Business Value.
As I indicated in my last case study regarding competing on analytics, Thomas H. Davenport believes “business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation.” For this reason, Davenport contends that businesses that create a sustainable right to win use analytics to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”. For financial services, the mission critical areas needing process improvement center are around improving the consistency of decision making and making the management of regulatory and compliance more efficient and effective.
Why does Fannie Mae need to compete on analytics?
Fannie Mae is in the business of enabling people to buy, refinance, or rent homes. As a part of this, Fannie Mae says it is all about keeping people in their homes and getting people into new homes. Foundational to this mission is the accurate collection and reporting of data for decision making and risk management. According to Tracy Stephan at Fannie Mae, their “business needs to have the data to make decisions in a more real time basis. Today, this is all about getting the right data to the right people at the right time”.
Fannie Mae claims when the mortgage crisis hit, a lot of the big banks stopped lending and this meant that Fannie Mae among others needed to pick up the slack. Their action here, however, caused the Federal Government to require them to report monthly and quarterly against goals that the Federal Government set for it. “This meant that there was not room for error in how data gets reported”. In the end, Fannie Mae says three business imperatives drove it’s need to improve its reporting and its business processes:
- To ensure that go forward business decisions were made consistently using the most accurate business data available
- To avoid penalties by adhering to Dodd-Frank and other regulatory requirements established for it after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis
- To comply with reporting to Federal Reserve and Wall Street regarding overall business risk as a function of: data quality and accuracy, credit-worthiness of loans, and risk levels of investment positions.
Delivering required Fannie Mae to change how it managed data
Given these business imperatives, IT leadership quickly realized it needed to enable the business to use data to truly drive better business processes from end to end of the organization. However, this meant enabling Fannie Mae’s business operations teams to more effectively and efficiently manage data. This caused Fannie Mae to determine that it needed a single source of truth whether it was for mortgage applications or the passing of information securely to investors. This need required Fannie Mae to establish the ability to share the same data across every Fannie Mae repository.
But there was a problem. Fannie Mae needed clean and correct data collected and integrated from more than 100 data sources. Fannie Mae determined that doing so with its current data processes could not scale. And as well, it determined that its data processes would not allow it to meet its compliance reporting requirements. At the same time, Fannie Mae needed to deliver more proactive management of compliance. This required that it know how critical business data enters and flows through each of its systems. This includes how data was changed by multiple internal processing and reporting applications. As well, Fannie Mae leadership felt that this was critical to ensure traceability to the individual user.
Per its discussions with business customers, Fannie Mae’s IT leadership determined that it needed to get real time, trustworthy data to improve its business operations and to improve its business processes and decision making. As said, these requirements could not be met with its historical approaches to integrating and managing data.
Fannie Mae determined that it needed to create a platform that was high availability, scalable, and largely automating its management of data quality management. At the same time, the platform needed to provide the ability to create a set of business glossaries with clear data lineages. Fannie Mae determined it needed effectively a single source of truth across all of its business systems. According to Tracy Stephan, IT Director, Fannie Mae, “Data quality is the key to the success of Fannie Mae’s mission of getting the right people into the right homes. Now all our systems look at the same data – that one source of truth – which gives us great comfort.” To learn more specifics about how Fannie Mae improved its business processes and demonstrated that it is truly “data driven”, please click on this video of their IT leadership.
Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform
Thomas Davenport Book “Competing On Analytics”
Competing on Analytics
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
The CFO Viewpoint upon Data
What an enlightened healthcare CEO should tell their CIO?
The title of this article may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is that the business doesn’t care about data. They care about their business processes and outcomes that generate real value for the organization. All IT professionals know there is huge value in quality data and in having it integrated and consistent across the enterprise. The challenge is how to prove the business value of data if the business doesn’t care about it. (more…)
Just last week, I visited a client for whom I had been consulting on-and-off for several years. On the meeting room wall, I saw their Enterprise Architecture portfolio, beautiful graphically designed and printed on a giant sheet of paper. My host proudly informed me how much she enjoyed putting that diagram together in 2009.
I jokingly reminded her of the famous notion of “art for art’s sake”; which is an appropriate phrase to describe what many architects are doing when populating frameworks. Indeed, when we refer to Enterprise Architecture, we must remember that the term ‘architecture’ is, itself, a metaphor.
In a tough economy, when competition is increasingly global and marketplaces are shifting, this ability to make tough decisions is going to be essential. Opportunities to save costs are going to be really valued, and architecture invariably helps companies save money. The ability to reuse, and thus rapidly seize the next related business opportunity, is also going to be highly valued.
The thing you have to be careful of is that if you see your markets disappearing, if your product is outdated, or your whole industry is redefining itself, as we have seen in things like media, you have to be ready to innovate. Architecture can restrict your innovative gene, by saying, “Wait, wait, wait. We want to slow down. We want to do things on our platform.” That can be very dangerous, if you are really facing disruptive technology or market changes.
Albert Camus wrote a famous essay exploring the Sisyphus myth called “The Myth of Sisyphus,” where he reinterpreted the central theme of the myth. Similarly, we need to challenge the myths of Enterprise Architecture and enterprise system/solution architecture in general – not meekly accept them.
IEEE says, “A key premise of this metaphor is that important decisions may be made early in system development in a manner similar to the early decision-making found in the development of civil architecture projects.”
Keep asking yourself, “When is what we built that’s stable actually constraining us too much? When is it preventing important innovation?” For many architects, that’s going to be tough, because you start to love the architecture, the standards, and the discipline. You love what you’ve created, but if it isn’t right for the market you’re facing, you have to be ready to let it go and go seize the next opportunity.
The central message is as follows: ‘documenting’ architecture in various layers of abstraction for the purposes of ‘completeness’ is plainly ridiculous. This is especially true when the effort to produce the artifacts takes such an amount of time as to make the whole collection obsolete on completion.
As I indicated in Competing on Analytics, if you ask CIOs today about the importance of data to their enterprises, they will likely tell you about their business’ need to “compete on analytics”, to deliver better business insights, and to drive faster business decision making. These have a high place on the business and CIO agendas, according to Thomas H. Davenport, because “at a time when firms in many industries offer similar products and use comparable technologies, business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation.” For this reason, Davenport claims timely analytics enables companies to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”.
So is anyone showing the way on how to compete on analytics?
UMass Memorial Health Care is a great example of an enterprise that is using analytics to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”. However, before UMass could compete on data, it needed to create data that could be trusted by its leadership team.
Competing on analytics requires trustworthy data
At UMass, they found that they could not accurately measure the size of their patient care population. This is a critical metric for growing market share. Think about how hard it would be to operate any business without an accurate count of how many customers are being served. Lacking this information hindered UMass’ ability to make strategic market decisions and drive key business and clinical imperatives.
A key need at UMASS was to determine a number of critical success factors for its business. This included obviously the size of the patient population but it also included the composition of the patient population and the number of unique patients served by primary care physician providers across each of its business locations. Without this knowledge, UMASS found itself struggling to make effective decisions regarding its strategic direction, its clinical policies, and even its financial management. And all of these factors really matter in an era of healthcare reform.
Things proved particularly complex at UMass since they act as what is called a “complex integrated delivery network”. This means that portions of its business effectively operated under different business models. This, however, creates a data challenge in healthcare. Unlike other diversified enterprises, UMASS needs an operating model–“the necessary level of business process integration and standardization for delivering its services to customers”– that could support different elements of its business but be unified for integrative analysis. This matters because in UMass’ case, there is a single denominator, the patient. And to be clear, while each of UMASS’ organizations could depend on their data to meet their needs, UMASS lacked an integrative view into patients.
Departmental Data may be good for a department but not for the Enterprise
UMass had adequate data for each organization, such as delivering patient care or billing for a specific department or hospital, but it was inadequate for system wide measures. And aggregation and analytics, which needed to combine data across systems and organizations was stymied by data inconsistencies, incomplete population of fields, or other types of data quality problems between each system. These issues made it impossible to provide the analytics UMass’ senior managers needed. For example, UMass’ aggregated data contained duplicate patients—people who had been treated at different sites and had different medical record numbers, but who were in fact the same patients.
A key need for UMass creating the ability to compete on analytics was to measure and report on the number of primary care patients being treated across their entire healthcare system. UMass leadership saw this as a key planning and strategy metric because primary care patients today are the focus of investments in wellness and prevention programs, as well as a key source of specialty visits and inpatients. According to George Brenckle, Senior Vice President and CIO, they “had an urgent need for improved clinical and business intelligence across all our operations, we needed an integrated view of patient information, encounters, providers, and UMass Memorial locations to support improved decision making, advance the quality of patient care, and increase patient loyalty. To put the problem into perspective, we have more than 100 applications—some critical, some not so critical—and our ultimate ambition was to integrate all of these areas of business, leverage analytics, and drive clinical and operational excellence.”
The UMASS Solution
The UMass solved the above issues by creating an integrated way to view of patient information, encounters, providers, and UMass Memorial locations. This allowed UMass to compute the number of primary care physician patients cared for. In order to make this work, the solution merged data from the core hospital information applications and processed this data for quality issue that prevented UMass from deriving the primary care patient count. Armed with this, data integration helped UMass Memorial improve its clinical outcomes, grow its patient population, increase process efficiency, and ultimately maximize its return on data. As well UMASS gained a reliable measure of its primary care patient population, UMASS now was able to determine an accurate counts for unique patients served by its hospitals (3.2 million), active patients (i.e., those treated within the last three years—approximately 1.7 million), and unique providers (approximately 24,000).
According to Brenckle, data integration transformed their analytical capabilities and decision making. “We know who our primary care patients are and how many there are of them, whether the volume of patients is rising or decreasing, how many we are treating in an ambulatory or acute care setting, and what happens to those patients as they move through the healthcare system. We are able to examine which providers they saw and at which location. This data is vital to improving clinical outcomes, growing the patient population, and increasing efficiency.”
Thomas Davenport Book “Competing On Analytics”
Competing on Analytics
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
CIO explains the importance of Big Data to Healthcare
The CFO Viewpoint upon Data
What an enlightened healthcare CEO should tell their CIO?
Recent corporate data security challenges require companies to ask hard questions about enterprise readiness:
1) How do you know if your firm is next in line?
2) How well will your Information Technology team respond to an attempted breach?
Is your firm ready?
Over the last year, a number of high profile data security breaches have taken place at major US corporations. However, as a business person, how do you know the answers to the above questions. Do you know what is at risk? And as well with big data gathering so much attention these days, isn’t it kind of like putting all the eggs into one basket? According to the management scholar, Theodore Levitt, part of being a manager is the ability to ask questions. My goal today is to arm business managers with the questions to ask so they can determine the answers to both of the above questions.
Is your Big Data secure?
Big Data is all the buzz today. How safe are your Big Data spaces? Do you know what is going into each of them? Judith Hurwitz, the President and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, says that she worries about big data security. Judith even suggests that big data “introduces security risks into the company, unintended consequences can endanger the company”. According to Judith, these risks come in two forms:
1) Big data sources can contain viruses as well as other forms of business risk
2) Big data lakes if unprotected represent a major business risk from hacking
Clearly, protecting your big data comprehensively requires diligence, including data encryption. But just remember, big data may seem like a science project in the back room, but it puts in one place a significant volume of data that could damage your enterprise if exposed to the outside world.
Do you need better tools or better business processes?
While many of the discussions about recent hacks have focused on the importance of having the right and up to date tools in place, it is just as important to have the right business processes in place if you want to minimize the possibility of a breach and minimizes losses when a breach occurs.
From an accessibility and security prospective, security processes look at the extent to which access to information is restricted appropriately to authorized parties. Next, from an information management perspective, they should consider the entire information life cycle. Information should be protected during all phases of its life cycle. Security should start at the information planning phase, and for many, this implies different protection mechanisms for storing, sharing, and disposition of information.
To determine what questions a business person should be asking their security professionals, I went to COBIT 5. For those who do not know, COBIT is the standard your auditors use to evaluate your company’s technology per Sarbanes Oxley. Understanding what it recommends matters because CFOs that we have talked to say that after the recent hacks they believe they are about to get increased scrutiny from their auditors. If you want to understand what auditors will look for, you should study COBIT 5. COBIT 5 has even linked its security policy guidance to what your IT security management team should be running against—one more term, ISO/IEC 27000 standard. Want to impress your security management professionals? Ask them whether they are in compliance with ISO/IEC 27000.
Good information security requires policies and procedures
Now, let’s explore what COBIT 5 recommends for information governance and security. The first thing it recommends is that good information security requires policies and procedures are created and put in place. This sounds pretty reasonable. However, COBIT next insists—something that we all know is true as managers– enterprise culture and ethics are critical to making “security policies and procedures effective”.
What metrics then should business people use to judge whether their firm is managing information security appropriately. COBIT 5 suggest that you look for two things right off the top.
1) How recently did your IT organization conduct a risk assessment for the services that it provides?
2) Does your IT organization have a current security plan which is accepted and communication throughout the enterprise?
For the first, it is important that you then ask what percentage of IT services and programs are covered by a risk assessment and what percentage of security incidents taking place were not identified in the risk assessment. The first question tells you how actively your IT is managing security and the second tells you whether there a gaps and risks. Your goal here should be to ensure that “IT-related enterprise risk does not exceed your risk appetite and your risk tolerance”.
With regards to the security plan, you should be asking your IT leadership (your CIO or CISO) about the number of key security roles that have been clearly defined and about the number of security related incidents over time. As important, find out how many security solutions currently deviate from plan? A timely review of these could clearly impact your probability of getting your systems hacked.
As a manager, you know that teams need policies and procedures to limit errors from happening and to manage them when they occur. So ask what are the procedures for managing through a security event? As important, ask about the percentage of services are confirmed to have alignment with the security plan. At the same time, you want to know about the number of security incidents caused by non-adherence to the security plan. For the future, you want to make sure as well that all new solutions being developed have from launch confirmed their alignment to the security plan.
Other critical things to consider include the number of security incidents that have caused financial loss, business disruption, and public embarrassment. This of course is a big one that should be small in number. Then ask about the number of IT services with outstanding security requirements? Next, what is the time required to grant, change, and remove access privileges and the frequency of security assessment against the latest standards and guidelines.
Security is one area that you really need IT-Business Alignment. It is important, as a business professional, that you do your best to ensure that IT builds policies and procedures that conform to your corporate risk appetite. As well you need to assure that the governance, policies, and procedures for your IT organization run against are kept current and update. This includes ensuring that the data is governed from end to end in the IT environment.
CIOs and CFOs both dig data security
In my discussions with CIOs over the last couple of months, I asked them about the importance of a series of topics. All of them placed data security at the top of their IT priority list. Even their CFO counterparts, with whom they do not always see eye to eye, said they were very concerned about the business risk for corporate data. These CFOs said that they touch, as a part of owning business risk, security — especially from hacking. One CFO said that he worried, as well, about the impact of data security for compliance issues, including HIPAA and SOX. Another said this: “The security of data is becoming more and more important. The auditors are going after this. CFOs, for this reason, are really worried about getting hacked. This is a whole new direction, but some of the highly publicized recent hacks have scared a lot of folks and they combined represent to many of us a watershed event.”
According to David W. Owens the editor of CFO Magazine, even if you are using “secure” storage, such as internal drives and private clouds, the access to these areas can be anything but secure. Practically any employee can be carrying around sensitive financial and performance data in his or her pocket, at any time.” Obviously, new forms of data access have created new forms of data risk.
Are some retailers really leaving the keys in the ignition?
Given the like mind set from CIOs and CFOs, I was shocked to learn that some of the recently hacked retailers had been using outdated security software, which may have given hackers easier access company payment data systems. Most amazingly, some retailers had not even encrypted their customer payment data. Because of this, hackers were able to hide on the network for months and steal payment data, as customers continued to use their credit cards at the company’s point of sale locations.
Why weren’t these transactions encrypted or masked? In my 1998 financial information start-up, we encrypted our databases to protect against hacks of our customers’ personal financial data. One answer came from a discussion with a Fortune 100 Insurance CIO. This CIO said “CIO’s/CTO’s/CISO’s struggle with selling the value of these investment because the C Suite is only interested in hearing about investments with a direct impact on business outcomes and benefits”.
Enterprise security drives enterprise brand today
So how should leaders better argue the business case for security investments? I want to suggest that the value of IT is its “brand promise”. For retailers, in particular, if a past purchase decision creates a perceived personal data security risk, IT becomes a liability to their corporations brand equity and potentially creates a negative impact on future sales. Increasingly how these factors are managed either supports or not the value of a company’s brand.
My message is this: Spend whatever it takes to protect your brand equity; Otherwise a security issue will become a revenue issue.
In sum, this means organizations that want to differentiate themselves and avoid becoming a brand liability need to further invest in their data centric security strategy and of course, encryption. The game is no longer just about securing particular applications. IT organizations need to take a data centric approach to securing customer data and other types of enterprise data. Enterprise level data governance rules needs to be a requirement. A data centric approach can mitigate business risk by helping organizations to understand where sensitive data is and to protect it in motion and at rest.
Solutions: Enterprise Level Data Security
The State of Data Centric Security
How Is The CIO Role Starting To Change?
The CFO viewpoint on data
CFOs discuss their technology priorities
The Number 1 Enterprise Priority
Information Week reported last week upon the latest IT Trends Study. Once again this study had IT-business alignment as the No. 1 priority for enterprises. The article’s author even exclaimed within his piece isn’t this topic becoming “a bit “passé”. We have confirmed in our interviews of CIOs that they place connecting what IT is doing to business strategy higher than things like technical orchestration and overall process excellence. Hunter and Westerman say in The Real Value of IT that doing IT-Business Alignment well involves “showing the value of IT as an investment in business performance—operationally and financially”.
CIOs Need The Businesses Help With IT Demand Management
One CIO that we talked to suggested that accomplishing what Hunter and Westerman suggest starts with better IT demand management. “IT leaders increasingly need to get control over their IT demand management. After all, they have limited dollars, limited space, and limited people. They need to partner with the business to get the prioritization done”. This CIO suggests it is especially important to get this right these days because of the pace at which the tech landscape is changing.
The explosion of technologies is certainly making the need for IT-business alignment even more critical. This CIO has Mobile, Cloud, Social, and Big Data all key priorities at the same time. How does one select between them without having their customers in the room with you?
Another CIO suggests that IT-business alignment is increasingly about three things:
- Getting the CFO to understand technology is not a cost center
- Getting the business to understand that IT isn’t separate
- Getting business leaders to understand technology better. “I want business leaders to start asking for digital services that support their product and service offerings”.
A New Type Of CIO Needed?
Clearly, if CFOs are part of the alignment equation, CIOs should be looking at their tech priority list carefully. Some CIOs suggest that the emphasis on IT-business alignment brings to the forefront skills like collaboration and teamwork. And this change may require a different kind of CIO. The CIO role today is clearly becoming more about understanding the business than understanding technology. It is becoming more about business alignment than technology alignment. This means the biggest value added from the CIO still will be that they can align business needs with the technology fabric required to deliver it.
Presentations Need To Be About A Business Need
Several CIOs, in fact told me that they will not take a vendor presentation on a purely techie topic anymore. If they take a meeting from a vendor, they will almost always involve their business partner. They won’t do it alone. Given this, the topic needs to change. “Business partners will be suspicious of a meeting request filled with technical terms. They do not want a solution looking for a problem. They want to be looking for a solution to their problem”. Given this, to involve the CIO today, you need to have a business value proposition.
Even COBIT 5 Suggests That Alignment Matters
Even COBIT 5 in fact suggests says that IT organizations should be measured by their alignment of IT and business strategy. COBIT 5 even provides multiple KPIs that dig in on the topic. Given this, it may be “a bit “passé” but it is core to creating a successful IT organization for today and for the future.
In our interviews of CIOs, they have told us that connecting what IT is doing to business strategy has become a higher priority than even things like improving technical orchestration and overall process excellence. Being CIO today has become much more about business alignment than technology alignment. This means that CIOs and their teams need to understand their firm’s business problems almost as well as they understand their implementations of information technology. One area where CIOs say they are trying to do a better job of alignment is in working with their firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. Confirming this is a recent CIO Magazine Survey that found initiatives around revenue, customer acquisition, and customer retention receiving top IT priority these days.
Geiger IT solves a persistent business problem by aligning with the marketing team
One CIO that that has really taken this to heart is the Dale Denham who is the CIO at Geiger. Dale and his IT team decided that they needed to get closer to their firm’s marketing organization and by doing so was able to go after a persistent business problem and change the IT-business relationship in the process.
At Geiger, their marketing team was limited in their ability to add new products. Competitively, the marketing team needed to improve their product selection. However, they were hitting the wall in updating and maintaining their product mix. Geiger provides its customers with more than 5,000 products, each having as many as 350 variations. This translates to a 175,000 product permutations to price and manage. At the same time, Geiger sells its products through 500 Sales Partners—this, in turn, can create an additional layer of permutation.
The source of this business problem was that Geiger’s ERP and Website systems that required the users to manipulate multiple screens to get to product data and product codes into the system. The system was difficult enough that it took about six weeks to train someone to input product data. Think about the time needed to then do this this across all products, product permutations, and channel partners.
To fix things, Dale and his team partnered with the business. Doing it together rather than separately enabled the IT organization and the business to collaborate and to build a better and more permanent partnership. Dale says, “We have really enjoyed implementing the solution, because the business units are now working very closely with IT”. Dale claims as well the relationship with their business units has gotten to be a very solid, trusting relationship with them, and very collaborative. They have learned to trust IT’s input, and IT has learned a lot from the business units about how they operate and like to operate.”
The impact of working together is clear
The solution that the business and IT derived cut the time to train people in half. In fact, Dale says that new system users are relatively productive within a week, because the solution is faster and easier to use. Dale says that the time per product entry went down from an hour and half to thirty minutes. For this reason, marketing teams are more efficient. Overall, it reduced the process from two months to one week for them to update the customer facing website. By automating the process, they were able to speed up marketing processes. This means marketing can now add and extend to the existing marketing mix and increase customer satisfaction and potential increase customer upsell and cross sell.
The historical the process created a lot of efficiencies for marketing. Marketing staff is now much more focused on what they’re doing from day to day. They have the ability to update products faster from prices and this has stabilized business margins. At the same time, marketing was able to reduce invoice discrepancies. Given all of this, marketing staff is more engaged that they are able to get the job done in a timely manner and to be able to get to market faster with the products.
The solution took the data entry process down from ninety minutes to thirty minutes. And now with this increased efficiency, the marketing staff has focused more of its time on the quality of copy for the product and on getting the graphics of the images up to websites. This has improved overall customer experience. And of course they were able to expand their product offering. They now have three times the throughput capacity, which is what is going to allow Geiger to grow in the future as it provides more product options to customers.
Already they have found that customers are happier with the immediate larger breadth of product to choose from. Lastly, their leadership team is happier because they are able to get more opportunities to grow the business. And this gives them much more ability to satisfy customers and provide for the additional growth they need in the future.
Clearly business and IT alignment is all the rage today. But it starts and ends with a team that solves meaningful business problems. Geiger is a great of example of how to do this right. If you want to learn more about what Geiger did and how they solved their marketing problems, please click this hyperlink.