It’s no secret. To win at business, you must perform better than your competition. Better. Stronger. Faster. You get the picture.

In “Managing IT as an Investment: Partnering for Success�, Ken Moskowitz and Harris Kern explore how changing the way you think about IT can help you develop solutions that exceed your strategic goals. To achieve the highest levels of profitability, the authors say, IT organizations must be well-tuned and in alignment with the goals of the enterprise to which they belong. 

For far too long, the authors argue, IT has been incorrectly viewed as a separate part of the enterprise; a distant silo, relegated to the status of a “cost center”. Instead, the authors make the case for transforming IT into a “value center”— a mission critical member of the business enterprise, managed as a strategic asset.

In order to get there—and to maximize IT value—the authors say organizations must realize that “IT is inseparable from the business and requires complete alignment with business goals.” Then, they have to admit that there’s “no such thing as an IT project”.

“IT is no longer a cost center and a growing number of highly successful firms are recognizing this,” the authors say. “IT is an investment and should be managed as such to increase revenue and profits. No matter what size project, IT is a member of the business team and should be accountable and responsible.”

Getting past old-world ways of thinking can be difficult for business and IT-minded folks alike; such transformations are often riddled with unexpected organizational change management issues. Moskowitz and Kern do a nice job of exploring some of these difficulties at a high level, but leave plenty of room for in-depth exploration by other authors.

They introduce readers to “Consequence-Based Thinking” in Chapter 2, a concept that promotes decision-making based on desired business results, rather than on the IT problems you face. The authors explore ways you can avoid “the Right/Wrong trap” (situations in which humans forfeit the desired consequences for the privilege of being right), develop jointly produced business cases (a technology case is not sufficient), and help each department in your organization contribute to the success of the enterprise mission.

In Chapter Three, “Partnering”, the authors illustrate the importance of creating a team that will support the goals of the enterprise. “It is key that members of IT teams see themselves and their work as core to the business itself, and not view the IT function as an appendage of the business.” As this happens, the authors say, “others will view them (IT) as critical and necessary partners that can be trusted to provide solutions that don’t merely serve a process, but truly serve business outcomes.”

Business partners must change the way they think of themselves as well. Business must think of itself as “a partner with, rather than a customer of IT,” the authors say. They recommend the development of formalized contracts that spell out responsibility and accountability for all involved; a “common vocabulary” (to help get everyone in your organization, regardless of role, on the same page); and provide words to the wise for management: “managers will never have as much information as people on the front line.�”

Sizeable emphasis is placed on the importance of jointly developed business cases, which the authors say, “forces IT and business to engage in continuous dialog in order to ensure success.” Jointly developed business cases can help align IT with business objectives, and have the additional benefit of “moving the business agenda forward and creating partnerships and understanding.” A sample Business Case template is provided as an appendix.

Chapter Five, “Strategy” makes the case for building a big-picture strategy that “stresses an enterprise point of view over seat-of-the-pants, silo thinking.” Organizations without an enterprise strategy often end up creating what the authors call “islands of automation” that will later need to be integrated.

Strategic thinking is a skill and not something that comes easily. It involves adopting new processes and changing the way we think about our jobs. By adopting a “Business Strategy Formation Process” that relates an enterprise-to-an-individual and an individual-to-an-enterprise, the authors say organizations can make “consistent decisions that incorporate foresight”.

Chapter Six, “The Small Picture,” provides guidance on communicating the big picture to small picture folks by answering the question: “What�s in it for me?” Chapter Seven discusses ideas for setting up and managing IT departments as “value centers” while Chapter Eight, “Human Capital Management” deals with issues of people management, individualism, and job satisfaction.

Chapter Nine, “Investing In Values”, provides a brief overview of the importance of values, which the authors define as the “guiding principles and basic beliefs that are fundamental assumptions on which subsequent actions are based.” The authors provide several models to help you make which value decisions. They also discuss how to reap “the hidden harvest”—the rewards delivered through collaborating with others toward a common, understood and measurable goal, benefits not realized through traditional, inside-the-box thinking.

While “Managing IT as an Investment” is indeed a value-added resource, reading the book is not enough. You’ll need to do a little homework before you go tackling a major change in your organization. You’ll need additional guidance not provided in the book to help you decide whether your IT and business staffs should work in the same physical space to help reduce communication barriers and establish a sense of “team”; if you should re-organize your management structure so both IT and business team members report to the same manager; how you should communicate information about your project in order to create project evangelists; and whether your reward structure needs some revamping (is IT currently rewarded for “on time” delivery as opposed to delivery of quality solutions that deliver the highest return on investment possible.

Despite these weaknesses, “Managing IT as an Investment: Partnering for Success” is an excellent addition to both business and IT literature. At only 150+ pages—10 chapters, followed by 4 value-added appendices—you can read the entire book in an afternoon. The book is well worth the effort. Includes case study information and references to other published works. Perfect for those involved in paradigm-shifting projects where strengthening the relationship between IT and business can help ensure success.

“Managing IT As An Investment: Partnering For Success” by Ken Moskowitz, Harris Kern. Published by Prentice Hall PTR. First edition; 191 pages. ISBN: 013009627X; Published: JUL 16, 2002.