5 tips for technology business management success

October 28, 2020

Originally published on CIO.

The TBM framework can help your organization better align IT spending with business goals, while reducing unnecessary costs. Here’s how to ensure a smooth transition when implementing the framework.

To align IT initiatives with business strategy, today’s IT leaders must ensure IT spending is streamlined toward achieving organizational goals. Here, the technology business management (TBM) framework can help.

TBM is a flexible framework for integrating IT into the organization as a whole. By implementing TBM, your organization can gain a greater understanding of its IT costs and spending and find ways to reduce costs and inefficiencies, by uncovering unnecessary spending that doesn’t align with corporate strategy. Companies that adopt TBM can foster greater transparency between IT and the business, offering hard data that shows how IT spending benefits the entire organization and specific business goals.

“TBM is about getting lots of people inside of the IT organization and within the lines of business on the same page about spending, resources, and priorities, across the entirety of IT,” says Jarod Greene, general manager of the TBM Council. “This means understanding not just the project portfolio or the capital outlays on IT; it’s about managing both the run-the-business and change-the-business spending.”

If you’re looking to integrate the TBM framework into your business to gain more transparency over IT cost and spending, here are some tips that will help smooth the transition.  

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Start with strong leadership

To succeed with TBM, the framework must first be accepted and championed by executive leadership as “part of the corporate strategy,” says Jeri Koester, CIO at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

“TBM needs leaders who understand its tenets and make it a priority within the organization. That means dedicating resources to develop each practice area and being champions of the effort to expand the practices beyond the practice managers,” says Koester, who served as an executive sponsor for the implementation of the TBM framework at the Wisconsin-based healthcare provider in 2018.

Strong leadership is key in establishing the company-wide culture shift that TBM requires, Koester says. At Marshfield Clinic, time comes at a premium, so Koester and her team made an effort to meet other departments “where they were,” working closely with them to “find wins, big and small, within their existing projects and work.” This helped open up cross-departmental communication and saved departments time spent in meetings and away from their desks. It also gave Koester and her team direct, first-hand insights into what technology each department needs to operate and where they can eliminate waste.

Lean into TBM’s flexibility

When you implement the TBM framework, it’s important to go into it with a plan, but you don’t want to overcomplicate the process or take too rigid of an approach.

“You do not have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. Pick one or two areas of TBM where you already have some experience or some dedicated resources and dig in. Get a few quick wins and build from there,” Koester says.

Because TBM isn’t a rigid framework with a strict set of guidelines, you can use what works for your company and ignore what doesn’t. If you’re struggling with where to get started, take advantage of the network of other IT professionals and business executives that have embraced TBM. You can look to other companies to see what worked for them, mistakes they made and how you can borrow from their strategy to build your own.

“What I ultimately realized is that TBM is built upon the backs of dozens and dozens of companies’ best practices, and while it’s foolish to blindly follow anything, it’s equally foolish to ignore the learnings of others who have gone before you, or you’re destined to repeat their mistakes,” says Gerry Imhoff, senior VP and CIO at Maritz. “TBM is not so prescriptive that it doesn’t allow you to adapt things to your business or organization; it’s a blueprint that allows you to follow the trail others have blazed before you.”

Build on your cost management foundations

For Koester’s team, the transition to TBM took some adjustments, but she notes that the team had a solid foundation going in. Marshfield Clinic IT had been managing a cost model for several years, and her team had already worked closely with other business units to develop a detailed service catalog and to better understand IT spending and costs. When Koester decided to embrace the TBM taxonomy to “catalog and apply ownership” to applications, the team’s original taxonomy work gave it a great place to start.

“The learning curve depends on where you are today. Most companies are already doing big parts of TBM. Almost everyone budgets and forecasts IT spending. Many perform an annual benchmark of IT costs. But they may not do these things in an efficient, repeatable manner,” says TBM Council’s Greene. “TBM solves that, but it starts with a simple foundation and builds over time.”

Run IT like a business

The TBM framework can help executives “run IT like a business,” according to Maritz’s Imhoff. With TBM, it’s important to know your colleagues’ issues and goals and to establish a collaborative rapport. Once implemented, TBM will require you to provide options that solve those business issues and help your organization leverage technology effectively and efficiently in fulfilling its goals. As the IT department becomes more deeply integrated into the enterprise and daily business through TBM, it’s more important to look at IT as a business itself.

“It enables alignment across IT, and beyond into the business. It breaks down silos between IT groups. TBM enables a portfolio approach to IT strategy, planning and investment, allowing you to focus on and invest in areas that deliver business value, and de-emphasize those that don’t,” Imhoff says. “It removes emotion and subjective thinking from the decision process. It provides a common language and basis for understanding between IT and the business.”

Find value in the TBM community

Another benefit of embracing the TBM framework is that you’ll get access to an entire network of other companies and IT leaders who are already employing the TBM framework in their organizations. The nonprofit TBM Council, which is free to join, offers access to research and resources, as well as its TBM Connect member community.

For Koester’s team this network of TBM pros has proved valuable. “We are able to tap the expertise and experience of those inside and outside our industry to learn from those who have matured processes beyond our current state,” she says.

Getting advice from other IT leaders and executives on how they manage the TBM framework, what roadblocks they faced and what worked for them can help inform your own TBM strategy.

“Talk with others who have gone before you,” says Imhoff. “The TBM Council can connect you with CIOs, CFOs, and IT execs who would be thrilled to share their experiences with you, as the power of TBM is the community of practitioners that has been built over the years who continue to hone the practice through hard-fought lessons.”

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