Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review of : "Decoding The IT Value Problem" by Gregory J. Fell - A MUST READ for Anyone In The C-Suite Making Strategic Decisions About IT Assets

Decoding the IT Value Problem: An Executive Guide for Achieving Optimal ROI on Critical IT Investments by Gregory J. Fell

If I could give this book 10 stars, I would do so. It is a MUST READ for anyone who occupies a C-Suite position in a company that must invest in IT infrastructure. It is no surprise to me that Greg Fell would pen such a lucid, comprehensive, readable and practicable book. I know him as a Renaissance Man who is erudite, whose knowledge spans a wide spectrum, and whose technical expertise is deep. He tells great stories and uses apt and colorful analogies. All of these traits are on display in this book. All of this makes this volume one of the best business books I have read in a long while.

Speaking from his position of having served as a CIO in several large enterprise companies, Mr. Fell is addressing other office holders in the C-Suite: CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, et al.  He explains in very clear business terms how to optimize Return On Investment (ROI) for IT assets that are needed to enable companies to implement their broad strategies for success.

I love the fact that he sets his argument in a historical context from the American Revolution. He recounts the story of Henry Knox, the virtual CIO of the fledgling Continental Army, convincing the CEO, General George Washington, that it was technically feasible to move cannon from their position at Fort Ticonderoga over the Green Mountains in Vermont to Boston. This CIO made such a convincing argument as to the technical feasibility and strategic implications of such a move that General Washington incorporated the cannon into his strategic plan for defeating the British and driving them out of Boston. Much to the shock and chagrin of the British, the cannon appeared one morning on Dorchester Heights with its commanding view of Boston Harbor. The British quickly comprehended that they had been outmaneuvered, pulled up anchor and sailed away, handing Washington a virtually bloodless victory. I read this passage as I made my commute on Boston's T - The Red Line - as it passes in front of Dorchester Heights, which is now crowned by a brick high school building and a tall white church spire. There were no cannon in sight nor British ships in the harbor!

Mr. Fell's approach in organizing this book is to make CEOs and other C-Suite executives aware of how they can best partner with the CIO in making IT decisions that are business-based rather than viewed in a more limited sense as a technical project. He populates the book with fascinating stories from his own experience and the experiences of those whom he respects giving examples of CIO-CEO relationships that have worked well and others that have been less than ideal. He offers his insights and principles in a number of crucial areas, including:

  • The 80/20 Law of IT spending
  • Why IT projects fail
  • The importance of IT governance
  • Why software programming is not the same as manufacturing
  • Managing IT security risks
  • The pros and cons of outsourcing IT functions
  • Why CIOs are wired differently than other C-suite denizens
He has wisely reached out to two experts to give the perspective of a CFO on how best to create a productive relationship between CIO and CFO, He does the same thing in a guest-written chapter which speaks to the relationships between the CEO and CIO.

As I reached the end of this book, I felt as if I had just graduated from CIO boot camp. I learned more in these pages than I usually learn in four or five typical "business books." I am already considering to whom I will give copies of this book among my clients and friends whom I know will benefit from its insights.

If you are someone who interacts at a strategic level with IT assets and investments - or if you know of such a person and care about their success - buy a copy of this book, read it, apply its wisdom - and live long and prosper!



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