Software Value Needs to Start at the Top


I read an article recently, written by Hugo Sarrazin and Paul Willmott at McKinsey & Company, that I thought would be of interest to the readers of this blog. It resonates with my past posts about getting the software value message right to the top of the organization. The article was titled “Adapting your board to the digital age."

Who can argue with recommendations to make board members more informed about the development of technology solutions? I particularly like, “Board members need better knowledge about the technology environment, its potential impact on different parts of the company, and its value chain.”

I would have liked to have seen more stress on the importance of the board being focused on the value delivered by digital transformation. Some of the recommendations (such as having technology committees) could be seen as sufficient in themselves, which they are not. I’m sure that if the board has a “balloons” committee then the company will end up spending more on balloons, even if that is not going to increase the value of the company.

My recommendation to boards? Follow most of the good ideas in this paper, but beware of “digitization” for its own sake. Start and end with business value!

Read, “Adapting Your Board to the Digital Age,” here.

Mike Harris

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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Portfolio Software Value Management

The CIO Forum

Last year our CIO, Mike Harris, was invited to speak at the annual CIO Forum, a gathering of senior-level IT executives. Conference sessions are led by peers or industry experts, like Mike, who have a clear understanding of the business obstacles inherent in controlling large technology departments and how they can be managed and resolved. His presentation, "The Value Visualization of IT," shared his ideas about how to get the most value out of software development initiatives in order to drive better decision making and improve value flow.

His presentation was so well received, that he was invited to speak again this year! Of course, while it's nice to be recognized, the conference is a great opportunity for us as well, allowing us to better understand the issues at the top-of-mind for CIOs and to find out what they're dealing with on a day-to-day basis. In turn, we can provide some insight into strategies and tactics they may not have considered before.

For instance, Mike's presentation this year, "Portfolio Software Value Management," provided actionable steps for maximizing the flow of business value from software. He also shared insights from his forthcoming book, "The Business Value of Software" (publication date 2017), focusing on the best practices for deriving value from software development initiatives.

Industry trends suggest that IT management is increasingly being held accountable for the value of IT initiatives, and yet little effort is made to actually measure, track, and optimize the value of software development in any meaningful way. In the words of Mike, "It's appalling that so few organizations have implemented the necessary steps to demonstrate their value directly to the business in terms that they can understand and openly discuss."

Download his presentation for suggestions on how organizations can move forward down this path - and let us know what you think!


Written by Default at 05:00

Tips for Visualizing the Value of Software

Mike HarrisI’m an avid reader of industry publications – probably like many of you. So, when I come across an article that I think others may be interested in, I’m inclined to share! The latest article to pique my interest is, “Why They Just Don’t Get It,” from the May/June 2016 edition of IEEE Software.

The article itself is all about how to communicate about software architecture with business stakeholders. I’ve talked about it before (and we’re all aware by now), but there is a serious gap between the business and IT – to the detriment of the entire organization. Thus, it’s important for IT to find ways to effectively communicate with the business to facilitate thoughtful decision-making. This is true about software architecture and it’s true about software value.

The part of the article I want to focus in on is the section, “A Crash Course in Visual Communication.” In essence, the section discusses how it can be hard to put something complicated into words (like software architecture), so sometimes visuals enable improved communication. It reinforces what I have been communicating over the past year in many of my other blog posts and speaking engagements – the need for visualizing value. The section lists six lessons for creating architecture-related visuals, but they apply to value visuals as well.

1)      Our brains focus on things that are different, even in minor ways. When you’re making visuals, call-out the things you want the audience to pay attention to by making them different (changing the color is an easy way to achieve this).

2)      We also unconsciously organize visual elements into bigger groups. Help the viewer by making these groups more obvious (place like items close together or make them the same color, etc.)

3)      The colors you choose send messages, so choose wisely. For instance, many people associate red with negative emotions (anger, stop, etc.). Have these associations in mind when you select colors for your visuals.

4)      Don’t overcrowd your visual. Use icons and logos to make the image clean and easy to interpret.

5)      Read and learn about graphic design and apply basic principles whenever you can. You may not have the time for this, but I would suggest trying to look at the visuals you create with a more critical eye – or asking for someone else to review them.

6)      This is my favorite tip – try sketching! Not every visual that you share has to be a professional-looking graphic. If you’re in a meeting and having trouble communicating your thoughts, try sketching your thoughts – it may spur the right kind of conversation.

Visuals are a powerful communication tool, and when words aren’t serving us well, it’s wise to remember that we don’t always need them! When it comes to interacting with those outside of IT, think about how you can communicate in ways that will make sense to the other person – it will benefit both parties equally. My May 18, 2016 blog post, “Visualizing the Value Through Information Radiators and Business Dashboards” discusses two different visualization tools that help teams more easily manage their software development projects and demonstrate the value. Check those out – they could be useful!

How do you use imagery in your professional life for improved communication – or, how do you think your business could benefit from such a strategy?

Read the article: “Why They Just Don’t Get It,” IEEE Software.



Mike Harris

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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CIOs Discuss Prioritizing Projects by Business Value

Mike HarrisLast week I had the pleasure of speaking at The CIO and IT Security Forum in Miami. I also spoke at a CIO Forum this past fall. At these events, my presentations are delivered to small groups of CIOs/CISOs intentionally to allow an interactive and intimate dialogue. That said, I had about 35 people split across two presentations last week. My goal for these presentations is to offer ideas for using software business value to prioritize development projects at the strategic and tactical levels, to provide practical examples, and, above all, to evangelize to try to get more companies doing this stuff – visualizing the business value of their software development efforts.

The attendees were very engaged in this topic. Most of their interest was focused on using cost of delay and weighted shortest job first approaches to prioritize projects. In the first session, the audience requested I go through the calculations in detail, so I incorporated that into the second presentation and again got a positive response. There was something of an “aha” moment in both sessions as they realized that coming up with relative business value for prioritization purposes is actually a practical proposition.

In the first session, we had a substantial group of CISOs, and we talked about where information security investments fit in the business value of software – a particular piece of software development could result in a reduction of risk, but all software development has the potential to add risk of a vulnerability if security is ignored or is simply paid lip service. 

Of the 35 or so participants, just two claimed to attempt to prioritize by business value. They were able to describe their approaches to the other participants. This is one of the great things about CIO Forum events – participants learn as much from their peers as they do from the presenters, and I always try to encourage this interchange during my sessions.

Do you prioritize your software development initiatives by business value? If not, what criteria do you use to prioritize your projects?  If you’d like to learn more about focusing on software business value to prioritize your efforts, click here for white papers, additional blogs, and webinars on the topic.

Mike Harris


Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00

IT as a Value Center

IT Value CenterIT is often considered a Cost Center for an organization. It is viewed as an overhead expense and when determining which projects should move forward, senior management tends to considers cost of the IT projects as the key criteria for that decision. In more recent years, some organizations have begun to look at it in terms of a Profit Center, where the IT projects actually generate revenue for the organization and positively impact the bottom line. This has been beneficial for IT departments helping them to prove their worth within the organization.

This week, my new white paper, “IT as a Value Center (not a Profit nor a Cost Center),” was published, where I discussed yet another transformation the IT industry needs to make. CIOs (and an organization’s entire senior management team) need to consider IT as a Value Center. By doing so, organizations will keep a lens on maximizing value through proper prioritization of upgrades and enhancements of existing technologies to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers (both external and internal).  

The white paper discusses the differences between the three schools of thought: Cost vs. Profit vs. Value. In my view, the value center approach flips today’s paradigm and positions IT decision-makers to focus on adding value to the balance sheet and to the customer experience. 

I welcome you to download the white paper and share your thoughts on IT as a Value Center. Have you tried this approach in your organization and, if so, has it driven a stronger collaboration among IT and the business units?

Mike Harris


Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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