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CIOs in today's business environment are challenged to deliver more results while reducing costs. Additionally, business is challenging information technology (IT) to clearly demonstrate its value. In essence, business executives are demanding to understand how the millions invested in IT truly contribute to the business and what the business needs to accomplish.

Value Challenges

A common concern is that IT executives don't fully understand the critical aspects of business and how technology contributes to desired business outcomes.

Questions to be answered:

  • How can IT drive business operations and growth?

  • How can IT create business opportunities?

  • How can IT transform the business?

  • How do you demonstrate the contributions of IT to desired business outcomes?

Alignment Challenges

IT is often criticized for acquiring technology "for technology's sake"—a criticism often well deserved.

Questions to be answered:

  • How can you determine and demonstrate how IT as an organization can do a better job of aligning with the business?

  • How do you acquire and utilize a clear view of business objectives to better inform and liaison with your peers on the executive management team, as well as the CEO?

  • How do you align the behavior of your staff to stay on course with these business objectives?

Cost Challenges

In many or perhaps even most organizations, IT is considered a cost center. Much has been written about IT as a strategic investment, but in reality, it's often difficult to explain the expense.

Questions to be answered:

  • Why is IT still considered a cost center?

  • How do you make IT more cost-efficient, while including ways to incorporate return on investment evaluations into your planning and decision-making processes?

Planning Challenges

IT often allocates sufficient resources to planning, but the process is seldom formalized. As a result, planning is disconnected and ineffective.

Questions to be answered:

  • How do you formalize and implement an IT planning process that's integrated with business planning and budgeting?

  • How do you develop practical action plans to better manage your investments and outcomes?

Communication Challenges

Often IT appears to be operating in isolation. IT executives must improve their relationships and communications with other business units. With better internal communications, IT can lower the silos and develop synergies.

Questions to be answered:

  • What should CIOs listen for when speaking with executive management?

  • What's the most effective way to communicate "IT" to non-IT executives?

Culture Challenges

IT has credibility problems in many organizations. There's a culture of mistrust between IT and other business units.

Questions to be answered:

  • How can you make IT more adaptable and relationship-oriented?

  • How can your IT executives create an environment to cultivate creative solutions?

  • How do you deal with the perception that centralized IT is bureaucratic?

Service Challenges

IT is a service provider and needs to behave in service-oriented and customer-centric ways. In many organizations, however, there's a general lack of understanding about service management.

Questions to be answered:

  • What are the right things and the right ways to measure and manage your organization?

  • How can your services become more cost-effective and efficient?

  • How can your IT organization be more proactive in delivering critical services?

Sourcing Challenges

There are different ways to source new systems and services—build, buy, or use application service providers, among others. IT needs to explore alternatives to manage different types of sourcing relationships and service levels.

Questions to be answered:

  • What are the key differences in managing your own staff versus managing a vendor in the delivery of IT services?

  • What are the appropriate service-level agreements?

Technology Challenges

Keeping up with all the technology innovations is always a challenge. IT executives need to determine the real impact that e-commerce, relationship management systems, and broadband and wireless technologies have on business results, as well as the true costs.

Questions to be answered:

  • How do you assess, build, and operate comprehensive and integrated technology architectures that have an impact on desired business outcomes?

  • How do you improve availability, performance, and security in cost-effective and efficient ways?

Process Challenges

If asked to select an area for improvement with the greatest impact on the ability of IT to contribute to the business, the answer is usually IT processes. At the core of 95% of IT problems are process and organization dysfunction, not technology. May we repeat: It's not about technology! Many organizations need to give serious consideration to their IT processes and the ways in which they manage requirements, changes, performance, capacity, problems, configurations, assets, releases, disasters, and security, among other issues. IT processes are the number one source of issues.

Questions to be answered:

  • How do you implement centralized controls (standards, architectures, management systems) with decentralized operations?

  • How can IT work closely with business units to identify project requirements?

  • How do you fuse system development and infrastructure development lifecycles?

  • How do you formalize continuous improvements?

  • How do you change the behaviors of your whole organization?

Organizational Challenges

Good IT staff are difficult to employ and retain, and the gap between the demand and supply of IT skills will increase.

Questions to be answered:

  • How do you evaluate and implement alternate staffing and training solutions?

  • How do you manage your staff with productivity and job satisfaction in mind?

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