Reporting to the CXO – What They Want and What you Need to Give Them

By Patricia Cicala, Cicala & Associates

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There are several methodologies to consider when communicating IT Asset Management (ITAM) plans and results to CXOs.  Executives need to be aware of and understand the value that ITAM brings to the organization and to the achievement of CXO goals.  One methodology that is effective and efficient is reporting, which is only possible when the ITAM program has a level of maturity in the ITAM processes, automation and documentation.  This article identifies the elements necessary to build the program readiness necessary for CXO reporting.  Successful reporting methodologies for ITAM are presented; highlighting those that also demonstrate the business value of ITAM to all members of your organization.

ITAM Program Readiness

Reporting meaningful, strategic information requires a strong foundation in processes and policies.  Reporting readiness comes from completing the following ITAM program milestones:

 

Asset procurement and discovery data for analysis and comparison is readily available:  Creating this analysis depends on the maturity and data effectiveness of the software discovery tool(s) used as well as the ability to link that data to the current procurement data. These sources are the ingredients necessary to produce robust reports that can be tailored to the CXO’s needs.

 

End to end processes have been implemented:  Painting a high level end-to-end picture with demonstrated process linkages is an effective way to show the progress of the ITAM program to the CXO.

 

Major organizational asset types are incorporated into the ITAM program and reportable:  Asset types should be focused on what is important and considered a business value priority by the CXO.

 

Data has been “stressed tested” for reliability:  There must be confidence that the data is reliable prior to presentation of that data to the CXO.

 

Corporate “canned and customized” reports are easily available:  Reports can be produced within a number of hours, not days.

These milestones are achievable and do not require the ITAM program to be “complete” before meaningful reports can be created.  You are ready to report to the CXO when you are in an ongoing state of readiness rather than feeling like you are truly “ready.”

Readiness requires ongoing effort in order to maintain the value of the data.  Some of the most salient activities that need to be monitored include, but are by no means limited to:

· Monitoring and changing data based on industry events and company priorities

· Capturing all new assets and discovering those assets for reporting on a regular basis

· Harvesting  activities are in place, tracked and translated into cost benefits of value to the CXO

Defining the Audience

Prior to generating and presenting reports, it is important to assess the “audience” and the audience’s drivers (both positive and negative).  Assessment activities that need to be considered prior to preparing and presenting reports are:

· How many people are classified as a CXO in your organization?

· What are the “hot buttons” for each CXO?

· What is their field of interest (financial, technical, or business)?  This information about the CXO is extremely important to focus on when preparing the report presentation.  For example, many CFOs DO NOT consider cost avoidance to be as valuable as cost savings

· What is the normal “time tolerance” for meetings and presentations for each CXO?  In general, experience shows that timing tolerance is shorter than accepted for normal operational meetings.  That means that presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes with allowance for interaction with the CXOs once the data has been presented

· Who else might the CXO want to have involved and what are their drivers?  These surprise attendees are often where the report presentation fails because of the “hidden agendas.”  Those second or third in command to the CXO should not be ignored in the reporting and presentation.  Understanding who the “significant others” are is a critical success factor

 

Selecting the Data

With the initial readiness and assessment of the audience completed, it is time to focus on selecting the data to be included in the report.  Some of the most important characteristics of the data elements to be included and presented are:

· Data is “topical and current,” focusing on the business initiatives and financial interests of the organization

· Data reflects negative as well as positive results so that both drivers are addressed

· No “soft-soaking” allowed! The facts need to be the facts.  Data must be extremely accurate and contain extensive factual back up.  Although a high level presentation of the data should be made, detailed back up should be available should the audience require and request to review such back up.  The successful presenter has the reliable details ready but avoids going down a “rat hole”

· Understand the difference between “reliable” versus “accurate” data, but make sure that the data presented is both.  If the data is not reliable and accurate, it should not be presented to the audience

Managing the Management

Despite the true value of CXO drivers and the ability of the ITAM program to address those concerns, it is of ultimate importance for the sustainability of the ITAM program to navigate all of the “management layers.”   Understanding the layers and their specific needs and drivers is essential to long-term success.

There are three major levels of management that need to be considered. They are:

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Each one of these layers has different “hot buttons” and interests.  Reporting and the presentation of the reports are most effective when they are adjusted for the level of the audience.

Starting with the level closest to the ITAM program, the IT asset management /operations profile and focus areas include running day-to- day operations.  They normally know the structure and details about asset data.  This management level understands the relationship between opportunity and risk on each asset and frequently controls the tactical implementation of that knowledge into the processes.  The bottom line for presenting to this level is that the details need to be presented and be accurate in order to interest this group and get their buy-in.

The middle management profile and focus areas include knowledge of the structure and grouping of assets as it is required to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.  Their jobs also require knowledge of the “end-to-end” or full picture as it relates to management.  It should be understood that, depending on the organizational structure, the focus may be on specific silos such as platform or asset type.  Reporting to this level should focus on the entire picture but not as broadly as one would report to the CXO levels.

Middle managers are used to running project plans and directional meetings for the organization.  That means that they are normally focused on moving a project forward at an asset class level.  That means that the “slicing” of the ITAM data and associated reports need to be addressable at the asset type level (e.g. servers, mobile, laptops, etc.).  When successfully presented, middle management uses and articulates the data reported as part of “working meetings.”

The CXO profile and focus areas require that the data be apropos to operating on a “strategic planning” basis.  With CXOs, the “devil is in the details” – but no “details” are required!  CXOs do not want details presented in the reporting.  However, all details need to be available because at some point, they will ask for them.

CXOs want data and reports that facilitate better business decisions.  The presentation must include notes and recommendations on how the reports and data relate to the organization’s primary business model and future initiatives.

Although negative facts should be provided, this group does not like negative “surprises.”  In place of a negative “splash,” create the reports and presentations with a solid assessment from an ITAM perspective of both risks and business opportunities.

This group normally has little interest in the details of “end-to-end ITAM,” but instead want to see the high level net overall goals of the processes presented.

From Tactical to Strategic

If the ITAM program is viewed as only delivering tactical value, then the reporting and presentation has not been successful.   So, how does reporting on the ITAM program bridge the gap from tactical to strategic?  Here are a few suggestions from mature and “well-oiled” ITAM programs:

· Encourage the importance of daily operations while eliminating unnecessary details

· Examine what is going to please and displease middle management in the reporting

· Do damage control as required since this is an important layer for success of ITAM

· Carefully encourage middle management to participate in the strategic discussion without a “hidden agenda.”

· Socialize your ideas before presenting them

· Study other influential CXO reports and presentations for formatting and style

· Incorporate your understanding of current organizational drivers and how they relate to industry trends into the presentation.  Be able to highlight these points in the reports

Avoid being Your Own Worst Enemy

This article would be incomplete if the logistical aspects of reporting and presenting are not discussed.  After all, it can be the little things that lose the attention of the audience.   The audience’s attention may also be gathered by taking some seemingly small steps.  Here are some ideas for what you should do.

 

Do:

 

· Understand the time frame and frequency of CXO presentations.  Not too much and not too often is normally the best path

· Include a high level overview of the project each time you present (subliminal marketing for ITAM)

· Use charts and graphs wherever possible to depict the status of the data (no “eye candy” unless you are sure it appeals to the audience)

· Have a subject matter expert on your team available to answer any specific asset class questions

· Present in a comfortable “dialogue-like” fashion (do not read from a script)

· Take notes when the CXO is making comments/observations

Don’t:

 

· Spend enormous amounts of time on a single slide and run out of presentation time

· Drill down on any one item that is positive or negative because it is the “hot button” of operations or middle management.  Let those layers take the lead on this should they wish to use it as a CXO focus

· Show up without all of the “drill down” data either with you or available to you just in case the CXO wants the drill down

· Bring a “cast of thousands” to the presentation.  This becomes a distraction

· Have someone in the room that is text messaging or getting calls and text while the presentation is being made

Just like any other organizational initiative, the ITAM program needs executive awareness and support to achieve the maximum value from the IT assets.  Reporting and presenting effectively on the results produced by the ITAM program is an essential tool to creating that support and ultimately the success of the program.  Don’t make this an afterthought!  Make it the center of your ITAM program’s successful results.

About Patricia Cicala

Patricia M. Cicala, has over 35 years of experience in the management of technology, with expertise in the areas of IT asset management, procurement, contracts, and strategic technology workplace development. Prior to forming Cicala & Associates, Ms. Cicala was the Vice President and Worldwide Practice Leader for Asset Management and Procurement at Gartner Group, Inc., the leading technology research authority. Prior to her tenure at Gartner, Ms. Cicala founded and developed United Software Services Company, a knowledge-based software services firm which delivered services to more than 35 Fortune 500 Companies. Services provided included software auditing, negotiation planning strategies, and software portfolio management. Ms. Cicala also served previously as Vice President of Worldwide Asset Management and Enterprise Vendor Relations at Citibank/Citicorp. Ms. Cicala is a current member of the ISO WG 21 Software Standards Committee for SAM Standards as a representative to Liason Organization of IAITAM, CXO Executive Forum Director for IAITAM and a newly elected IAITAM fellow.