Essential CIO tools: The business presentation

This is part three of a four-part series on the types of presentations every CIO must have. So far I’ve talked about:

  • 1. The vision presentation, which positions you as an industry luminary vis-a-vis technology and potentially impacts your customers and your company.
  • 2. The strategy presentation, which demonstrates that you are at the helm of a well-designed organization focused on adding value to the business in a way that dovetails with the company’s operating model.

Today, I’m going to talk about the third presentation that needs to be in the arsenal of every influential IT leader: the business presentation.

In a nutshell, the business presentation provides an overview of the IT services that the corporation as a whole, and each particular group, is consuming. It’s the complete and transparent reporting on all the services IT is delivering. It presents a set of key delivery metrics, such as:

  • User counts and application uses
  • Helpdesk volumes
  • Second- and third-tier support calls
  • Allocated costs

These must all be arranged in a way that paints a picture over time of the shifting demands and use of IT services.

It’s likely to also contain a summary of the status and costs of major IT projects and a list of the key risks related to those projects.

This presentation is automatically prepared (or should be) on a quarterly basis and should be with you at all times for ready reference. That’s because as a CIO you meet and talk with your internal customers on a regular basis.

Much as I love the “deep thinking” associated with vision and strategy, I have found that the really influential IT leaders excel at the business presentation. And when you do, it more than makes up for any deficiencies of vision or strategy. And why is that? Because let’s face it, IT is still about service provision and service management. And if you have a rock-solid handle on the business of IT service delivery you are a force to be reckoned with. You have the respect of the CFO, the CEO, and by definition all your peers. You may be a gearhead, but you run a tight ship and they admire that. So, never underestimate the power of the business presentation and what it says about you as a manager deserving of respect.

So, if you want to be viewed as a business partner and not just a whipping boy for the latest problem, you have to be out in front of the issues, always providing tangible metrics and transparent reporting. That’s where the business presentation comes in.

In most cases the CIOs and their staffs don’t have ready access to, or produce, these numbers (that’s a whole other problem we’ll talk about at another time). But when they do have access to these numbers, they’re often reticent to share them because they’re concerned they’re not good enough.

But that’s exactly the problem: the numbers don’t start getting better until you start getting them out there so that you can see how your resources are being consumed differently by different initiatives and groups.

Getting that visibility, presenting it to your internal customers, and talking about it are the most important steps to getting a seat at the table. It will give you the influence you want because you’ve shifted your conversation from a conversation of projects and complaints to a conversation of dollars and cents. And you’ll have a real basis for a genuine discussion.

That’s when people realize that you’re a force to be reckoned with and you’re not afraid to present what’s really going on. They’ll know that you’re really in control, that you face off like a peer, and that you have real influence over what’s happening.

And even though every presentation might not be the one you wished for, your people and your peers will start to see you as a real leader.

Next time I’ll tell you how to draw from all three of these critical standard presentations in order to deliver on what people want and, more importantly, to drive your agenda of building influence.

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