Book Review: The Business Value of IT

Book Review: The Business Value of IT

by / June 25, 2008

Government relies as heavily on IT these days as the private sector does, but there has been a real gap in the understanding of IT's business value. We can come up with some reasonable measurements of value when a government builds a school, highway, bridge or park. But until recently, little attention has been given to the ways to measure IT inputs and outputs of business processes, and for transforming these measurements into "business value" metrics that are appropriate for both the public and private sector.

More importantly, it's been nearly impossible for senior executives in government - governors, agency secretaries, mayors, city/county managers, chief financial officers and even CIOs - to have the metrics of IT explained in a way they can understand and appreciate.

The Business Value of IT: Managing Risks, Optimizing Performance, and Measuring Results sets out to deliver to business leaders and CIOs a window into the arcane world of IT measurement and performance: "We are seeking to deliver business visibility into IT performance by providing practical advice based on industry best practice," write Harris, Herron and Iwanicki.

By including techniques, methods and processes written in layman's terms for identifying risks, measuring performance and putting a dollar value on IT, the authors hope to give, in our case, government executives the answer to the challenging question of how to extract business value from IT.

The book is divided into four sections: business value, governance, performance and implementation. Each section poses a question. For example, the first section asks, "What does IT contribute to the business?" It then delves into what business can expect from IT; how it can measure the value of IT; how to find out how much IT is enough for business; and whether the organization is paying too much for IT.

Part two addresses IT governance, with topics ranging from who governs IT and what models to use (e.g., Control Objectives for Information and related Technology, Information Technology Infrastructure Library), to how to outsource effectively and what IT tools to include in the business. Part three looks at ways to measure IT performance, measurement models to use and setting baselines for performance.

The final section looks at how an organization can manage change, risk and the people who run IT. This includes the CIO's role, and to paraphrase the real-estate industry, it's all about "leadership, leadership, leadership." Unfortunately the book leaves only the final few pages to the issue of what IT should expect from business, and in particular, the problems of alignment and relationships. It seems more could be said about a high-priority subject CIOs today.

The Business Value of IT is really for the executives at the top of government in terms of business and finance, and it does a good job of explaining the risks, performance and results of IT - key elements of government today.


Tod Newcombe Features Editor