The IT Sales Pitch

By Edward Cone  |  Posted Thursday, March 04, 2010 18:03 PM

by Sam Greengard

We hear the word "strategic" early and often in business conversations. Every. Single. Day. Of course, it's one thing to think about being strategic and do a few strategic things; it's another thing to really become strategic from top to bottom.

For IT, being strategic increasingly means getting inside the heads of business executives and knowing what they need and want--even if they don't know it.

Nowhere is this concept more relevant than at the intersection of IT and metrics. Survey after survey shows that organizations are stumbling. My unscientific guess is that for every 10 executives I interview for business articles, only two or three can provide solid figures that justify any particular business initiative.

Here are the words I commonly hear (or some variation of them): "We really haven't been able to measure the results, but this initiative is something we know we need to do."

I get this concept up to a point. Yes, just about everyone must have a social networking presence. And it's a no-brainer that equipping agents in the field with mobile and wireless tools boosts productivity. But the mere fact that you show up at the game is no guarantee that you're outfitted correctly and in any way prepared to play.

Despite endless blather and a regular stream of HBR articles about best practices with metrics, KPIs, and ROI, the reality is that most organizations do a poor job of measuring key indicators and truly understanding where they're at with IT investments. They skip over metrics; they use the wrong metrics; they read metrics the wrong way. Click here for more about the metrics mess.

One of the world's leading authorities on metrics, Robert A. Kaplan at Harvard Business School, emphasizes that for metrics to truly work in today's tech-centric world, IT must not only interface with business units but also take a strategic view. "IT leaders must understand the organization's business needs but also anticipate needs in order to sell and deliver IT services effectively," he points out.

The bottom line? IT must view the enterprise in a more organic and holistic way. It must uncover opportunities to plug in systems and solutions that amp up the ability to gauge metrics and KPIs. In some ways, this means understanding the business better than the business units understand the business and introducing solutions these leaders didn't know they needed.