Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's on the CIO Dashboard ?

March is a very interesting month for most Indian companies. This is the financial year end for a majority; it also brings to focus the ritual of performance appraisals. For a few, this is probably the only time for a formal discussion and feedback session. Irrespective of the frequency of meetings with your Manager, this one holds a lot of importance, as its outcome determines the quantum of increase in compensation and benefits, variable pay, and promotions. Thus, everyone starts preparing for this very important meeting with their manager. The higher you go up the hierarchy, the more intense the discussion. And this is where the CIO dashboard starts making a difference.

Typically, IT was used to measure uptimes, availability, application response time, and similar technology related indicators. These were deemed critical, and most meetings ended up discussing slow application response times or lack of support during month end peaks. This used to happen until realization of the futility of such measures (across the table), as these parameters did not present a true picture of the ground reality.

In the meanwhile, the IT Head also got smarter in his evolution into the CIO role. He began correlating with business outcomes in such a way that the audience began to appreciate discussion around parameters that they understood. Projects were reviewed on timelines and budgets; somewhere, the additional parameter “business value” was added, and everyone agreed. Quite a few technology solutions and consulting companies continue to offer CIO dashboards revolving around the old paradigm of availability and budgets. Today, there’s enough buzz around the business outcomes, but these are not yet figuring on the CIO dashboards.

CIO dashboards are now no different from that of other CXOs, with maybe one or two IT specific metrics being reported or monitored. One of them could be the disaster recovery site’s health, should the business contingency plan be put into action. The second may revolve around the IT organization’s financial health, considering that most IT budgets are now equivalent to an SME’s business balance sheet. As organizations adopt balance scorecards across the enterprise, the discussion around CXO dashboards become irrelevant. As business evolves from viewing reports to dashboards to gaining actionable insights into key business activities, I believe that the dashboards will be relegated to history. Our current state matters, and what we did to reach where we are. It’s also important to know why we are here, and where we should head for.

Annual appraisals bring this into the limelight, as this is probably the best discussion that most CEOs have with the CIO. Clarity of thought is important, as you prepare for this discussion. Maybe, it’s time to challenge the CEO (or whoever your Manager is), on the metrics for your next evaluation.

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