The IT Imperative – Many people talk about benefits, when they are really referring to improvements or advantages, but these are not things that have clear and tangible business value. Advantages may have benefits attached, but to be converted into actual benefits, they need to be linked to the value that is derived. Two primary axes can be used for outlining benefits, which can be categorised into financial versus, operational and increasing versus decreasing. Essentially something can increase value add or flexibility, otherwise it can reduce cost or risk.
For example a new system might ‘speed things up’, but if there no financial or operation saving or gain, the value cannot be quantified. Both financial and operational benefits are directly linked to the performance of the business and so provide a traceable and direct link to something that can be widely recognised.
However, value or benefit in the case of an IT project should not be limited to the impact it has on the organisation, but should also include other considerations to understand the complete impact.
Firstly, consider the individual or individuals responsible for the project. These people are critically involved and crucially their future standing in the organisation, and beyond, will depend on the level of success or otherwise of the project. This sounds fair, but all too often there is a lack of clarity between objectives as understood by the wider business and the technical goals set as part of the project. Those running the project may believe they have accomplished what was required, but that is not how it is perceived. It is in their personal interests for this to be more focused and better understood.
There are also external considerations to take into account. An organisation might pat itself on the back for delivering what was apparently a successful project, only to find out that this still leaves it substantially behind its competitors.
Similarly it might take a dim view of another project that appeared to miss its internal goals, but leapfrogs the competition or greatly improves the relationship with an influential external partner.
All of these considerations need to be built in from the outset in a way that captures the wider beneficial impact and links the investment decisions at each stage to the business results actually delivered. Those directly involved may be able to do this, but often an external viewpoint that is more emotionally detached can more easily capture the bigger picture and ensure that the right connections are made.