The best-practice CIOs also add business value to IT's work with other organizations--both IT's internal customers and external partners and customers. To involve business in how IT manages its relationship with internal customers, these CIOs are embedding key IT staff in business teams, including relationship managers, business analysts and project managers. And by enriching key IT demand-management processes--like IT portfolio management and chargeback (virtual or actual)--these CIOs create the transparency and predictability that enable business leaders to make decisions about IT spend. As for working with IT's external business partners, the best-practice CIOs strongly encourage IT's suppliers to make business value core to how they deliver and manage their products and services.
Making business value core to IT's internal and external efforts isn't the end of the best-practice efforts to communicate IT's value. They also personally position IT's value, emphasizing their individual efforts as a linchpin for IT's overall value-communications program. They lead by example, for instance, revealing IT's successes with Web 2.0/social networking technologies, to demonstrate their potential value to business users. And these CIOs make IT marketing an explicit, targeted effort, and they work across IT to plan, target and orchestrate IT's communications with its business customers.
For CIOs to get started on the path to reducing IT-business alignment issues, they should take actions based on the maturity of their organizations. The less mature IT shops--those with limited levels of metrics and consistent IT processes--should focus on the basics, putting value into the core IT processes they develop. More mature IT shops should concentrate on driving growth in value delivered, working with other internal business organizations and with IT's suppliers to leverage technology to achieve the firms' strategic objectives.
And regardless of IT's maturity, all CIOs should personally focus on measuring, communicating and driving IT efforts based on the business value that IT contributes to the enterprise.
CIOs wanting to break out of the perennial IT-business alignment malaise have to personally take charge of communicating IT's value to their firms' leadership. The cure to this plague requires CIOs to reach beyond just doing a good job of technology management. CIOs must shift IT to a business-value point-of-view--changing how IT operates internally as well as how it interacts across the enterprise and with external partners.
Bobby Cameron is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he works closely with The CIO Group. For more information and free research from Forrester, please visit www.forrester.com/cioinsight.