Home > Articles > Information Technology

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

Educating Executives on the Value of Systems Management

The best way to talk to executives is in a language with which they're comfortable and familiar. For most senior managers, this means presenting information and proposals in commonly used business terms, not technical jargon. IT personnel in infrastructure organizations sometimes become so enthusiastic about the technical merits of a product that they fail to showcase its business benefits effectively. Yet these business benefits are often the very factors that will decide whether a package is approved. Executives need to be educated about the value of systems management in general, and about the benefits of individual functions and products in particular.

I experienced firsthand the value of effective executive education while heading up the infrastructure department at a major motion picture studio. Similar to many large, established companies, this shop for years had relied on mainframe computers for the processing of their critical corporate business systems. By the mid-1990s, it was apparent that this company's long-used legacy systems were approaching the end of their useful life. A major migration project plan was initiated to replace the outdated mainframe applications with more modern client/server applications. The functionality and scalability of these new systems would better meet the current and future needs of the corporation.

The first of several business applications were successfully implemented a short time after initiating the project plan. The payroll and human resources departments were due to be installed next, but we would need to add more server capacity first. We discussed this necessary increase in capacity with the executive managers who would decide on approving of the additional costs. We explained how the expansion of the database due to more required fields would result in more channel traffic on the system. We showed how the expected increase in concurrent users would push processor utilizations close to full capacity during peak periods. Other technical information involving security and automated backup software also helped to build a solid justification for more servers. Or so we thought.

While the foregoing arguments were strong and legitimate, a slightly different approach is what finally prompted the senior managers to approve our request. We had instituted a formal capacity-planning process several months earlier. A cornerstone of this process involved discussions with non–IT users and their managers about future workload projections. When we presented our information to senior management, we included the data that we had collected from the user departments.

The executives immediately identified with the terms and projections that the user department managers had provided. Graphs indicating current and future workloads were readily interpreted by our senior-level audience, as were the correlations between increased headcounts to larger numbers of concurrent users. The point here is that while our technical facts presented a solid case for capacity increases, the business picture we painted with the help of our user departments was even more persuasive.

No matter how compelling your reasons may be for additional IT expenditures, they may fall short if not put in the language of senior management. The challenge is to determine which language best addresses a particular decision-maker. Some may speak purely in bottom-line terms such as what will be the ultimate total cost of ownership. Others may be more financially oriented and focus on items such as depreciation, tax implications, or lease-versus-buy comparisons. Some may prefer descriptive narratives while others choose graphs, charts, and pictures. Regardless of their preference, the more closely you can align your proposal to their comfort zone, the more likely you will be of acquiring their approval.

Three Universal Principles Involving Executive Support

During my many years working with, among, and as an IT executive, I have observed the following three universal principles involving executive support:

  • Managers love alternatives.

    Making decisions is one of the primary responsibilities of managers. They appreciate a simplified decision-making process that includes viable alternatives. For infrastructure decisions, such alternatives could involve choices between products, vendors, platforms, and levels of support.

  • Managers hate surprises.

    Managers don't like to be blindsided by business surprises such as hidden costs, unpredicted delays, or unscheduled outages.

  • Managers thrive on metrics.

    Properly designed measurements can be so effective at influencing managers that they are sometimes referred to as a weapon for executive support.

Developing a Powerful Weapon for Executive Support

CIOs share common characteristics when making decisions. One of these is to rely on meaningful business metrics. By this I mean metrics that clearly demonstrate the business value of a decision. An incident I experienced while working in aerospace can serve to illustrate this point.

During this time I was managing one of the largest data centers in the country for a major defense contractor. The data center supported a highly classified military program. This particular defense venture required huge amounts of processing power to drive, among other applications, advanced 2D and 3D graphic systems. As with many high-cost defense projects that involve cutting-edge technologies, cutbacks started occurring to the program. These curtailments eventually began to reduce department budgets, including that of IT. But to help keep the program on budget and within schedule, IT needed to invest more in high-availability and response-time resources for the online graphical computer systems.

Traditional availability metrics such as percent uptime or hours per week of downtime were not presenting a very convincing argument to the budget approvers. Two of the most critical measures of productivity of the program were the number of engineering drawings released per day and the number of work orders completed per hour. The former was tied directly to the availability of the online engineering systems, and the latter was directly influenced by the uptime of the online business systems.

We knew that senior management relied heavily on these two metrics to report progress on the program to their military customers. Since our traditional IT availability metrics correlated so closely to these two critical business metrics, we decided to use versions of these business metrics to report on system uptime. Prior to this we would have shown how we improved availability from, say, 98.7% to 99.3%, and response time per transaction from 1.2 seconds to 0.9 seconds. Instead, we charted how our improvements increased the number of daily released drawings and completed work orders. Furthermore, when the data showed daily release drawings improving from 18 to 20, we extrapolated the increases, based on a 24-day work-month, to a monthly total of 48 drawings, and yearly to 576 drawings.

These volumes of improvement caught the attentive eye of executives and eventually led to approvals of the requested IT expenditures. Not only were the quantities of improvement impressive and substantiated, but they were presented in the type of meaningful business metrics with which most managers could identify. Never underestimate the power of these kinds of metrics in securing executive support.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020