On Adding Value in an Organization

There are obvious ways to add value to an organization: productivity by salespeople is generally measured by number of units sold, or levels of service contracted with clients. These quantities show a direct impact in organizational revenue.

The greatest challenge to a new Information Manager (IM) is demonstrating the added value of his work; an IM is a cost to an organization, not a revenue center. Adding to the difficulty, an IM has a wide range of constituents within an organization – such as finance, marketing, and lines of business – meaning he must translate his value add in a variety of operational environments.

For these reasons, it is essential that an IM compose a value-add statement for each project or process improvement. A concise value-add statement with the following points will help to focus a project or process improvement effort from start to finish:

The Impact. Give ‘before’ and ‘after’ statements for the project. The ‘before’ state should be plainly articulated and based in facts. It should also be no longer than one sentence. The ‘after’ statement represents the ideal outcome.

Information Need. Based on the ‘before’ statement, the IM should indicate whether the information is known to exist. Issues with existing information, such as redundancies or gaps, should also be noted here.

Stakeholders. There are two important aspects to this point. First, identifying the right stakeholders will ensure buy-in and participation from the project team. Second, limiting the scope of work and executing rapid iterations of the solution will be easier if stakeholders include only relevant and affected parties.

Revenue or Cost Result. Cutting costs generally means eliminating redundancies. Really exciting projects – the challenging ones requiring an IM to delve into and learn a line of business – should enhance or protect revenue streams. An IM who is able to quantify the financial impact of a project will be better prepared to assist a line of business in process enhancements.

The outline above seems overly simple, but there are several advantages to putting this short document in order. First, the IM may look to the value add statement for guidance when a project threatens to grow to an unmanageable scope. This is essential when working at an organization without established development or process improvement methodologies (such as Agile or Six Sigma). In addition, the exercise of articulating a project in the above terms will assist in communicating casually with senior managers and potential stakeholders for future projects (“What are you currently working on?” asked in the elevator). Finally – what is good for the organization and the project is also good for an IM’s professional development. Annual reviews are an ideal opportunity to review past value-add statements; these documents can also be helpful for updating one’s resume.

If there are any points for a value-add statement I have forgotten above, please let me know in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “On Adding Value in an Organization

  1. Nick M says:

    That’s a thought provoking idea. I agree that this is a useful exercise to go through for analysts, UX designers, PMs, security specialists, etc… Being able to clearly state what you bring to the table helps people understand why information professionals are valuable and what we do beyond being “IT geeks”.

    However, I am a little unclear on what the subject of these statements is. Are you talking about the impact and stakeholders of the project as a whole or the part the information manager is playing. These are two different things as the scope of an entire project is often much wider than the parts one individual is involved with.

  2. Jordan says:

    Sorry if that was unclear, Nick. This is a statement aimed at defining a project’s parameters through a guiding document, the value-add statement.

    I’ll give an example. One of the biggest problems I had as a BA was having people add themselves to projects halfway through. For instance, a marketing manager would hear about a finance project focused on overhauling a decision dataset. The marketing manager would then reason that since he used a similar dataset for his decisions, he should benefit from the analysis as well, e.g., while you’re at it, add several people to the weekly conference call mid-project and tack on five to ten functionalities at the end state.

    Being able to refer back to a value-add document – and, by association, scoping documents – will help an IM (PM or a BA) to avoid situations such as this, where a project 1) grows beyond manageability, 2) approaches a kitchen-sink solution and 3) may, as a result, fail to meet the original value-add statement.

    I hope that clarifies.

  3. This is really good – it’s a topic that comes up over and over again with other iSchool students in conversation, at least for me. How do you tell people/employers what you bring to the table.

    I’m going to mull this over a bit, and then hopefully come up with some sort of useful thoughts.

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