5 Tips for Managing the Perceptions of Information Technology

By Ericka Chickowski  |  Posted 2008-09-09

Making a good impression on the business can make the difference in how easily IT gets budget items approved, how well favors are called in, and how smoothly IT staffers and management works with their line-of-business counterparts.

A recent paper written by Forrester Research analyst Bobby Cameron, with colleagues Alex Cullen and Brandy Worthington, tackled this perception issue head on. As Cameron explained in “Improving The Perception of IT Requires a Focus on Business Trust, Not Just Technology,”  Forrester has found that IT’s image among business leaders is improving, but it could continue to use some help. In an IT governance survey released by Forrester earlier this year, 56 percent of respondents reported an improvement in IT perception over the last year.

 “The relationship between IT and the business — and the perception of IT — improves when the business organizations feel that they can count on IT to deliver what the business wants, when they have been told to expect it,” Cameron writes, explaining that positive perceptions and trust in IT “boils down to” two important tenants.

The first is that IT processes remain consistent and predictable. The second is that IT is able to clearly communicate how it meets its commitments to the business.

Cameron suggests five specific ways enterprise IT can work to improve how they follow through on these tenants and buff its image within the organization in the process, and they are as follows:
1. Align IT project portfolio managers with business structures rather than IT structures.

Cameron is a big fan of using IT demand management (DM) to align technology departments with the business. He believes that there is a disconnect between how IT is organized to get work done and how business units are structured.

“To make this happen, the senior leadership in IT DM, the portfolio managers, must align with the business organizations — which are organized based on some combination of product, geography, market, or business function,” he comments.

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2. Take an “outside-in” view of IT.

As an extension of the first tip, IT demand management needs to define and group technology based on how the outside business leaders would do so. Rather than lump processes and technologies together based on the IT functions the serve, they should be grouped according to the business process they support.

“Use these aggregations of technology as the basis for customer interactions,” Cameron writes.

3. Select metrics that measure business value.

Once the IT department is better aligned to business processes, it becomes much easier to predictably support those processes—and to demonstrate improved IT performance.  One of the biggest flubs that contributes to poor perception of IT is in imperfect selection of performance metrics—technology execs often choose operational measurements that don’t reflect how well IT is driving business value.

The department needs to hold up a measuring stick that business leaders understand and appreciate, Cameron says, explaining that internal metrics should be relevant to business expectation and translated into business terms.

4. Move technology management down the org chart.

Cameron believes that successful CIOs these days are freeing up more time to sync technology with business users and strategize alignment by leaving more mundane operational duties in the capable hands of development and infrastructure organizations. He suggests pushing duties down the food chain by putting development, infrastructure and operations under the control of a single direct report.

“(This) business management posture means that IT’s technology management — focusing on applications, servers, and tools — becomes much less visible in most of IT’s interactions with the business organizations,” he suggests.

5. Help business users become independent.

In today’s evolving business technology environment, successful IT departments are learning to relinquish some direct control over technology in order to better serve their users, Cameron says.

“This includes business analysis, project management, software configuration, and even vendor selection and management,” he writes.
Offering technology capabilities and training that allows users to become more self sufficient will go a long way toward driving value and engendering better relations with the business.