Measuring return on investment (ROI) for IT projects has always been more of an art than a science; and I've frequently heard IT managers remark that the ROI numbers are often customized to what the business wants to hear, and adjusted after the implementation is underway.
ComSci's Robert Svec suggests that IT metrics -- though often seemingly airtight -- may also not be providing a true picture of IT's value, as they may miss the big picture. Scec recently weighed in with his thoughts on the budding IT cost transparency movement, which seeks to better enable organizations to take an integrated view of all direct and indirect IT costs, services and utilization rates to better understand the value of IT systems and software:
"Many firms focus on key metrics measurement programs and business intelligence communications without having adequate technology consumption tracking mechanisms or a full view into the scope of technology utilization for the business. This is often the result of a limited strategic role of IT or decentralized business practices. As a result, earnest attempts at transparency efforts can often result in 'false transparency' – key metric data and analysis that monitors only a part of the full technology portfolio, which leads to misrepresentation of how the business and technology assets are aligned."
Such false transparency is even more dangerous than a lack of overall IT-spend and utilization data, Svec continues, since "it can lead to larger, more strategic decisions that management believes to be driven by sound data but that could be, ultimately, completely inconclusive and inaccurate."
At the root of the problem, Svec believes, is the usual problem seen in many organizations: IT tends to be siloed from the mainstream business, and chargeback mechanisms fail to capture the true scale of usage.
How to achieve better metrics? Keep your eye on the big picture, Svec advises. Look at things as the business sees them, not as IT sees them.