What is a Bill of IT and Why is it Important?

But first, a word on scientific literacy (or lack thereof)

Today, we’re going to take a little break on Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) and other wireless concerns and move into the realm of the bill of IT. For the uninitiated, a bill of IT is a bill of materials which clearly and transparently explains the cost of IT services and devices in a way that’s easily understood by business end-users.

The thing about IT – all emerging and/or complex technology, really – is that there is currently quite a lack of scientific and technical literacy in the world. Here at home, Canada has seen its stature in scientific literacy diminish in recent years. We aren’t terrible, but we’re still not in the top for anything, really. In a recent study of literacy (mathematical, reading, and scientific) among 15-year-old students form across 65 countries conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), we placed:

  • 13th in mathematical literacy
  • 9th in reading literacy
  • 11th in scientific literacy

At first blush, we don’t seem to be doing too badly. And then, we realise that the middling Canadian scores are buoyed by very high performance in three provinces alone – British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario – every other province is well below the OECD average.

Now, admittedly, these are surveys of 15-year old students, and not adults. The thing is, this survey tests literacy in the basics of mathematics (i.e., arithmetic), reading (mid-high school levels), and science (basic chemistry, biology, and physics). Poor performance at this level pretty much guarantees that the student will have no achievement whatsoever on more advanced levels of all of these domains.

Tied into this is the fact that businesses increasingly need personnel who are literate in all of these domains just to survive, let alone thrive. As I’ve written previously, automation (and other technologies) are key to driving business efficiencies and innovation. A slight problem here is that the people doing the budgeting and accounting might not have a full appreciation of the value of technology, even if they (or their employers) want (them) to know more about the finer points of IT.

From a practical perspective, all of these factors contribute to a poor understanding of the value of technology in general, and of the importance of IT investments in particular. Now, it’s not the IT department’s job to fix education, but it can and should lead the charge in maximizing the company’s technological competitive advantage. After all, technical expertise is the key equalizer – it’s the factor in allowing developing countries compete with industrialized nations.

But if the key decision-makers in a business don’t understand how technology gives an edge, then that’s wasted potential. Worse yet, if competitors have recognized the potential, then they will have a serious strategic advantage. That’s why one of the critical functions of IT lies in communicating the value it brings using technology that businesspeople can understand. And in comes the bill of IT to help with that task!

The bill of IT: An invaluable business tool

So, what is a bill of IT? Well, for starters, it’s more a framework devised by the Technology Business Management Council (TBMC) than any particular singular thing. But there are some pretty simple, solid guidelines that govern how a bill of IT is generated and used. Basically, a bill of IT is a clear but detailed bill that explicitly shows the associations between an IT asset (or service) with any or all of the following:

  • Its cost –  the price per service
  • Its price – the predefined unit rate (price x quantity used)
  • The budget for its use – full cost per year or other reporting period
  • Quality of the service – uptime metrics, support response times, other service metrics
  • Benchmarking – how is the service use in comparison to internally-set benchmarks?

You see, presenting an undetailed budget or balance sheet just might lead everyone without a serious grounding in science or math (from decision-makers to the most junior employee), to think that IT is blowing the budget on toys. After all, it’s a pretty easy misconception to have when the justification for a purchase isn’t made clear.

For example, if the IT manager has purchased and installed a top-grade server with all the bells and whistles for enterprise email use without explaining why, then people might just think that it is money wasted. Remember: People don’t have a strong understanding of technology.  Now, if the other business units are shown a bill of IT which clearly highlights the quality of service (e.g., uptime, security measures, etc.) along with a measure of how much more it would have cost to use a cheaper server, suspicion goes away.

That’s only the most basic of advantages to having a bill of IT, by the way. By implementing a bill of IT, IT managers enable their companies to:

  • Empower business units to change inefficient behaviours
  • Build better, more responsive budgets
  • Refine IT policies

Using a bill of IT is one way to promote useful change in companies!

A final word for now…

I hope that cleared up any questions about the bill of IT. Please feel free to share any experiences you’ve had with bills of IT in your organization in the comment section below!

And for a final word: Wouldn’t it be great if there were a tool that generates a bill of IT quickly, painlessly, and simply? Well, the good news here is that such a tool exists. It’s Cimpl. Cimpl is an IT and telecom expense management tool that keeps track of all IT and telecom expenses in a company, and displays it all with simple clarity. It takes the simplicity of the bill of IT and makes it even more elegant for end users; justifying your IT investments will never be more clear-cut. Contact us to find out more!

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