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The question that is not yet sufficiently analysed, particularly in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is: How does the overall performance of the IT function compare against the deliverables which were promised at the outset of every initiative?
I have now written several articles on the various capabilities needed for SMEs to bridge the business-IT divide and start the process of driving increasing business value from IT. In my last article, I discussed what is needed to make complex IT decisions and now it is time to evaluate what should be measured.
In order to provide a rational answer to the question of how IT performs, a system of granular measurements for each initiative and its key deliverables has to be established. Without this manner of constant review it is impossible for the true value of IT to be accurately assessed, which in turn blocks being able to move forward with new projects which may unlock previously unattainable business value.
Even when the groundwork has been put in, and the vision, purpose, and strategies are all aligned, executing the project in a way which will be sure to deliver the desired results is still heavily dependent on IT measures established to guide local decision-making and focus. Generally a wide mix of measurements, from objective to subjective, very formal to highly informal, will track the process of any initiative in a way which will allow for accurate assessment from the business’ perspective.
The performance objectives to be measured will depend on the type of business. For instance, if the primary purpose of any information technology initiatives is to improve upon the stability of the ICT environment, then metrics like uptime should be heavily weighted. If an initiative is intended to provide business value, then the focus must be on measures which track how well IT services support and improve business process outcomes. Please note that in the latter case this does not mean that IT stops measuring the stability and cost-effectiveness of the IT platform, but this is not the primary focus area.
As alluded to in previous articles, a mature IT leadership as well as a comprehensive and inclusive plan will help to ensure that the IT agenda, even on a short-term basis, is focused on the appropriate change initiatives and the objective of supporting and improving business processes. If any of these key elements are lacking, IT may still end up focussing on activities other than the planned initiative(s), inevitably leading to unpredictable outcomes which may be short on value for the business.
Although IT will be the one measuring its own projects, in the end the business leaders and financial results will confirm whether the information technology team consistently delivers on its promises. Improvements to business outcomes will reflect both in daily operations and in the figures, and it is up to a joint team of IT and the leaders of the respective business units to ensure that technology investments made by the business actually achieve the value expected. Successful execution, after all, means investments in future initiatives will be made more easily, as the measured outcomes of each project help the business leaders grow their faith in what technology can bring to the business.