Transparency – The Saviour of IT and of Business

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It is clear that the business workers in most organisations have little trust in the IT departments that support much of their working lives. It is also fair to say that the line-of-business managers in the majority of organisations are happy to accept that IT is extremely important to the success of their efforts, but that they have little understanding of the precise level of their dependence on IT systems, or on the value that IT, directly and indirectly, supplies to the bottom line. Strange then that so little time is spent communicating between business users and IT service suppliers. Without adequate dialogue, neither the business itself nor IT will be able to operate efficiently.

Ever since the mad rush of IT spending that accompanied the turn of the millennium, IT budgets have been under severe pressure. The reason is simple. Business managers and those anointed with the power to set budgets have, essentially, a grasp of only a single subject—namely ‘money’. Until recently, the entire history of commercial IT service delivery has existed in a state of isolation. IT was something that happened in the computer room away from the eyes and ears of honest workers.

However, the last few years has thrown a spotlight on IT—partly because of its place now at the heart of many business processes, but mostly because IT is not well understood. Indeed, at no time in the past has IT really taken the opportunity to communicate effectively with the consumers of its services in a language that they can easily recognise. Instead, IT has talked about technical matters and has not engaged in any form of dialogue.

As a consequence, in the majority of organisations there is usually only one matter on which non-IT executives can agree when it comes to IT, and that is its ‘cost’. Lacking any concrete measures of the value that IT delivers to everyday operations, nearly all annual reviews of the IT budget and proposed system developments end up just looking at how IT expenditure can be contained or reduced.

For organisations to succeed in the coming years, IT will be a major foundation upon which much, if not all, business value will depend. In order to ensure that business value generation is optimised, certain things must occur. Firstly, not only should IT truly understand the needs and drivers of its business users, but it must also be able to communicate effectively with those users in a manner that is simple and easy to understand.

Secondly, modern IT systems will be capable of being operated with increasing flexibility to support business objectives. However, resources are not infinite and it is essential that business users understand the consequences of flexing the IT delivery systems. This means that it will become essential to provide not just an accurate breakdown of the costs associated with each and every business operation supported by IT, but there must be a recognised means of measuring the value so delivered.

These objectives require that IT operations become much more transparent, and that good reporting facilities be deployed to measure both system resource usage and the value achieved via the consumption on those resources. We are really talking about good IT and Business governance coming together. Governance and reporting in IT is an opportunity to show precisely the real business value of IT—and the demystification of IT will be of benefit to everyone. IT Transparency is to be welcomed. It may even herald a new era of trust between IT and the business.