26 March 2014

IT Value Chain

 Issue: Technically-oriented people often find it difficult to ‘sell’ their initiatives to decision-makers, resulting in missed opportunities, frustration and a poor image for the IT department.
Guidance: The IT Value Chain is a way of articulating the outcomes of an IT initiative in terms that make sense to business people, e.g. more business, better business, cheaper business.

IT Value Chain

The IT Value Chain is a way of articulating an IT initiative in terms of benefits for both the business (IT’s customer: the user organization) and the IT organization. Being aware of how an IT solution impacts the ‘bottom line’ is beneficial to both the design of the solution and to how to ‘sell’ it to the business. 

Business goals
In the example above, based on a generic commercial enterprise, the bottom line performance is expressed in terms of profit, which is of course the difference between revenue and costs. Costs (the red lines) are either related to IT or the business. Revenue (the blue lines) comes from selling more products and/or services, and/or selling better products at a higher margin. Business goals are expressed simplistically as more, better and/or cheaper business. These goals apply to many commercial enterprises but can be adjusted to accommodate other relevant aspects, for instance capital investment. Public organizations are usually driven by different goals; for instance the criminal justice system in England and Wales aims to "reduce crime by bringing more offences to justice, and to raise public confidence that the system is fair and will deliver for the law-abiding citizen”. So the right hand side of the IT Value Chain should be constructed accordingly. Identifying the enterprise’s goals is an important part of the IT Value Chain process because it focuses the attention on the right aspects.

Business benefitsThe left hand side of the example shows how the outcomes of an IT initiative can be split up into two parts: business benefits and IT benefits. Business benefits have been broken down into better functionality, quicker time to market, and fewer and shorter outages. Better functionality can have service multiple business goals. Better functionality can simply mean that business processes can be executed more efficiently, by automating manual work and reducing labour costs. But better functionality can also contribute to better customer service by providing employees and/or customers with information that enhances the customer experience, for instance by giving insight into current waiting times at a hospital department. And better functionality can also contribute to achieving more business by giving access to new markets through different channels.A quicker time to market means that the IT solution is delivered promptly, enabling the other benefits to be achieved earlier, and for instance beating a competitor to a new market.Fewer an shorter outages contribute to business efficiency but also to a better customer experience, and in turn to better business. Just as the business goals can differ from enterprise to enterprise, these benefits can also differ.

IT benefits
In addition to the business benefits, there are benefits for the IT organization, that translate into lower costs and/or an improve capability to deliver the business benefits. The IT benefits in the example are a more flexible, more productive, and cheaper IT organization. Investment in Agile could make an IT organization more flexible. Investment in tooling lead to better productivity. And application rationalization could reduce IT costs. But just as the business goals and benefits can differ from enterprise to enterprise, these benefits can also differ.

Desired attitude and behavior

Being aware of the importance of translating the output of IT initiatives into outcomes that are formulated in such a way that business people understand them
Realizing that users often exhibit irrational (‘normal’) behavior and that just communicating in terms of logic may not be effective
Engaging with business people to identify the relevant business goals and in so doing, to demonstrate commitment to supporting these goals 
Talking about the IT solution ‘above the line’, i.e. in terms of the benefits and how they affect the business goals
Monitoring the actual results in terms of the benefits and the business goals

Additional guidance

COBIT®5 guides enterprises in rigorous governance and management of processes and other enablers related to demand, supply and use of information and technology. It provides excellent guidance for assurance of benefits realization, risk optimization and resource optimization.

Managing BenefitsTM has been carefully designed to complement existing Best Practice in portfolio, programme and project management such as PRINCE2®, MSP®, P3O® & MoP®. It consolidates existing guidance on benefits management into one place, while expanding on the specific practices and techniques aimed at optimizing benefits realization.

The underlying structure of the IT Value Chain has been inspired by the DuPont Analysis and Capgemini’s Benefits LogicTM.

COBIT®5 - www.isaca.org 
Managing BenefitsTM - www.apmg-international.com
DuPont Analysis -  www.wikipedia.org 
Benefits LogicTM - www.capgemini.com