The situation that many IT people find themselves in today is dripping with irony. They’ve deployed so many innovations over the years to address so many business challenges, that now most of their time is dedicated to simply keeping their systems running. Without incremental resources during these lean budget times, their new innovation cycles decline in direct proportion to their past innovations.

Given the current budget realities, how can IT break out of this innovation trap?

There are many technical ways to significantly reduce complexity with our Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure and Cisco Unified Access. But that’s only part of the answer. The bigger issue here is as much about business as it is about technology. Quite simply, how can IT people directly support more business objectives and show more business value?

While technical priorities are well understood, how does IT decide which business priorities to address – particularly in an environment where they’re shifting rapidly? And once they’ve sorted that out, how do they pick the right solutions to their organization’s unique business goals?

We’ve been researching this pivotal area for some time, and the tools we’re creating can help IT people sort through this process more quickly and easily, so they can meet business expectations sooner. Here are three steps that can help:

1)   Visualize Priorities – Hit with many competing priorities from multiple departments, IT can feel caught in the middle. Here’s a way to compare the priorities from several groups at once.  We call it a Business Priority Matrix, and it’s simply a radar chart that compares multiple groups and priorities in one view.

The Financial Services example in figure 1 below shows the priorities for three different groups collected from 244 people in that industry – Director level or higher people in the Executive, Sales and Marketing, or Finance groups – who have taken our Cisco IT and Business Survey as of July 7, 2014.  You can take the survey and see results for many industries here.

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Figure 1 : Business Priorities by Department for Financial Services – source: Cisco Business and IT Survey, July 7, 2014

With this type of chart, you can intuitively see how priorities from different groups are either common across many or unique to one. Once you’ve clarified these business priorities, you can identify solutions that map accordingly.

2)   Map Priorities to Solutions – Matching solutions to your business priorities is now a little easier with a new tool called Solution Central. We’ve collected the top business priorities from many industries (using the survey mentioned above), so you can see the business benefits directly associated with many Cisco solutions.

On each Solution Central page you’ll see a case study that highlights these benefits, so you can show how companies like yours have transformed their business along with their IT infrastructure.

3)   Define Business Objectives – This step is where things get really interesting, because it requires IT, business and operations teams to deeply understand each other’s perspectives and goals. Deploying solutions within the context of these goals creates more alignment and shared responsibility, and reduces the “shadow IT” challenges that occur when IT, business and operations aren’t on the same page.

Here’s a case study that illustrates how this understanding can result in solutions such as Connected Mobile Experiences, which delivered very specific business results for intu, a retail property company in the United Kingdom. See the full BizWise TV episode here.

Fulgoni“Since implementing free Wi-Fi with the Cisco wireless network, we have grown our customer database more than 100 percent with more than 1 million unique registrations and over 50 percent opt-in rate for information and promotions. This dramatically increases our ability to gather intelligence about what drives our customers.”

— Gian Fulgoni, Chief Information and Systems Officer, intu

If you’re in the healthcare industry, this case study on how Sparrow Hospital successfully deployed an Electronic Medical Records system, and used a Cisco Intelligent WAN to improve patient care and medical imaging delivery, might be of interest. This hospital was also a ComputerWorld Honors finalist back in 2009.

See more case studies with business objective examples here.

Of course, there are many more details and processes involved than the steps outlined here, but these basics can help people who are in a “keep the lights on” mindset shift their perspective back to one of the passions that probably lured them into IT in the first place – innovation.

Read earlier blogs in this series here.


Marlowe Fenne

No Longer with Cisco