Business owners and managers often see Information Technology as a bottomless expense and sometimes wonder aloud what IT professionals are really doing for them. The job descriptions are an alphabet soup of acronyms and sometimes those unknown abbreviations leak into increasingly incomprehensible presentations. Slavish chasing of flavor-of-the-year certifications, software, and trademarked processes overwhelms consideration of the fundamentals.
Why, then, does IT matter? What value does it bring to every business? A computer can calculate or process things faster than a human and can store vastly greater quantities of information. For most businesses, those traits were maximized a long time ago when manual labor and paper file cabinets were replaced. Today, IT's greatest vaue is its contributions to senior management decision making.
Every manager is faced with the same fundamental questions:
1) How do we propose to generate revenue?
2) How should I allocate resources to accomplish that?
3) How well did we meet the revenue goal? Why?
From the business' existing stores of data, IT can provide information to assist in answering these questions. In addition, when needed, IT professionals should know the best sources of data about the performance of the competition, the demographics of the potential customer base, and be first to offer meaningful enhancements to analytic techniques.
Executives should ask the relevance to the business of any IT activity. Data is "cleansed", "harmonized", and "integrated" not because it makes data processing more efficient but because it provides more accurate answers to business questions which ask "how many?" "who?" "what are they doing?" Software applications and visualization tools should not be replaced simply because enhanced technology is available, but only when these tools change the prism on available information and can provide more relevant insight to a manager or line of business. Even system security should not be enhanced to protect IT, but rather to protect competitive advantage and support client retention. The best IT professionals can and should always address their work from the perspective of the value it provides to the business and the bottom line.