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Brief: How can CIOs improve their presentations to senior management?

Rather than think of executive meetings as forums merely to advocate technology, CIOs should use them as venues to present new ways that IT can contribute to the business strategy....CIO Magazine, April 1997

This is the second installment in a continuing series on CIO relations with senior management. In this installment, we will discuss the presentations CIOs give when proposing the technology budget for the upcoming budget cycle. Although these presentations are a predictable occurrence (e.g., once a year), many CIOs are ill-prepared to deal with them.

In the first installment, "What can CIOs do to improve communications with senior management?", we discussed what the CIO should do to demonstrate IT’s alignment with strategic goals and business objectives. Our focus here is: how can the CIO do this?

Key Information. Remember, senior management often doesn’t care a whole lot about the technology.  What they want and need to know is what the technology will enable the organization to accomplish. They want it in clear, succinct, and tangible business terms.

Five ways the CIO can improve presentations to senior management:

  1. State the alignment with strategies and objectives
     

    Don’t assume that every senior manager will instantly, or accurately, relate IT proposals with particular organizational strategies and objectives. Explicitly state the particulars for major projects or groups of projects and activities. Sometimes, IT projects / activities may not be aligned, but may still be important - tell them why and how.
     
  2. Show the focus on the organization’s top priorities
     

    The IT organization, in cooperation with others, has (presumably) identified a portfolio of IT projects / activities that address one or more top priorities of the organization - state the priority of each IT project / activity. Leave no doubt that every proposed expenditure is related to the most important priorities of the organization.  Additionally, tell them if there are priorities that are not being addressed and why (e.g., a top priority may not require an IT solution).
     
  3. Specify the anticipated benefits
     

    State the benefit in clear, quantified business terms, i.e., tell them what the outcome of proposed IT project / activity will yield in terms of business efficiency, effectiveness, client satisfaction, increased revenues, etc.
     
  4. State the risks
     

    Senior management knows that IT projects, and some activities, can be risky investments.  They just don’t know which are the most risky. Let them know that risk has been evaluated, what the IT organization’s assessment is, and how it will be mitigated (e.g., a project that is advocated by an influential business unit may be so loosely defined that delivery of its proposed benefits on time, within budget, cannot be assured without further business analysis.   Consequently, this might be designated as "high risk" until a convincing case is developed and evaluated).
     
  5. Show that the IT organization means business
     

    Business periodicals are replete with articles discussing how risky IT investments are ("junk bond" grade), and IT management’s lack of business understanding. Demonstrate that the IT organization is as professional in its management practices as it is in the technology. Provide, at least, an overall project management plan and the IT organization’s non-technical performance management approach.

Reality. Few IT organizations have developed the management capacity to produce the foregoing information for the broad spectrum of IT projects / activities that they must deliver. Organizations that do not have the capacity to completely develop and deliver the necessary information should focus their efforts on providing the information for the largest and highest priority projects. With time and experience (along with the right skills and business processes) this capability can be extended to the entire portfolio of IT investment options.

This is the second installment in our series on CIO/senior management relations. Look for our next installment, "How to get the right information". Coming soon!

If you are a CIO/CFO/CEO, we want to hear from you. Send us your comments and questions.

 

 

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