August 30, 2023

In the digital world,

IT leaders need to adopt a marketing mindset

How well are you marketing the technology business value story in your company?

Even though we are well into the second decade of digital disruption, it’s alarming to see how many companies still struggle to tell a compelling story of how technology delivers increased competitive performance and business value.

The inability to effectively market IT’s value to the business is the source of many of the frustrations technology organizations confront today including:

  • Not being involved early in the strategic decision-making process
  • Lack of financial support for key initiatives
  • Low employee adoption and utilization of new digital technologies
  • A legacy mindset that IT is only a cost center/support function

To break free from this mindset, CIOs and their leadership teams need to widen their leadership aperture in order to expand the impact and value digital technology can bring to their organizations. They have to change the narrative from IT as a cost center/support function to IT as a profit engine that directly contributes to delivering increased revenues, margins, and profits.

What you say about IT is just as important as what you do

At a fundamental level, how we label things impacts other people’s perception and understanding. A good name can clearly convey value and positive association, while a bad name can obscure it. It may seem foreign to many IT leaders, but marketing the business value of technology is now a critical leadership success factor. Every conversation they have with their internal stakeholders and partners presents an opportunity to clearly communicate a positive impression that digital technology is the primary source of creating sustainable competitive advantage.

Here are some examples of how you can use a new vocabulary to change the narrative about IT:

  • Stop talking about the IT cost budget and start talking about the technology investment portfolio
  • Stop talking about running the business and start taking about growing the business
  • Stop talking about uptime and start talking about time to value
  • Stop talking about user interface design and start talking about user experience design
  • Stop talking about technical debt and start talking about releasing and redeploying trapped value
  • Stop talking about systems infrastructure and start talking about how digital disruption will impact your company’s operating and business models

A vocabulary to evolve IT from the backseat to the front seat to the driver’s seat

Over the past 8 years, I have used the chart below as a framework, vocabulary, and roadmap to help multiple CIOs and their senior leadership teams evolve IT from a cost center to a profit engine. It has enabled these teams to get aligned with where IT is today and clearly communicate where they want it to be going forward, in a step by step process. It has been extremely gratifying to see how this approach has freed IT’s future from the pull of its past.

The 4 Zones model framework vocabulary is another strong tool to change the technology business value narrative

This segmented portfolio of value creation investments is designed to change and significantly increase the value a company delivers to its customers, employees, supply chain partners, and other key stakeholders. It includes investments to:

  • Improve the productivity and efficiency of its cost centers and support functions in the Productivity Zone
  • Modernize its operating model to deliver more compelling and enduring customer experiences in the Performance Zone
  • Increase its speed to market & time to value to develop and deliver new products and services that leverage digital technology in the Incubation Zone
  • Successfully scale material new lines of business and to leverage digital technology to enter attractive adjacent markets in the Transformation Zone

What do you want your IT brand to stand for in your company?

The point of these zone leadership profiles above is to provide a lens through which to clearly communicate IT’s organizational design, operating model, and the leadership skills and capabilities of the senior team. The goal is to develop a set of solutions that maximizes the business value IT delivers to the organization.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How well does digital technology enable or enhance core business functions?
  • What value is the business getting from its most important digital technology investments?
  • How long does it take for the IT organization to develop and deploy new products, services, and systems that achieve mutually agreed upon, critical business outcomes?
  • What skills and capabilities does IT need to achieve those desired outcomes?
  • What metrics will you use to measure the value that IT brings to the business?

The ultimate question is: What do you want the IT brand to stand for at your company?


As always, I am interested in your comments, feedback and perspectives on the ideas put forth in this blog. Please e-mail them to me on linkedin. And, if this content could be useful to someone you know please share it here: