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Communicating Value

Small pockets of value may sometimes indicate a larger need, and recognizing value can often be a bottom-up process. For example, consider the case of Standard & Poor's IT Training group. This group is staffed with professional trainers who train S & P business staff in the use of desktop tools. Several years ago, the group began to find themselves assisting analysts and editors with basic macro creation. They created official training courses in macro writing, which allowed them to leverage end-users' skills and knowledge, to the great benefit of the organization. But they also began to recognize that departmental priorities rarely reflect single-user or small-group productivity needs, and that exposure to the information technology group is generally only through the help desk or through large applications. An application spectrum (shown in Figure 1) helped to point out that there were categories of applications from repetitive keystroke macros all the way up to industrial-strength three-tier applications.

Figure 1Figure 1 Application spectrum.

At the left end of the spectrum are single-user and small-group productivity projects that can be completed in three hours to three weeks. At the right end of the spectrum are large departmental and enterprise-wide projects taking three to twelve months to complete. The tools and the perspective at points along the application spectrum are different and are designed to serve different audiences. The left side of the spectrum uses tools such as VBA and Access to bring simple but effective productivity improvements straight to the desktop in a personal way. This exposes many users to IT value powerfully and directly because of the speed of implementation and the very real and immediate quality of life improvement. S & P suspected that a very quick response to a small group's needs—repeated for many small groups—was an opportunity to add value to the enterprise and at the same time establish relationships all across the organization. To quantify the value of this opportunity, they transferred one of their trainers into a one-man "group" for 12 months. They carefully assigned desktop projects and quantified the resulting benefits.

It was better than they could have hoped. They determined that for every hour of desktop development, they achieved an 80-hour annual savings in analyst time expenditures. This allowed them to create a small desktop development group and institutionalize the process.

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