Business Isn't Mature About Technology - What Are We Going To Do About It?

Alexcullen 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? 

Comments

re: Business Isn't Mature About Technology - What Are We Going

Beacuse of IT's unique position within an organization, it makes perfect sense to have an internal consulting group based in IT. If you do this, the top person in that group should work directly for the CIO, otherwise they will be lost in the sea of bureaucracy. The risk: will the group be welcomed by the business?The other option is to create an internal group outside of IT that works directly for the CEO. Then the group could truly be objective, and have the necessary clout to get the business and IT teams working together. The risk: will the focus on technology be lost?Both have risks, and both can provide huge benefits. Neither is easy to pull off! But anything worth doing rarely is.Glenn WhitfieldDirector of Business IntegrationNew Age Technologies, Inc.

re: Business Isn't Mature About Technology - What Are We Going

I have seen some organizations that have an "IT relations officer" within each LOB. But many IT people don't like them because they interfere with IT ... as much as that is their job. They would have to be confirmed and accepted by the board and the CIO.Business wants to be more involved with technology decisions because they are unhappy with those decisions taken by IT. I actually don't agree that business is bent on making the process of creating the right solution more bureaucratic. They ask for that as they don't see another way to be involved. They turn to SaaS because they get something to use fairly quickly and then typically those vendors are pretty cool about listening to their users. Inhouse IT usually isn't.So if the CIO wants more control over IT budgets and implementations why does he not offer the same thing as SaaS? I am not saying to install these products inhouse but to look at this as a business user demand. They want something quickly, they want to be involved and they want their say. So lets give that to them. Right?I know that the answer is: "But dear user, you don't understand IT. You are asking for something that is not available." That is however not true. Users look most of all at user interface and they will accept and work with a product that gives them that regardless of how crappy it is underneath. That is the cause for some huge customization projects, where business decided for a cute CRM interface and then millions were spent on customization and integration. The same is true for BPM and ECM. We will need to get rid of all those dead-ends.A much better option is to get away from applications coding. It is too complex and no matter how much bureaucracy you put into it, the complexity of systems and software and code is staggering to unmanageable. A change is truly inevitable sooner than later.Computers are now powerful enough to enable new technology. We need new systems, one like our Papyrus Platform is fast growing into. A software platform that converts a business strategy into a business architecture and deploys it via life-cycle management into production without intermediate coding and compilation. Machine learning technology discovers processes via user interaction. All process and content is audited and goals are monitored. What else do you need?Actually, we need to make the architecture creation and maintenance available to the business user and that is something we are getting better at day by day. We do not need more bureaucracy and more consulting ... we need truly innovative technology. You know who resists that technology change the most? Not so much LOB, but IT people!

re: Business Isn't Mature About Technology - What Are We Going

Thanks for your comments, Glenn and Max.As you point out, there are many options - most of them have been tried and some work.The common thread is a role or function/department that is 'affilited' with IT but focused on business goals/needs/expectations. This group has to be measured by business satisfaction first and foremost, with IT-oriented measures secondary. This is a group that can become embedded in the business, and be good technology advisors and advocates for them.IT people, up to senior IT management, have an IT focus and see business needs immediately from the perspective of "how can we do it using what we got?", "how can we support it?" and "does it fit?". This is very understandable - IT does have to build and support many solutions. But with this mindset, they won't be embraced by business areas, and when they do say no, business will need someone it trusts to help find the solutions to their needs.