Get Past the Process
Many companies have identified this disconnect. Following the IT-at-any-cost gluttony of the late 1990s, companies recommitted themselves to setting clear objectives and measuring returns for their technology investments. But most got so caught up in the process of technology ROI that they lost sight of the goal: creating business value. Technology vendors and consultants didn't help matters with their ROI calculators and buttoned-down methodologies. In many cases, oversimplification and even deception replaced inattention to detail when it came to prioritizing an organization's technology spending.
All of which gets us to 2003 and the theme of this issue's cover package: What can IT professionals do to finally align tech spending with business objectives? Certainly, you must understand what makes an IT project a business necessity (hint: it should cut costs and boost revenue), and it helps to shed the geek image. But it's less important that you master the lexicon of ROI and more important that you regularly talk with sales, marketing, human resources, manufacturing, customer service and other internal business partners--and then, arm in arm with those partners, engage the financial people who will scrutinize your budget requests.
All About Credibility
You can have the sharpest financial intellect in your department, but if the suite dwellers don't take you seriously because you toss jargon around like a freshman accounting major--or, worse, they don't trust you because you play fast with the numbers--that's the end of your credibility and, by extension, the credibility of your peers. Without credibility, you're nothing. And, in the end, you'll be getting in the way of your company's ability to leverage technology to boost its bottom line.