When it comes to enterprise IT, dozens of the world’s largest companies are realizing the way to get ahead is to work together.

The collaboration is centered on establishing standardized metrics for measuring the value of IT initiatives and increasing innovation while controlling IT costs. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the approach is called technology business management, or TBM.

This new approach to IT has its own nonprofit trade group, the TBM Council. From 100 members five years ago, the TBM Council has grown to over 3,500. These CIOs are all under intense pressure to leverage new technology for competitive advantage, and they see the value of coming together to discuss common challenges and best practices.

And the members of the Council are leading IT initiatives within some of the largest global brands, including:

Jim DuBois, CIO at Microsoft

Mike Brown, VP of IT at Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chairman of the TCM Council Board

Carman Wenkoff, EVP and CIO at Dollar General

Rhonda Gass, CIO at BLACK+DECKER and Board Member

Rapid changes in technology have given CIOs new and powerful tools, but they have also dramatically increased the complexity and the stakes for enterprise IT. The spread of cloud computing, data analytics and collaboration technologies offer immense promise but don’t come with road maps that can be used for each CIO’s unique UC environment.

TBM involves managing IT like a business itself, not just a business function. From the article:

“At its core, the members say, managing IT like a business means having common metrics to gauge the corporate value of different IT initiatives. Infrastructure services, for instance, can include physical compute, virtual compute, containers, compute-on-demand and mainframe technologies, each of which need to be linked to a measurable, precise cost, the council members said. By getting solid numbers on IT costs across an enterprise, CIOs are able to ’clean house’ and eliminate duplicative or unnecessary tools and services, funneling the savings into more innovative initiatives.”

Forrester Research recognizes TBM as “the adoption of tools and processes to shift the management of technology costs to technology value, enabling and supporting the acceleration of the business technology agenda.” The Council provides an opportunity for enterprise CIOs to standardize such tools and processes, which can lead to accurate IT costs and their expected return across the various business units of the enterprise. This transparency engenders trust and allows for a higher percentage of budget to be dedicated to innovative new services.

WSJ also published an interview with Rhonda Gass of BLACK+DECKER. She talked about running IT as a business and more accurately measuring value:

“As everything goes digital, there’s a greater understanding that IT is a significant investment for the company and more than just a cost center. When I started at Stanley Black & Decker, they had a finance team come in of fairly junior folks who supported me by helping us figure out costs and see how we were doing against our annual plan. I now have a CFO for the IT function, who has a team of people around him.”

“You can measure value in many different ways. There’s a financial return on an investment. On day one of an acquisition, for instance, if I can get all one thousand employees of the acquired company access to our systems, email and HR benefits, to me that’s value. But I also look at value as transparency, meaning really trying to help business units understand what the services are that we’re providing them, and what the cost of that service is. I don’t necessary think it’s our role to track return on investment for the company, but we can provide structures and tools to help.”

This increased transparency around IT costs and value fosters more cross-functional collaboration inside enterprises. Collaboration across business functions unlocks greater performance by ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding strategic priorities, processes and goals. For the enterprise to succeed in today’s business climate, it’s no longer sufficient for staff to be simply competent within their respective siloes. In the case of the TBM Council, not only are these leading CIOs reaching across business functions, they are reaching out to their peers at other companies for insight.

Accelerating technological change will continue to offer both opportunity and risk for enterprise CIOs. In times of business disruption, opportunities can be maximized and risks mitigated by constantly being open to re-examining the IT function within the organization. The success of the TBM Council is evidence of the power of collaboration to increase efficiency and quantify IT’s value to an organization.