Measure the success of your IT-business partnerships

How CIOs are determining if new attempts to partner with the business are making a difference

An exclusive series by the CIO Executive Council

SCENARIO:

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Dwayne Warner, CIO, Carnival Cruise Lines (See profile)

When I took over the role of CIO at Carnival at the end of last year, I knew the IT organization had to change. Our platform-centric approach, while efficient, couldn't provide the same value to the company and our customers that we could offer with a portfolio-centric approach. After speaking with my executive peers about where there was the greatest need for increased partnership with business functions, I shifted some of our application managers to portfolio managers and re-aligned the IT staff accordingly. These portfolio managers work closely with business teams to develop three-year road maps that facilitate the enterprise strategic plan.

This is the first time we've had a formal governance process that maps technology to business initiatives to help achieve business goals, and that spans departments within a function, such as finance or marketing. So now that we've set up the structure, we need to encourage people to embrace the change. The internal survey I conducted to gauge how the rest of Carnival now views IT shows an improvement compared to how they viewed the department in the past, but I am still trying to identify indicators of long-term success and methods that encourage acceptance.

Sounding Board's Discussion Points:

Portfolio managers – Governance process – IT-business partnerships – Success metrics
PEER COUNSEL:

Track details of the value that IT staff provides

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(See profile)
Michael Del Priore, VP and Global CIO, Church and Dwight

I have created business-focused IT positions at several national and multinational companies. So when I started implementing these changes at Church and Dwight, I knew that one of the most basic signs of success is when you can call up one of your business leaders and ask whether the portfolio manager assigned to that function is providing value and is part of their team. Another key measure I look at is the quality of the strategic plan for the given function, as this provides the context we use to make decisions with the portfolio-management process.

I also look at what I call project mobilization: how often ideas are followed through to complete business cases, allotment of work and resources, and so on. My IT account managers (the title of that strategic position) are the leads on this, and one of their goals is to shorten that idea-to-realization cycle and ensure that it always produces high-quality results.

One thing to be careful of is that you don't underestimate the demand that will arise for the portfolio managers' services once people throughout the organization embrace them—because now there is someone who everyone trusts to ask for help. Make sure you have a prioritization process in place at the highest level, and that you have people in those positions whom you can count on to make the right decisions on what is necessary, not just desired.

Foster understanding on both sides

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(See profile)
Rex Althoff, CIO, Federated Investors, and President of Technology, Federated Services Company

Every time I've restructured a technology organization to provide greater value, the most important element has been making sure that my business peers understand what the new structure means and that they feel a sense of ownership in the change.

Usually, these efforts to add new portfolio oversight to the IT-business relationship involve significant adjustments to processes—sometimes even putting in processes where there were none before. It doesn't only mean that IT must understand the business better, but also the business must understand an element of how the IT group works. For example, when you are first creating this kind of relationship, business leaders often do not understand the prioritization process for IT, or how to separate discretionary needs from enterprise requirements. Take the time to walk them through issues such as this, and since strategic projects should involve both IT and the business anyway, make sure they are involved in the prioritization and review process.

As for continually fostering the relationship at all levels, in the past I have created day in the life sessions. In these, I invite two or three of our business unit leaders in for an hour to talk through what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, and I encourage my IT staff to ask questions about everything. My staff obviously learn a lot from this, but it is amazing how much it impresses the business leaders that we are truly interested in them, rather than being only interested in documented processes.

This article originally appeared on CIO.com.

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