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IT leadership remains crucial when non-IT stakeholders make tech decisions

August 05, 2015

I spent much of last month talking about what the transformation that CIOs and IT departments need to make over the next five years to remain successful and competitive in a Mobile First world. As I noted during our live webinar on the subject (recording available here), it is increasingly common for non-IT stakeholders like executives, line of business managers, and individual teams to source and implement their own solutions. This often takes place in the form of mobile apps and cloud services.

If IT is completely uninvolved or unaware of these decisions, otherwise known as shadow IT, the dynamic between IT and the rest of the organization is changed. This dynamic has the potential to shift budgets and procurement processes from IT to other departments. It has implications for support should there be problems with the adopted apps/services or if they cannot integrate with enterprise systems. It also has implications for security, particularly if IT doesn’t have visibility into where enterprise data is flowing.

This shift in decision-making and funding is already occurring. It is one of the major reasons that business analysts, many deeply embedded with specific business units, will form a growing portion of the IT department.

As I discussed in the webinar and a related blog post, these positions allow deep engagement and cooperation between IT and every business unit, manager, or user in a way that has historically not existed in most companies. They serve as a liaison and enable IT to take on the trusted advisor role that will be critical to success over the next several years.

IT still needs a bird’s eye view of the entire organization

One of the challenges with this embedded IT approach is that it is easy for each business analyst to become focused solely on the needs of his or her business unit. IT still needs to remain a department that touches every part of the organization. This is why some of our customers that are pursuing this approach have begun to rely on a steering committee for these types of interactions, one that typically grows out of the initial development of a mobile center of excellence.
This steering committee can work with all the embedded analysts to understand how the needs of their assigned departments integrate with the needs of other departments and the organization as a whole. They can also serve as the point of contact between those analysts and the rest of the IT department. This allows them to them to have a bird’s eye view of the entire organization as well as a deep understanding of the technology being used across it regardless of whether that is sourced by individual business units, deployed by IT directly, or built as a partnership.
There are key reasons that this broader vision is required:

  • Cost savings – The biggest advantage to having a holistic view of the entire organization is cost savings. If each business unit is sourcing its own cloud storage or collaboration solution, cost overlap is inevitable, particularly if several different solutions are being employed. Streamlining the selection and billing offers significant opportunities to trim those costs for the entire organization.
  • Best practice sharing – When analysts across business units collaborate through a steering committee, it enables them to share what their units are doing and whether or not it’s effective. This builds institutional knowledge around what works and doesn’t and allows best practices to be applied across the organization. Often this also affords a measure of additional cost control because only the best and most cost effective approaches are used.
  • Preventing data silos – Information should flow across the organization as freely as possible. This means that solutions should be selected for organization-wide use or selected for interoperability to prevent data from becoming trapped in separate systems that cannot be easily shared. This increases opportunities for collaboration as well as overall productivity because information is easily accessible across teams.
  • Streamlining support – With so many different solutions and workflows in place, support can become a difficult prospect. The broader the understanding of these workflows, the broader knowledge base for support staff. Coordination between support and embedded analysts also allows support to tap the knowledge of those analysts and their users when there are issues with specific tools or processes.
  • Delivering the best advice – With a team focused on the organization as a whole and focused on noting where the technology market is heading over the coming months or years, it becomes possible to offer more solid advice. Rather than simply listening to one business unit’s request for a particular app, this facilitates understanding the needs relative to the entire company and to the technology market. That can mean proposing a more cohesive and forward-looking solution.
  • Securing data wherever it lives – The traditional security perimeter is quickly fading away as data moves to mobile devices, cloud services, and other locations that exist outside the corporate network. This requires an agile and layered security model. Building this type of security strategy requires understanding how, where, and why data is flowing across various repositories.

Working with other stakeholders

 

IT still needs to have its place at the table when it comes to making technology decisions, regardless of whether they are organization-wide or specific individual units. At the same time, there are a growing number of seats at the table for new stakeholders, particularly non-IT executives, line of business managers, and team leads. IT needs to listen to these new stakeholders to understand what they need and what solutions are truly appropriate. This needs to be an ongoing dialog and partnership, but this doesn’t mean that its place at the table is diminished. In some ways, IT’s perspective is becoming even more relevant because IT needs to lead, educate, and develop more effective solutions than in the past.

Ryan Faas

Ryan Faas,

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