In my previous blog I outlined five habits of highly effective IT organizations. (Thanks for your insightful comments and suggestions, btw. Very helpful!)
But how can organizations manage to make these five habits stick? In other words, how do they make business value messaging a permanent practice? Not just for the CIO, but for all the VPs, directors and project managers across your organization.
In most organizations today, business value messaging is left to the discretion of each IT leader. It’s seen as a “style” or even an “artistic” skill that can vary wildly from one leader to the next. Some are naturally gifted in translating IT language into business language. Others feel uncomfortable outside the confines of their technical domain.
How about at your own organization: Is business value messaging a unique art -- or is it a consistent, repeatable practice? I would argue that if your IT organization wants to become a true strategic partner, you’ll need to practice business value messaging at scale. That means creating a formal business value realization program with full business alignment, rigor, repeatability and standardization. Here are five steps to get there.
1. Pick a Leader
First you need to Identify a leader to run your business value realization program. Your CIO’s chief of staff might be a good candidate for this role. Next, staff the team with someone with good business acumen and another with great communications skills. They’ll work with your IT leaders to develop standard processes and outputs across the organization.
2. Identify Sources of Business Value
Identify key projects that you know will add value to the business. These could be projects that:
· Improve business processes (to boost efficiencies and productivity, or control costs)
· Create new capabilities for the business (to improve competitive advantage, generate revenue or improve profitability)
· Strengthen the foundation (to enable future growth and profitability)
Seeing each project through the lens of business value communication compels you to create business-friendly narratives, hard numbers, and visualizations that can appeal to a broad business audience across multiple channels. Consider creating a single-page “project inventory” focused on business value realization.
3. Define Use Cases and KPIs
Business leaders want to see business outcomes. So, for each project you identify, build 3-4 use cases that are expected to deliver 80% of the total benefits. Be specific. For example, explain your new customer application in terms of how its predictive analytic capabilities will boost retention and subscription renewal rates. Explain how other KPIs are impacted, such as retention costs, complaints per customer, customer satisfaction, etc.
Make sure your case studies are clearly articulated. You may have detailed spreadsheets and PowerPoints, but do you have a concise 30-word and 100-word summary of why you’re doing the project, and what benefits are expected?
4. Create an Editorial Calendar
It’s best to assume your business stakeholders have short memories. One-off communications are quickly forgotten, so reinforce your business value messaging with frequent communications that are both memorable and easily consumed. Of course, leverage all the channels and formats at your disposal:
· Channels: Email communications, QBR meetings, intranet, internal social media, in-person meetings, cafeteria displays, etc.
· Formats: Slide decks, blogs, dashboards, web pages, IT annual/quarterly reports, infographics, video-graphics, etc.
To orchestrate the communications, I recommend creating a basic “editorial calendar” that lists all the content assets to be published, the format and channel to be used, and when they’ll be published. Using a simple spreadsheet for the calendar is fine for most programs. Just make sure all your project teams have reviewed and bought into it.
5. Create a Content Library
Once your business value communication program is up and running, you’ll quickly accumulate a ton of content, most of which can be easily reused and repurposed across other channels and formats. To make the most of your assets, organize a “central repository” in which your published content can easily searched and retrieved for new communications.
Hopefully these five steps will help make your business value communications more consistent, repeatable, and scalable. In other words, making it a “stickier” habit. At a minimum, you’ll avoid the scramble of putting together communications on an ad-hoc basis. For example, preparing an IT annual report – a task can seem truly mountainous in the face of your other responsibilities – suddenly becomes an orderly, hassle-free exercise. Best of all, your credibility will rise in the eyes of business leaders who will increasingly view IT as a strategic business enabler.