We’ve all seen our typical Information Technology reports that show server uptime, whether we’re meeting our Service Level Agreement (SLA), performance data for the infrastructure. These are “good to have” metrics because we need to know that the systems are up and running. But would you show these same reports to your CFO or CEO? Not likely – because you know it’s not what they need to understand how IT is supporting their business metrics, things such as sales transactions per hour or profitability per transaction. Showing an executive a list of 1,000 servers and data that these servers met a 99.9% SLA uptime will get you the tell-tail eye roll that means “so what.” This is where traditional IT reporting fails us. The problem is a myriad of operational data but this operational data needs to be turned into business data that aligns better to what the executives understand. A Business Value Dashboard (BVD) enables IT to report the impact of IT system performance or uptime on the business. Sounds good. I want executives to understand the value my IT organization brings to the business, but how do I get there?
The first step in trying to align better with the business is to understand and listen to what they actually need to better run the business. If they are looking at metrics such as the sales transactions per hour, does a 99.9% uptime really tell them anything, or would a metric stating “our web application was down and it caused $10,000 in sales loss” better tell the story? The later speaks in the language the business understands, and they need to understand the importance of the IT organization and how you impact the business. But don’t just start gathering the key business metrics that the business uses. Use the data yourself to see where IT investments should go to bring the most value to the business. To take my web based sales transaction per hour metric a bit further, if the Business Value Dashboards show you are running great here, then perhaps new IT investments should be diverted to the systems that need them based on their Business Value Dashboard results. In order to make the Business Value Dashboard a success, you need to get the business to buy in and get executive support. Like any project, you need to get the business to understand why it’s needed to make it a success.
Next, you need to build out the process in taking the operational metrics and turning them into business metrics. This is the hard part, but take an inventory of what you already have. Chances are you have some operational metrics that can show how they impact the business metrics you are aligning to. Start small and work on one business metric at a time. This is an iterative approach. Make sure it’s done then move on to other Business Value Dashboards. Understand the process and make sure IT and the business are on the same page. Then you can continue to build out further Business Value Dashboards.
Finally, what’s the proper tool for presenting the BVD to the business executives? Now this can take the form of a dashboard like the title of this blog alludes to with nice eye-catching charts or graphs, but it can also be in the form of spreadsheets. It may depend on the Business Value Dashboard you are building and the source data. For example, I use a tool called Xtraction to help us build Business Value Dashboards on the services we offer. But you need to evaluate the tools that work best for your metrics and what you are looking to show. Business Value Dashboards won’t be created over night, but if you follow the steps above, you’ll be on the path to better aligning your IT operations with the business and showing the executives that IT understands their needs.