Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting 400+ CXOs and Senior IT Leaders in Seattle for the inaugural Technology Business Management (TBM) Conference.

Over a course of three days, we discussed provocative topics such as: the critical role of TBM for anyone making major cloud decisions, how the TBM disciplines of IT/business alignment and agility impact corporate revenue growth, and how failing to partner with business leaders leads to poor service portfolio decisions. We discussed how the CIO role has evolved into a business role (and that some CIOs haven’t figured this out yet).

It is very exciting to see the traction gained by the Council over the last few years. Validating our momentum, editor Michael Hickins from The Wall Street Journal told our research director that he had only seen this level of passion at an IT conference twice before in his technology career. As the founder and technical advisor to the TBM Council, Apptio has been at the core of this growth. We couldn’t be happier to see how far it’s come.

The journey itself has been transformative. In 2008, six forward-thinking CIOs got together with a common goal of answering: What if IT was run like a business? What if IT had a clear way of showing our business value? Most importantly: What if we made decisions in partnership with the business? The results were astounding – from six we grew to 56 to 500… and I’m proud to share that our membership ranks have grown by 218% in the last year. I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming some of the most accomplished IT leaders across a variety of industries to the now 1000-strong Council!

I had many great conversations throughout the conference. Here are my 5 key takeaways from all the insights during the week:

  1. "Build or Buy"
    Rebecca Jacoby, CIO of Cisco and one of the early adopters of TBM, captivated the audience in her opening keynote. She urged CIOs to operate like the CEO of an IT-as-a-Service company. "Be an expert in build vs. buy decisions" to best serve the business – i.e. a service broker. This means CIOs must formulate an IT service portfolio strategy, very much like a mutual fund manager manages their funds. CIOs must invest strategically, while divesting and outsourcing those services and products that are commoditized. I like the call-to-arms that Rebecca shared at the end of her session: “The business is begging IT to step up.”

  2. "Find the line"
    TBM is a top-down project that requires CIOs to look forward with a long-term view. Central to TBM is understanding where the business's customers need to go, and how IT must enable, and not only support, this journey.

    Apart from heading IT strategy for a global consumer goods company, The Coca-Cola Company CTO Jim Scholefield, is also an avid mountain-biker. In his keynote, he shared the need for IT to be agile but focused by using a mountain biking analogy: “Find the line and focus on where you’re going, not at the obstacles. If you stare at the obstacles, you’ll run into them!” I couldn’t agree more, the most successful CIOs use the right metrics to focus on success, not on potential failure. This is what TBM is about.

  3. "Face the tiger"
    During the conference we heard from many IT leaders, but we also heard from Nintendo of America CFO Ingvar Petursson, who spent part of his career as a CIO. “CIOs need to have the courage to debate with the business and face the tiger.” He went on to share how some CIOs say they don’t know the business strategy because it hasn’t been given to them. “This is reactive thinking,” he said. “Strong CIOs discern the business strategy for themselves. The business is moving too fast to have a formal, documented strategy. If it does, it’s already out of date.”

    CIOs must speak the language of the business to make the connection with strategy. I heard many of the conference participants share their view that IT is too often seen as a “black box”. CIOs can build credibility and trust when all of IT communicates in business terms. The TBM framework and Apptio’s newly updated Cost Transparency solutions can help build this common language.

  4. "Define the profession"
    To gain the business’s trust, IT must have defined standards. Only then, as ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman, put it: “IT will become a center of excellence.” Many of the challenges faced by IT come from a lack of standards for IT categories and cost measurement.

    At Apptio, we set out to address these challenges based on the TBM framework. The Apptio TBM Unified Model, the blueprint for standardizing IT categories and cost measurement, is based on these insights gathered from hundreds of enterprise deployments. At the TBM conference, Apptio unveiled product updates that are based on this Unified Model. These products allow enterprises to measure costs of their IT assets in standard categories, and automatically compare these categories against industry peers.

    In the words of our CEO, Sunny Gupta: “Just as GAAP sets the standard for the way public companies are evaluated, Apptio is developing, with endorsement from the Technology Business Management Council and outside experts, the industry standard to measure the cost and quality of IT.”

  5. "Just start"
    Too often, the fear of dirty data stops IT departments from embarking on a TBM journey. But facing up to challenges is essential in the TBM process.

    “TBM is transparency, clarity, consistency and integrity,” said Tom Murphy, VP, IS and CIO at the University of Pennsylvania. You will hear a hundred reasons why you should delay TBM, but: “Just go! Just start!”

    "In a hospital, sometimes the best disinfectant is sunlight. The same goes for TBM: the more people who look at the data, the more you shine a light on it, the cleaner the data gets,” he summed up.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that I’ll be doing over the next few weeks to recap the insights that we’ve gathered during the conference. You can see some of the photos from the conference here!

The overwhelming success of the TBM Conference validated much of our mission around the need to transform and run IT like a business. Our journey continues and we look forward to building out both, the methodology and the technology, in the days ahead.

We invite you to join us on this journey. You can apply to be a part of the TBM Council by visiting TBMCouncil.org.