Editor's Letter: IT Metrics That Matter

As someone who is stricken by the sight of a spreadsheet, I must confess that I prefer reading a good story to poring over a set of statistics. But I respect how much a few good numbers can make a difference (especially to business executives) when you need to make a case for IT investments or deliver to the CFO those ROI calculations he craves.

Return on investment, in fact, was the ultimate metric in choosing the 10 winners of our 2005 Technology ROI Awards program, which is cosponsored by Nucleus Research Inc. While ROI was obviously important in picking these winners, many other metrics mattered just as much. Everything from measures of customer satisfaction, cost savings and operational efficiencies to generating profitable new business ventures.

For editors, the metrics that matter are the ones that tell us more about our readers. What are you willing to spend your precious time reading about? How big are your companies, your budgets, your management challenges? That last question is particularly significant because of our focus on IT executives from midsized companies.

Thanks to the gracious assistance of more than 220 of you, we have some new metrics to share from our first readership survey.

We learned that nearly half of you (45%) are managing IT organizations of 50 to 100-plus. On the other end of the spectrum, 35% are running IT shops with fewer than 20 staffers. Those numbers confirm the wide -- and in some places quite lean -- spread of IT staffing resources available to midmarket firms. We believe you need as many creative, yet frugal, approaches as you can find in applying those resources, so it's not surprising that 62% of you are employing outsourcing on a project basis.

"I need to know how and why IT departments are surviving in lean business environments," one reader told us. "I want to hear about companies that are doing well but keeping employment very lean."

Nearly 40% of you belong to companies with more than 3,000 employees, which confirms our conviction that the midmarket is more extensive than the old-fashioned way of measuring it by counting only organizations with 100 to 1,000 employees. In fact, our Two-Way Street executive interview this month (page 20) is a great case in point. At $409 million in revenues, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has more than 13,000 employees nationwide and a staggering array of IT projects under way.

This midmarket restaurant chain is hardly alone in its aggressive technology push. Nearly 35% of you are spending 5% to 10% more on IT this year than last, our survey indicated, reflecting the business expansion under way at so many of your companies. Only 12% of our respondents were expecting an IT spending decrease.

We also learned that 47% of you have annual IT budgets of more than $1 million, and our CIO Habitat research report this month (page 24) is all about your budgeting practices, reflecting feedback and advice from 240 of your colleagues.

Ultimately, the IT metrics that matter will be as individual as your companies, and those numbers will be only one of the factors defining your IT leadership. "Give me the facts and tools to be a better decision maker," one CIO advised in our survey. "Help me to open up to the visionary process. Lift me up out of my day-to-day work routine. Inspire me."

I'm just so glad he didn't mention spreadsheets.


Maryfran Johnson, is the founding editor in chief of CIO Decisions. To comment on this story, email editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in August 2005

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