Strategies: Software Tools Help Sell IT to Decision-Makers

Now, more than ever, IT departments are selling themselves to business leaders—and tapping new software tools to help them do it

Business alignment is the buzzword du jour, and many IT professionals are probably tired of hearing about it. But the alignment of IT with the business goals of an organization is serious business to frazzled IT executives, who are under intense pressure to justify their budgets to business executives. The best way to do so, some argue, is to show how IT contributes to an organization’s bottom line.

San Jose, Calif.-based Euclid Inc. is a purveyor of business service management (BSM) solutions that claims to help IT executives do just that. Euclid provides back-end software, professional services, and executive-friendly dashboards that help organizations identify business services and ensure that they execute—in a business-aligned manner—on them.

It’s a proposition that CIOs and other IT decision-makers can’t get enough of, says Euclid CEO Patty Azzarello. “The energy and the contact typically comes from the CIO office or one of the IT executives,” she observes. “CIOs really struggle because there’s no memory in the organization about IT investments, so if one year a CIO puts in a bunch of automation to improve the inventory control system and it’s a big success for the business, Wall Street will give him credit for that maybe for a year. But then next year no one remembers that you have to keep paying for that system.”

Although some IT professionals probably blanch at the thought, IT organizations need to become savvier about marketing, Azzarello says.

“You need to do better and you need to look better. On the do-better side, it really is about understanding what are the most critical things to the business, and then just nailing it. You’re never going to align with the business if you’re not delivering the service levels you’ve committed to, based on how the business would define success,” she points out. “The other thing you need to do is look better, and there’s a big marketing project for IT organizations to manage their publicity with the rest of the business.”

One way in which savvy IT organizations are doing this, Azzarello notes, is by commissioning so called “business relationship managers,” who—for lack of a better description—are charged with selling IT to business decision-makers.

“We’re finding that we’re often most welcomed in the IT organizations that have put in place business relationship managers, because they’re the ones who’ve decided that IT needs to present itself differently to the business.”

How can IT organizations achieve an emergency makeover in the eyes of skeptical business executives? Through a combination of directed marketing and relationship building, says Azzarello. “There’s both a business conversation and a relationship aspect to it, as well as the way they specifically communicate their performance to business leaders. That’s another place where Euclid really stands out, because our reports and our dashboards are so easily consumable and roll-based for the other stakeholders in the organization.”

Alignment is a nebulous concept, but one surefire way in which IT organizations can “align” themselves with business goals is to identify key business services and do their best to ensure that the IT operations which support them are both available and reliable. In many cases, Azzarello says, this may mean abandoning—or reshaping—many traditional IT performance metrics. “There was a situation a few years ago where Visa went down for an hour or so on Christmas Eve morning. So during that hour, MasterCard, American Express, they got all of Visa’s business,” she explains. “But if Visa’s IT department measures its performance using the usual criteria, they could say they met their 99.99 whatever availability goals [for that year].”

Availability is important, says Azzarello, but availability during key periods—such as the Christmas shopping season for retail outfits—is even more important.

So how does Euclid help IT departments align themselves with the goals of their parent organizations? For starters, Azzarello says, her company’s software back-end—which consists of an information broker, several adapters, and a business information server—collects data from ERP systems and creates reports or provides dashboard views based on that data.

Of course, before companies can get to the reporting and dashboarding stage, they’ve got to have some help from Euclid’s professional services team, which typically conducts an assessment (based on input from IT and business leaders) of an organization’s service environment. Once an implementation is complete, however, IT departments can serve up detailed reports that provide information about how we’ll they’re executing on a number of business drivers.

“The CFO might want to understand how IT spending is relevant to a particular business item like revenue generated, and we can show that information in our reports and in our dashboards,” says Azzarello. “We can show demand for service, and then through the dashboards we can drill down, so you can start at the highest level and drill down all the way from the business service to the IT service that supports it—even down to the actual infrastructure components that are supporting it to do root cause analysis.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.