Business Satisfaction, the "One KPI to Rule them All"

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Business satisfaction is the one KPI to rule them all. You may track other KPIs (e.g., up/downtime, SLAs, tickets, etc.) but they eventually roll up into the one thing that matters most – IT’s ability to serve stakeholders. For most CIOs, this is not an earth-shattering revelation but the challenge is in execution, not theory.

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably come across some variation of the “who led the digital transformation meme”. It is important for two reasons: 1) it underscores the hunger for IT to have a seat at the roundtable, and critically 2) it shows how the carpet is now rolled out to those CIOs who do not have that seat yet. In a matter of months, organizations around the world have realized how they are dependent on IT for more than just service desk. We have been asked to step up to the plate and save the day. But how do we ride this wave and capitalize on this golden opportunity?

After thousands of interviews with stakeholders, we know that a large gap exists between the current state and the target state of business satisfaction with IT. This existed before COVID-19 and it will exist after COVID-19. The trend we see is a shift in demand for IT shops who are “Firefighters” to those who are “Innovators” and “Business Partners”. This is a great opportunity for CIOs, but if you do not know how to get where you want to go you will end up some place else.

So, the million-dollar question then becomes, “How do I increase business satisfaction?” Here are my 2 cents:

1) You cannot improve what you cannot measure. As an exercise, if you can confidently answer all three of these questions you are on the right track. Firstly ask yourself, “What are the drivers of business satisfaction in IT for my organization?” Secondly ask, “Which of these is most important for each stakeholder?” Critically now ask, “How do you know for sure?” If you stumbled on that last question or came up with a creative answer to get around the fact that you do not know for sure, your IT strategy is likely based on assumptions. And we all know what happens to you when you “assume”…

The above is industry data, not gospel. The moral of this part of the story is that you need to run your own assessment to determine the drivers of business satisfaction within your own organization. That said, industry averages across thousands of stakeholders do reveal meaningful trends. After running a few multiple linear regressions on our stakeholder data set, we found that IT’s ability to deliver projects on time and within budget is the top driver of business satisfaction. While this is informative, I would like to highlight the “ah hah!” part of this figure which is that relationships carry more weight compared to infrastructure and applications. In other words, working on your ability to understand stakeholders' needs and communicate is more effective than buying a shiny new tool. And guess what? Building relationships is far cheaper than buying that new tool too!

2) Look inward to assess which core processes support your industry’s business capabilities. As a CIO, you cannot focus on all 45 of the COBIT processes at once BUT you can determine which are the top six areas that are the foundation of IT programs that support business capabilities. As an exercise, I suggest asking three questions to your IT leadership team to help cut through the noise:

a. On a scale from 1-10, how are effective are we at each of these processes?

b. On a scale from 1-10, how important do you perceive each of these processes to be for us?

c. Which of these processes are your accountable for?

3) Lastly, come out of the weeds and focus on strategy. The IT leaders with high business satisfaction are focusing on higher-order functions, and they are certainly not reinventing the wheel nor creating SOPs and policies from scratch. In a recent time management study, we found that IT leaders with low business satisfaction are spending less than 1% of their time on IT strategy, innovation, and knowledge management. If you find yourself in the weeds, consider delegating to direct reports or leaning on a vendor.

In sum, COVID-19 has rolled out the red carpet for CIOs to take the “business bull” by the horns. Do not squander this golden opportunity to drive business satisfaction. Rather, put theory into action. This way, it will not take a global pandemic to lead the next big transformation in your organization. It will only take the CIO’s leadership to drive change.

Dr. Scott MacDonald​, PhD

Managing Commercial Director, North America & Asia-Pacific

Info-Tech Research Group

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