Posts Tagged ‘value proposition’

More bang for your IT buck: Three keys to success

by Brian Superczynski on March 15, 2010

Many companies do not have the luxury of providing dedicated financial support to their Information Technology (IT) organizations, which often results in a struggle to understand IT cost drivers and savings opportunities.  This struggle has become more evident as companies increasingly rely upon effective IT to drive operational efficiencies while simultaneously expecting IT units to reduce operating costs. This paradigm often results in the CIO seeking a liaison between IT and corporate finance in order to help provide transparency of technology costs as well as to identify the value proposition of all IT services. Identifying meaningful savings and efficiencies in your IT environment begins with a partnership between the technology and financial support units.  Preparing for these conversations requires an understanding of how to build a successful partnership between IT and corporate finance – the foundation for which begins with three related key practices:

Applying traditional financial management practices with the IT disciplines of vendor and asset management.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT:

The key to world-class IT financial management is coupling financial processes to your technology infrastructure and the organization’s strategic technology roadmaps.  Effective financial management ensures the IT infrastructure is obtained at the most cost-effective price, while providing the organization with a deep understanding of its IT services costs.  In many instances however, the most cost-effective price may not necessarily mean the lowest price; depending upon availability requirements and other demands placed on technology.   Financial transparency must therefore exist in order for the business to understand the tradeoffs between price and performance.

VENDOR MANAGEMENT

This price and performance tradeoff was painfully evident following one organization’s switch to a well-known personal computer supplier, which was initially calculated to save the organization millions of dollars.  Not surprisingly, the finance organization was quick to identify how the new agreement would reduce expenses in the following year’s budget.  However, those savings quickly evaporated after the supplier experienced a 20% failure rate on over 100,000 devices, which had been in service for less than a year.  Obviously, managing your suppliers not only includes obtaining the best price but also monitoring the quality of the product or service being provided.  This is why continually monitoring your relationships and agreements with suppliers (and including your finance organization in this process) is often your first and best opportunity to identify operational inefficiencies and IT cost savings.  The end result will not only mean achieving better price performance from your technology assets, but also will improve the reputation of your IT organization to provide a quality product at an explainable and predictable cost.

ASSET MANAGEMENT:

Keeping your technology assets current also requires active management of these assets:   An effective asset strategy not only tracks the asset but takes into account the lifecycle of the product from procurement to eventual disposition.  For example, leasing is a common asset and treasury strategy found in IT because it frees up cash flow associated with large capital purchases.  I’ve witnessed on numerous occasions leases being subsequently bought out because the technology owner was not made aware of the lease and was not prepared to replace the technology at end of term.  These pitfalls can be easily avoided by linking asset strategies with technology roadmaps and the organization’s budgeting process.

These three practices may appear straightforward, but in order to be successful they require the constant collaboration between your finance and technology organizations.  The application of financial, vendor, and asset management methodologies will keep your IT organization on track to realizing operating efficiencies while also optimizing operating costs.

Stay tuned: Our next few posts, we (my fellow Datacenter Trust teammates and I) will delve deeper into each of these key three areas as well as other topics on IT finance.

Portfolio Management – A Case Study

by Sanjai Marimadaiah on January 12, 2010

Portfolio management is a critical activity for any business leader, be it a General Manager or a Venture Capitalist.  This article offers a case study on portfolio management with a focus on value-net1 and the economic value of portfolio companies. The intent is to provide an analysis of the portfolio that can serve as the basis for growth strategy.

The Value-Net1:

The success of any business initiative depends on the value delivered to its customers. While immediate customers are important for near-term growth, the long-term viability of a company hinges on the value delivered to eventual customers, i.e. customer’s customer.  Hence a view of how you serve your eventual customers is important in portfolio management. Several business entities, called value-net1 partners, are involved in the process of delivering value to end customers.

The Portfolio:

Rajesh Setty is a successful CEO and now a venture capitalist with a growing portfolio of companies.

Following is a brief description of 3 of his portfolio companies:

An innovative approach to solving the content marketing challenges. Content such as white paper and ebooks are better managed to ensure that it is efficiently delivered to the target audience. Since the company is still in a stealth mode, a fictitious name, ContentKing, is used.

Jiffle brings efficiency and intelligence to event marketing activities.  It offers a simple and intuitive web portal for event managers to schedule and manage client engagements at events.  In addition, customers can generate various reports on the efficacy of their participation at various events by product line, region, etc.

iCharts business service allows one to easily build sophisticated, searchable online charts. iCharts makes it easy for customers, journalists and others to find, reuse and republish your data — helping proliferation of your data across the web.

Analysis of the above portfolio companies highlighted a common theme in their value proposition. There were opportunities for collaboration among portfolio companies and also opportunities to expand the value range of services.

A common theme among the 3 portfolio companies is that their immediate customers are demand generation teams.  Hence these 3 portfolio companies influence the adoption of product/service by the eventual customers. However they are at different stages of the AIDA – Marketing model5.

AIDA – Model 5:

There are 4 stages in the AIDA model – Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.  A customer first has to be aware of the existence of the product then be interested in learning more about the product, then have the desire/need to buy the product and eventually be convinced that it is the right product in order to buy it. Support is added as the last stage by some marketing professionals. Different tools, tactics and activities are required to be effective at each of the stages.

The dynamics of each of the stages in the AIDA model are different. As you progress from Awareness to Action, the number leads decreases while the cost per lead increases. The following is an illustration of this dynamics. The numbers in figure 1 and 2 illustrate the relative scales. The actual value varies by product and industry.

Figure 1

Mapping the Portfolio on the AIDA Model:

The 3 portfolio companies are mapped on the AIDA model in figure 2. The immediate target customers are listed below the portfolio company. Finally, the Assets/Capabilities of the VC, Rajesh Setty, is also mapped to highlight the investor’s affinity to their domain expertise.

iCharts4 is at the cusp between Awareness and Interest. The interactive charts not only build awareness to a company’s offering but also generate interest in the offering by providing interactive charts that offer more details. ContentKing2 deals with whitepapers and eBooks, hence heavily in the interest phase. Jiffle3 is placed in the Decision stage but can play well into the action phase. The meetings at conferences and tradeshows influence the decision and at time deals are closed at these meetings.

Figure 2

The Conclusion:

The mapping in Figure 2 provides a bird’s eye view of the strategic position of the portfolio companies in the AIDA model. This can serve as the foundation to develop strategic growth initiatives for the individual companies as well as help VCs manage their portfolio companies.

Considering the price per lead at each stage of the AIDA model, one can get a sense of the valuation as well as revenue potential of the portfolio companies. The portfolio manger can evaluate collaboration opportunities among the portfolio companies and also opportunities to invest in new companies.

The individual portfolio companies can brainstorm whether it makes strategic sense to expand along the AIDA model. It also forces the portfolio companies to think beyond their immediate customers by engaging in initiatives and partnerships to help product/services companies in their pursuit to close sales.

Note:

  1. Value Net:
  2. ContentKing: http://www.rajeshsetty.com (watch the URL for announcements)
  3. Jiffle: http://www.jifflenow.com
  4. iCharts: http://www.ichartsbusiness.com
  5. AIDA Model:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDA_(marketing)