Posted by Alex Cullen on January 22, 2009
Business says it wants to be more involved with technology decision-making – taking a more leadership role especially when it comes to solutions with direct business benefit. And if business acts on this desire by working with IT the way we’ve wanted, this is all to the good. But we have to recognize that the more they care – for example if they are in product development or sales – the less likely they are going to want to work with us in the way we wanted – via steering committees, architecture review boards, and formalized project proposal processes. To them, it might appear easier to use SAAS offerings, or contract for or develop their own solutions – and they may have a point. Many of the efficiencies centralized IT can provide count less when using cloud-based services and newer, more end-user friendly tools. And if IT won’t support them because they are off the ‘approved technology’ ranch – well, they have alternatives.
IT sees the downside of this in terms of business and compliance risk, loss of budgetary visibility, and less efficient use of IT assets. This collusion between what aggressive business technology users believe, and what our role has traditionally been, could lead us to chose one of two courses. The first is to be the policeman, using the clout of the CFO and compliance to maintain primacy over technology decisions – while inviting business to be part of steering committees and generally follow the processes that help establish our control. Or we can find ways to help mitigate the business’s lack of technology maturity and provide more value to them.
IT’s old value proposition of “technology is complex and costly – but we know how to make it work for our business” isn’t convincing with the options business execs are learning they have. Why not replace this old value proposition with one of helping them learn and leverage what they can do? Sound Pollyannaish? Well, look at the skills they believe they should ramp up on: Project management, business process analysis, collaboration tool configuration. Do we position our expertise as a value to them, or as just our internal capabilities, only available for approved projects?
This may sound like the concept of ‘a business consulting function within IT’ – which we’ve tried to do for years and continue to try to do. Sometimes it’s successful – but it often struggles with confusion over its own purpose and relationship with the production IT functions, like application development and data management. But with business users driving information technology decisions, is it time to learn from the vendors and make this concept work for our business partners?
What do you think? Do you think the solution to business’s lack of technology maturity is a new consulting organization? Do you think the corporate needs of control will aways trump business areas’ desires to go their own ways?