Many CIOs today are fighting a losing battle. They are trying to keep their jobs or grow their influence but their organizations simply view them as "the cable guy."
While the utility aspect of IT is important (the trains do need to run on time!) it is not enough for a CIO to truly earn her stripes as a business executive. You need to show that you are not only providing a needed service, but are also driving business value.
I learned early on at the USTA that I was working from a position of weakness. Our board certainly understood the value of investing in the US Open. After all, it is our golden goose that funds our mission. They also understood the value of investing in community tennis, which is the mission of the association. But when it came to IT, the value of investing was much more unclear and nebulous to them.
The secret of getting people to value what you do is not to try to teach them more about what you do, but rather to help them connect the dots between what you do and what they already understand and value. Let me give you a few examples.
In this post 9/11 world, it was understood that we needed to have a high level of security and access control at the US Open. When we requested funding to implement an access control solution, we not only focused on the need for physical security on the site, but we also looked at the potential revenue impact. There are public safety laws that limit the number of people we can have on our campus at any given time. One of the benefits of the new access control solution we were proposing was that since we would know how many people were on campus, it opened up the opportunity for us to sell more grounds passes to fans. This resulted in an annual seven figure increase in ticket revenue for a $50K investment. Not a bad ROI!
We recently rolled out a new point-of-sale solution for our food concessions. In addition to the usual improvements from this solution, we were also able to place a small battery-operated wireless device on our stand-alone kiosks. In the past, since these carts were not tethered to our network, we could only accept cash. Given that we could now use the full point-of-sale capability, we were also able to take credit and debit card transactions at these mobile carts. This resulted in about a 20 percent increase in revenue for these stands.
Finally, we developed a suite of online registration applications for our league and tournament players that we were able to license to another organization, creating a six-figure revenue opportunity.
The members of my board may not have understood the technology nuances and implications of these solutions, but they sure understood the revenue implications! Our job as business executives is to find ways to positively impact both top-line revenue and bottom-line results. Technology can be leveraged in innovative ways to accomplish both objectives. So at the end of the day, you need to ask yourself -- are you simply running a utility service organization or are you also impacting your company's bottom line?