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Communicating Business Returns Clearly

What Really Matters

It would seem that most IT managers--or at least those who fill out IT awards entries--still don't think or express themselves in quantifiable, tangible business terms. They're great at describing what their organizations are up to (consolidating data centers, upgrading applications, realigning people and processes), but they're not so great at relating--in the language of nontechnologists--why those moves matter.

One BTO Award aspirant crowed about improving critical-system uptime by a few tenths of a percentage point. Terrific, but we're left to wonder how that technical tune-up drove business growth. Another was rightly proud of the fact that 152 percent more consumers visited its Web portal last year than the year before, with 126 percent more getting price quotes on the site. How did those higher volumes increase revenue, profit or customer satisfaction? We don't know--the traffic metrics were never taken a step further.

Another company identified a clear business objective (increasing revenue per customer) and then outlined several IT projects (Web application redesign, process refinement, employee training, network infrastructure upgrades) undertaken to achieve that goal. So how's the company doing with revenue per customer? Don't know.

Many companies pontificated on their cutting-edge management and organizational philosophies. One company's restructuring let it "simplify and standardize a variety of customer-facing roles, resulting in greater process efficiency." Another company "completed an inventory of our IT knowledge capital, creating a comprehensive talent profile and enterprisewide career-development model." Yet another mapped out a strategic plan "with Lean Thinking and Six Sigma to surround our business processes from capture to delivery." Sounds impressive, at least.

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