Visibility, Risk and the Real World CIOs Live In

It’s not hard to notice that the words  ‘transparency’ and ‘visibility’ are dominate themes in the things CIOs talk about these days . You have had CIOs like Vivek Kundra, who until recently served in the White House as Federal CIO, call on fellow bureaucrats to catapult into a culture of "radical transparency"  where end-users (in this case US citizens) would receive more complete access to records and information.

Then you have increasing numbers of CIOs and other C-levels wanting higher levels of visibility into everything from software and services to vendors and partners. In other words, the demand for freshly relevant insights and data, packaged in easy to use formats is becoming the ultimate state of being for CIOs who are under great pressure to turn  information into profits and growth.

But it’s easy to get caught up in the technology that surrounds the pitch to increase transparency (as in establishing another KPI to measure supply chain performance), and much harder to take a step back and realize that the ‘people’ part of the “people-process-technology” continuum is a vital element in assessing, understanding and gaining that all-important visibility that produces sound business decisions.

This is particularly true in IT outsourcing environments, whether it’s onshore, nearshore, offshore or any combination of the above. There are justifiable reasons to carefully measure risk in any outsourcing relationship. But that risk should be developed on a ‘reasonable’ set of metrics and KPIs. In other words, establishing an extraordinarily long list of ‘measurements’ does not exempt a sourcing end-user from being exposed to risk. What matters more is that the decision-maker is taking into account the ways in which teams on both sides of the fence (the project sponsors and the services supplier) are engaged in producing results. It’s important to have standard measures of sourcing effectiveness across one’s sourcing portfolio, and of course leverage that information to identify anomalies.

But, here is the hard part: CIOs and top level sourcing decision makers are virtually being crushed by the data deluge. They have to sift through more and more data and analytics to survive in a business world that they helped create. At some point, these decision makers have to say – ‘Enough.” They have to be willing to spend more time sitting down and talking, across the table, with their internal stakeholders and their delivery partners.

Instead of gazing at more spreadsheets, there is the far more revealing option of going to the source: Speak to the people who are deeply engage in the service transaction.

The relentless pursuit of technological solutions shows no signs of abating in our Internet-driven culture – but i’m confident more and more senior sourcing leaders will increasingly recognize its shortcomings in getting true transparency.