Research Report

Meta Group offering gives IT execs 'big picture'

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- For many IT departments, maintaining effective performance can be a matter of doing things right and doing the right thing.

At one of its executive sessions held Tuesday, Meta Group, the Stamford, Conn.-based technology research firm, presented essential steps to help CIOs and other IT managers get an accurate picture of how IT is performing, a picture that often blurs the line between perception and reality.

Meta consultant Jeff Rumburg said that organizations today are experiencing a "gap" between the internal assessment of IT (reality) and the opinions that clients and users have of IT (perception).

"If, on a scale of 1 to 10, IT is performing at an '8,' it is not unusual to find the customer satisfaction surveys and LOB [lines of business] surveys where the perception is a 4 or 5," Rumburg said.

Why the gap? Rumburg said it's because the traditional tools for measuring performance -- benchmarking, client surveys and process assessments -- only give partial answers. This lack of "the big picture" can lead to a positive assessment on the internal side and a more negative perception on client or end-user side.

Rumburg described "benchmarking" as comparing price and cost to peers; "client surveys" as polls for internal customers regarding their opinions on IT performance and value; and "process assessments" as reviewing procedures for adherence to proper practices.

"Closing this gap is relatively easy and low cost," Rumburg said. "It's critical for IT organizations that want to survive -- let alone thrive."

A portion of the session was devoted to explaining Meta's bridge for the reality/perception gap -- the Meta 360 Degree Solution. The $75,000,300 working-hour consulting program is budgeted for 10 weeks, Rumburg said, and includes four modules for a "well-constructed 360-degree measurement discipline" within IT organizations.

The four modules bring industry spending comparisons, operations assessments, cost and price benchmarks and IT effectiveness surveys together under one roof for an analysis that provides a more complete picture of IT performance.

Benchmarking, the most popular method organizations use to test performance, is broken into "cost" and "price" benchmarks to address efficiency and effectiveness of internal IT functions (cost) and competitiveness of outsourced IT functions (price), Rumburg said.

The spending comparison module offered with the 360 Degree program breaks down IT spending into a percentage of revenue per employee and finds the percentage of a company dedicated to IT-related tasks.

Spending ambiguities also have been part of a bigger picture that shows a lack of communication between the executive board and CIOs -- a disconnect that could pare back a CIO's role in business decisions. Spending comparisons like those offered by Meta show executives exactly how much is going to mainframes, desktops, application maintenance and development.

A third module uses surveys to gauge the opinions of end users and LOBs about the effectiveness of IT.

Above all, Rumburg said, a 360-degree measurement answers the most important question an IT manager has: "How am I doing?"

This was first published in May 2004

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