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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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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CMO and IT Collaboration = Higher Software Value

Mike HarrisChief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have become one of the most frequent internal customers of IT departments in recent years. There has been an explosion in the use of technology by marketers as they have had to turn to online channels to reach their target audiences.

Digital marketing techniques, such as: interactive websites, mobile marketing, videos, email campaigns, search engine marketing/optimization, among others have become instrumental for marketers to get their messages in front of the right audiences and achieve their target revenue goals. 

In addition to the numerous digital marketing practices, there has also been a significant increase in the use of marketing automation tools, such as Hubspot and Pardot, to manage all of the moving parts of a marketing program; and also in CRM solutions, like Salesforce.com, to help maximize the relationships of customers and prospects. Furthermore, marketers are relying on analytics to better understand how their programs are performing. With these tools, they know what’s working, what’s not working and are able to adjust appropriately throughout a campaign.    

As a result of this heavy reliance on technology, CMOs have had to turn to IT frequently to help determine which solutions best fit their needs. Whether purchasing a COTS solution or building a software application from scratch, the IT department can help the CMO clearly understand the technologies available to meet their objectives and maximize the business value from their software. 

To reap the most value from a software solution, the CMO and IT department need to collaborate. It is essential for IT to clearly understand marketing’s business requirements and ultimate goals in order to deliver a software solution that meets their value expectations. 

CMOs and IT are encouraged to utilize a methodology such as the 5-step Value Visualization Framework (VVF) to ensure they have a clear directive to discuss, define, measure, and prioritize their software development initiatives. The VVF process enables marketing and IT to jointly set goals, make data-based decisions and measure against those goals.  It drives greater alignment between IT and marketing through a common language about value and priorities; and can drive IT’s continuous alignment with marketing’s end objectives. 

What collaborative methods do you use to align your business units and IT?

Mike Harris
DCG President & CEO


Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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Three (of Many) Perspectives of Business Value

When we think of value, dollar signs often flash in our heads. In business, value typically translates to increased profits. The same can be said when talking about the value of a new piece of software. It is truly the simplest form of the “business value of software."

However, increased profit is not the only way that organizations, or even individuals within an organization, measure a software solution’s value. The CEO, CFO, CIO and the CMO may all be looking at the software from different points of view. Although there could be a laundry list of different perspectives within just one organization, in today’s blog post, we will just focus on three of the more popular views: profit, customer (internal or external) needs and build vs. buy.

With any new piece of software, there is a good chance that it will result in increased profits for an organization. This is often all that the CFO is focused on. Even not-for-profit organizations, such as government agencies that run their operations more like businesses, are looking to new software solutions to positively impact their bottom line.

The second perspective, focusing on the value delivered to the customer, is another view that sometimes can trump profit. Whether the ”customers" are in-house staff or external clients, or both, the cost of adding new features or functionality to a software solution needs to be carefully considered to determine if the intangible benefit outweighs the cost of developing this new feature.

The third view is the build vs. buy consideration. Does it make more sense to develop a piece of software internally or purchase Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software? An internally-developed software solution may be more costly and resource intensive, but may fit the needs of the customers more closely. While the COTS software may be the less expensive option, it may require significant customization to provide the desired business value.

These are just three examples of how different organizations or individuals might perceive the business value of software. When a CFO is involved in approving the purchase or development of new software, increased profit is usually the focus. However, we should not always assume the business value of software is increased profit. There are many different interpretations.

Mike Harris
DCG President & CEO

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
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"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG Owner

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