Savvy CIOs Market Their Successes

If you want your IT group to be thought of as a center of innovation for your organization, you've got to get the attention of business management. Internal marketing can help.

John Soat, Contributor

May 7, 2008

3 Min Read

If you want your IT group to be thought of as a center of innovation for your organization, you've got to get the attention of business management. Internal marketing can help."IT is typically much more productive than they tell anybody about," says Bobby Cameron, principal analyst for the CIO practice at consulting firm Forrester Research. And why hide your light under a bushel?

The marketing of IT is something that's taking on a lot of interest among CIOs right now, Cameron says. When the business attitude around IT improves, operational effectiveness improves, and communication between IT and the business improves. "IT can make that intentional by marketing itself," he says.

Cameron says he knows of a large health care organization that hired a product marketing person. "She didn't even know how to spell IT," he says. But she helped raise the visibility of the IT organization within that firm. And that's a role that's increasingly more common these days, he says.

Marketing IT is just one step in turning your IT organization into an innovation center, according to Cameron, who has just completed a study for Forrester called, "CIOs: Don't Wait To Innovate." It's also a theme of Forrester's upcoming IT Forum conference. Here's Cameron's executive summary of his piece:

Innovation may sit at the top of CIOs' agendas, but too many of you are waiting before you address innovation -- waiting to get your IT organization's house in order, waiting to hear from the business about what to do, or waiting to be formally assigned the innovation leadership role. But there is no reason to wait to innovate. Instead, you should tactically pursue innovation while you revamp IT. Then when you think it's time, you will be ready to engage the business in a formal innovation process as you move yourself and IT to become a catalyst for innovation.

Other steps CIOs can take now toward becoming a catalyst for business innovation, Cameron says, include:

>> Have a special budget focused on innovation. There is very little R&D budget devoted to IT these days, Cameron points out. Try to carve out a little of your IT budget for innovation. It will pay dividends.

>> Rotate IT staff into business roles. Make sure your IT organization is immersed in business strategy and practices.

>> Have a project portfolio. Cameron says CIOs typically find it hard to get funding for projects that aren't at the extreme ends of the high-risk/high-reward continuum, but in the middle of that continuum is where a lot of innovation can be found. A project portfolio can help give you choices, instead of being forced to make either/or decisions.

>> Develop a success framework, a capability map that allows you to "apply some model for good success and drive that forward," he says.

That's where marketing comes in. When you achieve success in developing innovative IT or business practices or processes -- no matter how incremental -- make sure the business side knows about it.

Most CEOs value innovation above all other business initiatives these days. And most business technology managers know that IT is a logical jumping off point for innovation. So Cameron's advice holds true: Don't wait to innovate! And make sure the business side knows of your successes by marketing them internally.

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