Focusing on Delivering Business Value

By Kyle Welsh, CISO, BECU

Kyle Welsh, CISO, BECU

In today’s fast-paced world, work comes to the Information Technology professional and their part of an organization from all directions. Coupled with the non-stop distractions from their smart phones, that is both driven by and exacerbated by the need to be connected which ironically has the opposite effect in many cases of being disconnected from the people and tasks that should be their focus. The result? Most IT professionals are extremely busy on any given work day attending meetings, conference calls, dealing with ‘shoulder taps’ and other unplanned work and in some cases getting to put some effort into the commitments they have already made—the results in most cases are that they aren’t meeting their own expectations for output much less meeting the expectations of the business. They’re exhausted, moody and the amount of unplanned time-off is increasing as well.

"In order to deliver business value, you need to know what and how that business value is defined"

The scenario I’ve described may sound familiar and if you’re in a position in your organization where you don’t interact with many IT professionals on a daily basis—the idea of chronic missed deadlines and deliveries from the IT organization probably does. The cause is often too many and/or conflicting priorities. Most IT organizations have focused on alignment with the business over the past decade and have a seat at the various business tables, which is critical but it can also have some unintended consequences like higher expectations, over commitment and too many priorities.

IT professionals need to know the business that they’re in, how they support it and how they enable it from a technology perspective. How does your business measure success? The typical business isn’t as concerned about server uptime, how fast the network backbone is or how much better flash drives are compared to spinning disks. Most non-technical people think that IT is a cost center and they don’t understand the ‘IT speak’ that IT professionals typically bring to a conversation. The fact of the matter is that technology is a business enabler for most businesses. Learn, know and understand the business that you are in and how to deliver the value measured and expected by the business—the Business Value. 

The good news is that technology is full of opportunities to deliver more business value. I’m not going to discuss the various methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma that can be used to evaluate your operations to identify and eliminate waste but from a more simple approach of looking at all of the various processes that are in your production operations space and evaluating that they are required, effective and if any sort of scripting or automation could improve the execution of the processes as well as free up staff time to continue to look for other operational improvements. When there is a business-impacting outage or event is there an effective retrospective performed to identify root cause of the issue and a subsequent owner, plan and accountability to execute the plan in order to prevent a similar outage or event from occurring again? One of the critical components of an effective retrospective is that the purpose is not to assign blame but to identify the root cause and a plan to address it.

On the project deliver side of IT—there is no need to debate the pros and cons of waterfall versus agile which, in most cases won’t identify a clear winner. Again, the focus is on delivering business value and shifting as much of the project delivery work to the left on the schedule as possible. No one likes last minute requirements from any project stakeholder whether it’s the business or information security or operations. The operational side of the house, including information security should have at least their high-level requirements for any project delivered well in advance of the go live and these operational areas should be working with their architecture groups and defining as many pre-approved design patterns based on how the solution is being delivered, who is using it, the business criticality of the solution as well as the criticality of the data that the solution is using or creating. I believe there is a tremendous amount of value in developing wireframes and prototypes of solutions are part of the project process in order to illicit more detailed business and technical requirements as well as ensure that the usability of the solution is going to deliver as much business value as possible.

In summary, in order to deliver business value, you need to know what and how that business value is defined. If you don’t know or are unclear—have that conversation with the business. Most business people will welcome a conversation with someone from technology that is interested in ensuring that the business is going to maximize the value delivered by the business and wants to assist in the technology delivery associated with those solutions, services and platforms. Looking through the lens of delivering business value as you assess your production operations and project delivery areas will no doubt identify many opportunities to improve on your business delivery which will also help to communicate back to the business the ‘why?’ behind some of your newly identified technology initiatives.

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