VentureBeat: Yes, business leader, you have a tech budget. But you still need IT. Here’s why
Gartner predicts that by next year, 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures will be managed outside the IT department’s budget. CMOs, HR directors, and other line-of-business leaders are becoming technologists, purchasing and implementing software to improve their department’s productivity. This doesn’t mean they need to have IT skills, but they do need to appreciate the expertise of IT professionals in protecting their investment and making it work. To date, there’s been a lot of talk about collaboration between IT and business leaders. It’s mainly been lip service. But this collaboration isn’t just about playing nice — as a line-of-business leader implementing technology, you’re codependent on IT. Here’s why:
SaaS companies prey on LOB execs
SaaS vendors know where the budget is and sell directly to line-of-business execs, hoping they don’t get IT involved. Oftentimes, they’ll start the business leader out in Proof of Concept (PoC) mode, deploying software for free or minimal cost but in a limited capacity. If adopted, you end up with technology you’re relying on for decision-making that may not be properly architected or configured to scale in your particular enterprise settings. This could be for any number of reasons, such as not being integrated with corporate security or identity systems; using “offline” or local versions of data vs. being integrated with current production sources of data; not having reliable or consistent backup and recovery processes; or storing confidential information in the cloud without appropriate security measures.
You’re not programmed to think about IT governance
Yes, IT needs to be more sensitive to the speed and adaptability needs in the business. Robert Lacis, Director of Field Enablement at Maxim Integrated, brought this to light in a recent conversation. He said, “IT tends to focus on providing the broadest benefit at the lowest cost to the majority of the users, sometimes to the detriment of the user.” He cited app development as an example — IT would likely rather use HTML5, whereas users prefer native iOS or Android apps. This is an opportunity for you and your IT partner to meet halfway. If IT is pushing for your app to be web-based, but the richer experience of a native app is critical, help them understand that. On the flip side, not all apps need to be native, and if yours doesn’t, let IT make that decision. As a line-of-business leader, you must appreciate the tenets of IT governance, put in place to create value for all stakeholders. This includes aligning the performance of technology to your department’s strategic objectives. An IT partner will ask tech vendors things you wouldn’t know to increase software performance. They’ll focus on security, scale, and seamless UX features such as single sign-on (SSO). They’ll also make sure your valuable data is backed up and that admin and reporting features are in line with your and IT’s needs. The hyper growth of mobile in the enterprise is a key driver of this IT-LOB disconnect, but also a great opportunity. Business leaders want to tap into the computing power in employees’ pockets, and employees have come to expect the convenience of consumer applications in the workplace. LOB and IT must work together to quickly develop apps that not only work, but also meet employees’ UX expectations (thanks to Apple) to drive wide adoption.
Creating a successful partnership
By now you’re convinced that tech deployments for your LOB should be in partnership with IT (right?). Here are a few tips for making sure that partnership runs smoothly:
- Initiate a shared project. You may have different priorities, but a shared objective will keep you working towards a common goal to benefit the company.
- Join each other’s staff meetings. Don’t bring an agenda, just listen. This will inform your approach to the project, its requirements, and problem solving to meet goals.
- Get on the road together. Attend an industry event with your colleague. Not only will the time together help you bond, but listening to your colleague’s peers will give you a sense of the challenges they face in more detail.
- Motivate your direct reports to connect with counterparts. Collaboration needs to happen at all levels, not as a top-down mandate. Direct reports in each department should collaborate in the same ways as leaders. This helps to sensitize both teams to needs “on the other side of the fence.”
- Break bread. A casual conversation — equal parts personal and business — over a meal can be a real bonding experience. Talking about company challenges and how each function attacks them can offer a great amount of insight to make working together more enjoyable.
The bottom line is, because individual departments have budgets, they often implement technology that has sensitive data, may need to integrate with back-end systems, and must, at some point, become accessible to a broader employee base. Without bringing IT through the process as a partner, these systems may never work as they’re supposed to, and IT may not be there if things go sideways with your tech vendors. It’s time for both IT and LOB leaders to stop paying lip service to collaboration and actually cross the party lines. Without it, neither department will be successful in the long haul. This article originally appeared on VentureBeat on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.