I bumped into an angel investor in a social gathering organized by a company funded by him. Discussing a range of subjects, he was interested in understanding how customers of his funded company used technology; and traction with the management across different sectors. Acknowledging the fact that all his invested companies used IT as a competitive differentiator, he queried the metrics used by CIOs in India. In the discussion group were CIOs from Banking, Insurance, Manufacturing and Retail.
Starting with IT budgets, the range observed was 1.5% upwards all the way to over 10% for a bank. I am referring to percentage of revenue, one of the metrics everyone uses, and is portrayed as a reflection of the seriousness of IT investments globally. Angelically, he disagreed with this norm as Capital and Operating budgets should not be clubbed into one IT budget. Echoing the thought, a few CIOs stated that they separated the capital investments, moving them to the business units since new initiatives have to be what the business needs and wants.
Investors have a way of getting their viewpoints; he asked if separating the capital investment and operating expenses helped. The answer to that was a vehement ‘yes’. The CIO actively controls how the existing IT setup is managed and thereby can optimize capacity and support. Investments are always linked to new business initiatives and outcomes. A great system or the best technology does not create a recipe for success if business fails to utilize it effectively. When the investment impacts P&L of the business, the ownership and contribution equals the effort put in by the business and IT.
The discussion veered to CIO dashboards and to what were CIOs monitoring daily, weekly or monthly. The responses varied from health of systems to active budget tracking and key projects that IT was involved in. Only two mentioned that their dashboards were no different from the other CXO dashboards but included a few IT metrics too. Considering that the CIO is in most cases an equal partner in the business, why should the dashboard be different?
Active projects with large investments require monitoring and communication to provide visibility across the enterprise. Success is measured not just by on budget or timeline, but effective use and business value that may have been spelt prior to the project. Like the CMO would monitor marketing campaign effectiveness or the CFO tracks treasury, the CIO has his/her business IT projects.
Lastly, the IT strategy and long-term plan tracking is the most critical one. As the owner, the CIO must track and periodically report the progress made, issues and challenges, new opportunities and finally the business impact delivered. It is a living plan and not something to be created, approved and locked up. What gets measured normally gets done.
The investor benevolently nodded to the maturity of the CIOs and their success in managing perceptions and that they get it.