Communicate the value, not the tech

The highly virtualized organization will be able to squeeze more efficiency out of resources, but are you adequately communicating the value of these complex efforts?

As we close out 2010 and welcome 2011 it is clear we're at an interesting juncture in IT, with new opportunities stretching out before us. The key will be what we make of the opportunities and how we position our efforts to capitalize on them.

Virtualization, of course, is what is changing everything. Virtualized servers, virtualized storage, virtualized networking, even desktops.

The highly virtualized organization will be able to squeeze more efficiency out of resources (by increasing utilization rates), more easily accommodate shifts in business priorities (by reallocating assets as needed), call on third party cloud resources when appropriate (reducing costs by doing away with the need to architect for peak demands), and change the way people work (increasing productivity by enabling workers to access their "desktops" from any device, anywhere, and collaborate across time and space).

The timing for all of this is good because of a confluence of developments: some of our infrastructure is longer in the tooth than normal because of the recession, the virtualization tools are evolving and maturing rapidly, and the emergence of cloud architectures and robust cloud service providers is right on schedule.

So the tech stars are aligning, but as you plot your new course take a moment to examine if you are adequately communicating the value of these complex efforts. George Westerman, a Research Scientist in MIT Sloan's Center for Digital Business, suggests there is work to be done: "In the business of IT ... one of the biggest failings in IT's ability to deliver value is not being able to talk about value, not being able to get beyond classic IT metrics that nobody else cares about."

Westerman recently teamed with professors from Georgia Tech and Michigan State to publish a study with the Society for Information Management's (SIM) Advanced Practices Council titled "How do CIOs measure and communicate IT performance?" The end product shows "the right way to talk about value and how you move up the value hierarchy," Westerman says (see How does IT measure up in your organization? for a full Q&A).

"Many people publish the metrics that are easy to get," he says. "Availability statistics, project on-time measures, these kinds of things. But in our case studies we find that, as you get beyond a basic level of goodness in IT, nobody cares about those measures. They really care about what we are doing to improve the business. And most IT people aren't providing those numbers. They're critical, but harder to get."

If you haven't already studied Westerman's work, make a New Year's resolution to give that a look as you examine all the interesting new tech unfolding before us.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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John Dix

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