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Von Bruce J.  Goodman

How do you learn to key into business drivers and results? Probably the best training ground is to run a P&L yourself. Short of running your own business, you could run your IT organization as a business within a business. Deliver IT services, pitch your products, make your numbers. You may never sell your company´s product, but you should understand selling and budgeting. You should also report to the CEO and have a seat at the table. As a member of the Humana executive committee I hear about all the important issues the company is facing. While I´m listening to my colleagues I´m thinking about and responding with ideas for how IT can help. If you aren´t at executive committee meetings, you can get yourself on the distribution lists for internal reports about business results, and you can network with your fellow business people to understand their issues.

Borrow expertise from the CFO

If you report to the CFO, you can still cultivate a business-results focus. In fact, this is an area of common ground with your boss, since the CFO is the master of business results. At Humana, if we in IT have an idea we have one of our financial analysts within IT review it´s potential costs and benefits and determine what the results of a pilot would need to be to justify further investment. If you don´t have your own financial people, borrow one from the CFO´s organization. Then the CFO will know you are serious about finding out whether your ideas make business sense.

Get Results, Help Your Career

I have no doubt that business competency and a focus on results is a boon to any IT executive´s career. First, it makes a huge difference in how the CEO views you. If the CEO sees the IT head as a technologist who is not an active partner in trying to achieve business results, that CIO is probably not going to have a long-term future at that company. He´ll get out of step with business goals and people will complain that they can´t get what they need out of IT.

Second, a strong results focus positions you for further opportunities. In addition to my CIO role, I also run the entire service operation at Humana, a combined organization of about 10,000 people. The services group is responsible for controlling administrative costs and also, through operation of our call centers, has a big impact on customer retention.

I got this role because I made the case that if IT and service operations reported to the same person, we´d work better together to define priorities and deliver sys-tems that drive results. In companies where IT and services are separate, IT is only responsible to deliver the project while the operations group is responsible for requirements and deriving the value. That can lead to finger-pointing if the payoff doesn´t go as expected.

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