Business Outcomes: The Real Priority When it Comes to IT Operations Management

Many IT departments view service delivery as their primary mission. These teams prioritize maintaining systems reliability and quickly resolving issues. And while service delivery and management of the underlying operations remain essential, IT departments must think strategically about how they can deliver value in helping a business grow and innovate. Risk aversion prevents many CIOs from moving too far in this direction, while limited budgets and priorities dictated by CEOs can also make such strategic shifts difficult. Nevertheless, it’s both possible and beneficial to incorporate innovation and growth strategies into the management of service delivery. By demonstrating how IT Operations Management (ITOM) can improve the bottom line, CIOs can directly link robust IT services with positive business outcomes and increase their clout.

Regaining a Seat at the Table

There is an inherent weakness in focusing purely on service delivery – it can lead to a reactive mentality in which division heads are simply waiting for the next warning light to blink.  Such limited strategic thinking throughout IT causes CIOs to be superseded by other C-level roles in making the decisions that guide the future of IT. For example, a CMO’s need for a new email marketing tool that integrates with social media may guide application adoption and the way systems are integrated to accommodate it. This is yet another way that IT becomes reactive, merely implementing what others need instead of leading the way forward. This type of approach leads IT down a road to increased obsolescence, as many decisions made about technologies and applications are business-centric. By focusing on the ways that ITOM can lead to better business outcomes, CIOs can regain their place in this conversation.

Improving ITOM starts with looking at the weaknesses within IT operations and finding ways to mitigate them. In many cases, inefficient ITOM can draw resources away from strategic planning and other initiatives. Remaining relevant in this changing environment requires a shift that is only possible if service delivery and operations management are streamlined within IT. This frees up resources for innovative projects. As a result, IT can become as much about enabling new technology and helping to transform a business as it is about service reliability. This approach serves to build the perceived value of IT and boosts the profile of CIOs as a valuable business partner in the C-suite. By highlighting what’s working and then setting a course to manage future technological challenges, IT can prove itself to be more agile and ready to help the company respond to rapid changes in the marketplace.

Getting to this point, of course, requires a redirected approach to ITOM. The sole focus should no longer be about finding the right technology and ensuring everything runs correctly – IT has to present itself as directly related to the bottom line calculations. CIOs must convey the value that IT operations bring to the business.

Preventing Outages that Hurt the Bottom Line

More effective ITOM helps to increase customer and client satisfaction, strengthening business ties and improving the perception of the business. Better running systems keep everyone happy. More effective ITOM also reduces downtime. Outages have direct financial impact to the organization, and for large businesses, even a brief outage can cost millions due to delayed deals or the failure of e-commerce services. For smaller businesses with more limited IT resources, an outage can snowball and may require costly outside help to resolve it.

In demonstrating the effectiveness of IT in improving the bottom line, CIOs should emphasize how a reduction of outages over time has helped to increase business profitability. Furthermore, when problems are less frequent, IT shifts from being a potential liability to an opportunity area for leading business growth. Linking IT to customer and employee satisfaction and resulting profitability goes a long way.

Increasing Visibility and Using Data to Prove the Value of IT

Another benefit of improved ITOM is that it becomes easier to quantify IT’s value in figures that will resonate in the C-suite. When the value of IT moves beyond just protecting business processes to catalyzing them, it makes it easier to see which systems and infrastructure are providing the most value. More effective ITOM leads to better access to analytics, and makes it easier to demonstrate the link between IT and business outcomes.

High quality data can be valuable in underscoring this. For example, some enterprises track each customer’s buying history, and can therefore demonstrate that improvement in IT services lead to more repeat business. But these metrics can be further expanded upon. Enterprises that can reach a high level of service predictability can spend more time looking at trends. Instead of dealing with issues, teams can shift to analyzing how the operations data they are receiving might benefit the business side.

Periods of high usage at certain times of day, which under less effective ITOM may have caused outages, can instead be more closely analyzed for opportunities. For example, such spikes may signal a good time for marketing outreach or a good place to streamline or upgrade services to improve the customer experience. Greater visibility into IT operations and nimbleness in management provides an opportunity for CIOs to uncover the value of the assets and analytics at their disposal.

Shifting Focus to Strategic Priorities

The latest ITOM solutions can help to automate processes, which helps lower the overall cost of IT operations. Automated processes also allow for IT employees to be tasked with more strategic projects, such as integrating specialty applications requested by business units. More effective ITOM leads to better resource allocation and helps bring IT to the next level of guiding business development. Many cutting-edge technology companies streamlined their operations years ago through automation and centralization, and this has allowed them to adapt to changes in the marketplace with greater speed. Businesses can increase efficiency and save money when IT teams are able to think more strategically. CIOs need to be concerned about being left behind, and one of the best ways to avoid this is ensure ITOM is modernized.

Too many businesses continue to operate on outdated legacy management systems, some of which are heavily customized.  This makes IT evolution sluggish, oftentimes necessitating prolonged updates and the involvement of consultants to ensure these old management systems remain operational in today’s rapidly changing environment. This approach not only weighs down IT, but it can be very costly over time.  When IT operations are managed using more nimble systems, change becomes easier – new applications, infrastructure and services can be more effectively integrated without slowing down or even breaking the current operating environment. This speeds up a business’ overall ability to meet marketplace demands.

The visibility from better ITOM enables strategic planning. If a particular application is the root cause of many issues within IT, then it may be beneficial to update the code or even replace the application. If networking infrastructure is the root cause of many issues, then it should be upgraded. These examples seem straightforward and simple, but knowing precisely where proactive actions are needed would not be possible without a high degree of insight into operations. When root causes cannot be easily identified, it not only slows the short-term issue remediation but also the strategic planning to come up with a long-term solution.

Improving ITOM Leads to Greater Business Relevance for IT

In seeing ITOM through the lens of business outcomes, it’s easier to find the weaknesses that are adversely affecting the organization’s bottom line. CIOs should continually assess whether their IT management systems are effectively aligned with understanding how IT is connected to business outcomes and also how it can help achieve them. Better ITOM yields increased visibility and root cause mapping. It also allows an IT department to build metrics to demonstrate the direct and specific financial value that its services provide to the business as a whole. By improving ITOM, a CIO can increase the overall relevance of IT in today’s changing environment and ensure a say in strategic planning and the overall business growth.

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