Published on November 17, 2023, 2:26 am

Publishing an annual IT report allows CIOs to offer visibility into operations and execution through a business value lens. It gives them an opportunity to reclaim control of their IT narrative and shift the conversation from one of cost and skepticism to one of value and comprehension. One way to achieve this is by creating an annual report, similar to those published by public companies, that showcases how the IT function contributes to business value.

By examining existing IT reports, such as those published by Intel or other companies, a few guiding principles can be identified. First, the report should center on business priorities and emphasize investments and initiatives that have directly contributed to creating value for the company. Second, it should articulate the vision of IT and how it plans to achieve that vision while still generating measurable value in the present. Finally, it should provide insights into the department’s governance mechanisms and day-to-day operations.

Organizing the content of an IT report around the broader priorities of the company facilitates comprehension for board members and senior leaders who are typically the audience for these reports. By connecting technical achievements with familiar business objectives, CIOs can make their accomplishments more meaningful. For example, if deploying AI technology improved customer service, it’s important to highlight how it alleviated specific pains, saved time, or boosted revenue.

When structuring an IT report, three conventional sections are often used: digital performance, digital landscape, and digital outlook. The digital performance section focuses on showcasing how IT has generated value across both business and technical functions. It provides an opportunity to highlight projects and explain their significance in specific terms while avoiding excessive jargon.

The digital landscape section helps orient the audience by providing insights into the overall structure of the IT organization. It demonstrates how different teams contribute to creating value within the broader context of organizational responsibilities. Sharing relevant numbers and metrics further enhances understanding.

The digital outlook section delves into IT’s conception of the company’s digital future, including investments, projects, and emerging technologies. It’s an opportunity to engage the audience by connecting IT plans with familiar technologies or advancements they may have heard of.

In addition to these sections, CIOs can consider including a letter from the CIO at the beginning of the report, similar to CEO letters in annual reports. This letter can provide an overview of the report’s content, highlight significant achievements, and convey a more personal tone. A glossary or appendix can also be included to define or elaborate on terms and concepts that may be unfamiliar to readers.

Publishing IT annual reports not only allows CIOs to control their own narrative but also prepares them for future regulatory requirements. As demonstrated by recent SEC announcements regarding cybersecurity disclosures, there is increasing importance placed on transparency in reporting. The trend towards greater transparency will benefit CIOs as it offers an opportunity to showcase their department’s contributions and helps them better understand how all the pieces they oversee contribute to the company’s success.

In conclusion, an annual IT report presents a valuable opportunity for CIOs to showcase their department’s achievements and contributions in a coherent and compelling manner. By aligning their content with business priorities, providing specific examples, and engaging the audience through storytelling, CIOs can shift the conversation about IT from one of cost to one of value. Additionally, publishing IT annual reports prepares them for future reporting requirements while fostering transparency within the organization.

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