Innovation is the new “I” in ROI

Refocus on cycle time and the delivery experience
Return on Investment (ROI) is the archaic model of value IT buying centers have relied on for what feels like a century. If you still use this as a primary decision-making criteria in IT, it’s time to consider new methods – which as it turns out are not all that new themselves. IT orgs can never really break-free from the “cost center” label, when the primary buying focus is return on investment (classic ROI). Combine that with the amount of “engineered accounting” that is done to make the classic ROI numbers look good (read: cheap), the continuous use of classic ROI as a decision arbiter has placed IT in a weakened position with the business. We have done it to ourselves…but fear not, we can turn this thing around!

At the pace of business today, we need a fresh metric for IT decisions, a method that re-aligns IT with revenue, business value, and speed. This re-alignment empowers IT out of the cost-center doldrums and into an enthusiastic partnership with our business peers. By renewing IT’s focus on producing agility and speeding delivery, we can re-position ourselves as an innovation platform for the business. As an enabler now, IT can prove its worth with a direct impact on the business’ return on innovation – the speed at which the business can produce/deliver new revenue opportunities.

Cloud providers have moved on this idea early, offering an enticing advantage in speed and delivery over “traditional” IT – and while they can compete with us at times, they have also shown a path to success. This path points directly to “cycle time”. Cycle time, how fast can you produce a single app, a VM, a platform, etc. with the appropriate quality and governance. This concept is not new, in fact it is recycled from an efficiency practice that manufacturing companies have used for years. By focusing on the amount of time it takes to produce and deliver a single consumable unit, new efficiencies are uncovered which can ultimately drive down cost, increase speed to market, and improve quality.

“Cycle time is the total time from the beginning to the end of your process, as defined by you and your customer. Cycle time includes process time, during which a unit is acted upon to bring it closer to an output, and delay time, during which a unit of work is spent waiting to take the next action.”
Cycle Time | iSixSigma

The quality improvements also spread across consumers and employees, smaller teams, faster tools, and improved service levels. Sounds good right? Back to the cloud providers – the promise of faster IT has led many to the cloud already, and sometimes the business went without us – which further proves the importance of this cycle time idea. And while some businesses can be all-in on cloud, most of us will inevitably end up with a hybrid model, having to control provider and in-house services. The predicament of hybrid IT can quickly throw our cycle time (and lifecycle times) out of balance across all IT services if not addressed early. The hybrid model further complicates by creating extra administrative points, identity, authentication, and governance concerns. To address these challenges head-on and create a linear improvement in cycle time across all IT (cloud and local), you need automation. To improve the delivery experience of faster IT, you need a service catalog (an app store if you will).

My favorite platform for wrangling in the hybrid model, improving delivery cycle time, and frankly promoting a higher quality IT experience, is CliQr. Now, it’s no secret I have been a CliQr fanboy for some time, and I was thrilled to hear about Cisco’s intent to acquire CliQr earlier this month. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen me recommend Cisco buy them last October. CliQr provides an elegant interface and “app store” experience for both producers and consumers of IT. In part II of this post, I will drill into CliQr a bit more, discussing features that have a positive impact on cycle time, directing a higher return on innovation for your business. Innovation is the new competitive differentiation, Return on Innovation is the new ROI.

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