Menno Huijben
Jan 24, 2011
Posted in category: 2011 Member Articles

Decide IT

Organizations make many decisions, good ones and bad ones. Implementing good decisions deliver value to the stakeholders of these organizations. Bad implementation of good decisions will not bring the expected value.
There are also decisions, that when executed turn out to have been bad decisions. Unfortunately there are also plenty of bad decisions that are implemented, despite the fact that many people in the organization already knew that “this won’t work”. Here politics, stubborn management, large ego’s, or other organizational dynamics are at play.

Senior Management makes also ICT related decisions – good or bad ones: “We need a new business system because the current one does not support our business strategy”, or “We need a new extranet solution for our key accounts so we can increase our sales”.

As a CIO you have to respond to these “ICT decisions”. Taking these decisions for face value and starting up the new ERP system acquisition project, or putting the extranet request in your already overloaded project portfolio with the classification “high priority” will not necessarily bring value.

To make the right decision is difficult. When you think about it, even the implementation of a decision (i.e. an ICT project) is in practice an accumulation of many smaller decisions to keep the implementation project’s scope, schedule and budget.

So, improving the decision making process in an organization is essential. Good ICT related decision making saves costs and increases return on the ICT assets.

An organization can improve decision making by following a more technological road or a more practical people & process track.

The technology road leads to implementing Decision Support Systems. These range from the “Business Intelligence” movement, Data Warehousing & Mining, to very domain specific, highly developed, applications impending the Artificial Intelligence dream. Other such approaches aim to model a subset of reality, simulate different scenarios in this model, and define the most favorite outcome as the best decision.

The people & process track focuses on involving the right people in a more formal and transparent decision making process. This track can improve the quality of decisions as well as the commitment to the actual decisions taken. Crowdsourcing is an example of such an approach: ask enough experts for their opinion on a specific topic, and you might find the correct answer/decision. The crowd needs to be supplied with the right facts and context in order to get relevant answers.

How can a CIO promote better decision making? Taking some steps on the technology road and the people & process track will help. But most important for a CIO is to be pro-active and to keep his/her finger on the pulse of the company to see when ICT related decisions are coming up. The CIO can start to aggregate relevant information and mobilize the right experts to support the decision making. The CIO should try to challenge the real decision makers to participate in the decision processes as one of the crowd. Like this, the CIO can prevent unexpected, bad “ICT decisions” from above.

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