The past few years have seen dramatic shifts in how businesses use technology. Business units are increasingly bypassing IT in favor of implementing solutions on their own, and CIOs have struggled to maintain control of an exploding “Shadow IT” phenomenon.
There is a combination of factors contributing to this shift, including the consumerization of technologies previously held to be in IT’s purview (ie, the increasing use of employee-owned devices, Software as a Service, Cloud Storage, etc). In many cases, however, IT’s image in the eyes of the business has contributed to the problem as well. In discussions with business unit leaders, IT has been described to me as:
- “Too slow”
- “Not innovative enough”
- “The ‘no’ guys”
- “Too interested in legacy systems”
- “Not educated in business”
Clearly a great many IT departments have an image problem. My goal here is to give CIOs a path to improving their relationship to the business, and hopefully resolve the downward spiral of smaller budgets and less control.
While the needs of various Business Units can vary, not just from unit to unit but from company to company, there is a series of steps IT executives can follow to improve engagement drastically:
- Determine the metrics the Business Unit uses to measure its own success, then proactively search out new technologies that can positively impact those metrics.
- Discuss the Business Unit providing budget (if not all, at least some) for implementing the solution you’re proposing. If you can show a significant ROI for the solution, this should not be a problem.
- Balance Security versus Usability. Systems that are not user-friendly don’t get used, and the money spent to implement them was wasted.
- Establish the measures of success for IT projects in business terms. Rather than saying “Have a Business Intelligence system operational within six months”, use “A system to show sales managers the Revenue and Gross Profit performance of their direct reports in real time”.
- Determine the value of the business results of the project. If an analytics system for Marketing will result in them being more efficient with their budget, there is a monetary amount associated with that increased efficiency. Use that to show Return on Investment.
Continued implementation of a method like this should result in a drastic improvement in the relationship between the business and IT, and could have the added benefit of relieving much of the financial restraints on a CIO’s budget.