One of the things I think most people spend a great majority of their adult life doing is putting a value on things. That’s how you prioritize things and in business a lot times, that means dollars and cents.
- What’s my return on investment going to be?
- What’s the value to the organization if we make this decision?
- How much growth can we expect?
- How much better are we going to be able to meet the mission?
It’s that value exercise that helps you understand which things you do first and what things are going to get you the most bang for your buck. The problem that I see is when we get away from that. One of the areas where we often see confusion or a lack of discussion in value terms is in planning. What often gets substituted for the value discussion is a best practice discussion where people are like, “This is the right way to do it solely because it is best practice or this is the standard.” I don’t believe that is a substitute. You still need to know what the value of doing something is to your organization if you want to get really good results.
I believe that it is always worth knowing the value of the action you’re about to take. If you can’t put a value on it, how do you know you’re doing the right thing? Now I certainly don’t want to advocate against following best practice, a particular methodology, or standard because I think there’s a lot of value in it. It certainly helps you in the absence of developing your own processes and methodologies from scratch and learning all the lessons that were learned on the way to something becoming best practice or a standard.
I think there’s enormous value in adopting standards and best practices because it allows you to stand on the shoulders of those that have come before you. It should help you be able to better illustrate the value conversation. Oftentimes with standards and best practices there are benchmarking studies, expected returns, and numbers that are out there and available for you to pull from that aren’t there when you go the custom one of kind route.
So I think one thing that would really serve people well, particularly those in strategic planning roles, enterprise architecture roles, and the many people in information management in general, is to get comfortable with the idea that there needs to be a conversation that occurs. This conversation should decide where you’re able to take the value of something that you’re doing and putting it into the language that most business folks are comfortable with and into the context of your organization. I think anytime that you see a planning organization or an enterprise architecture organization that is under budgeted or underfunded, one of the things you can almost always point to is:
- Are they showing the value that they bring to the organization in the language of the organization?
Very rarely do you see an organization that complains of underfunding that is able to point to that value. I’m curious what other people think.