The other day I was having a conversation with an IT executive from one of America’s largest companies. I was really interested in his perspective as a hard working senior level IT insider. We started talking about the role of IT and business as well as the future of business and technology. In the process I relayed my passion for how IT needs to integrate with the business and how the future was going to change significantly (see e.g. What is the Proper Relationship for the CIO, CEO, and CFO?).
I gained a new appreciation for how difficult an IT executive’s job can be when the economy is in turmoil. I’m sure my comments and perspective were challenging but here is part of what I gained from that conversation (my assumptions and my “read” may be wrong)…
The wider global technology discussion (inside and outside of the company) is putting real pressure on IT return on investment, IT Convergence, and full integration with the business (see Steps to Achieve SAP IT Convergence). Even while all of this takes place there is still a critical need to stay on top of technology trends and be sure the organization does not stagnate. To stay competitive what does he do with “cloud” processing, do they need different applications for some of their processes (CRM, APO,SRM, etc.), what about social media (does it even fit), virtualization, shared services, service excellence, outsourcing, in-sourcing, etc., etc., etc.
This executive’s IT organization is being challenged to do more with less. As a result of cost-cutting pressures his organization is having to look at outsourcing while he also has to maintain a positive and upbeat appearance in the face of working through difficult cuts. He has to continue encouraging and rallying the troops while some of them will not be there.
A Simple Response to the Nagging Problem of Business IT Convergence
With all of this background in mind one of his responses to me set me back a moment for its simplicity, candor, and most of all the underlying frustration. It is certainly one of those very difficult struggles that many corporate technology leaders today face:
“What is the business responsibility for this?”
The business not only has responsibility but they have to help drive solutions and delivery. The various business stakeholders must see, understand, and then accept their role in developing the technology roadmap. And once it is developed they must help ensure its execution.
The Business to IT Convergence Solution That Was There All Along
The IT Convergence approach in the SAP enterprise is partially based on best practices around IT Governance. By creating a governance structure that involves and integrates both the business and IT stakeholders you gain business buy-in and involvement. I have written a solution brief on this approach and provide a free, no-obligation MS Access application to build technology roadmaps (see the Solution Brief, governance process, and application overview here: Beyond Technology Alignment )
The basic takeaway here is that business involvement is critical. They are already making technology investments, with, or without your involvement. So it is critical to gain that convergence so that technology investments are performed as a partnership and not in isolation. As a recent Harvard Business Review post by Ray Wang notes:
“[O]verall corporate tech spending is up by 17 to 20% in our latest data, spending by IT departments is flat at best. It’s business leaders, not their IT colleagues, who are driving purchasing decisions.”
Coming to Terms with the Consumerization of IT, http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/07/coming_to_terms_with_the_consu.html and a followup with more details on his site at: http://blog.softwareinsider.org/2011/08/22/mondays-musings-balancing-the-six-ss-in-consumerization-of-it/ (both retrieved 8/23/2011)
So the key here is to integrate the business into the IT and application infrastructure. One way to do that is through leveraging SAP steering committee skills and business connections to ensure meaningful involvement by IT.
Additional Steps to SAP IT Convergence – Creating the Center of Excellence
Last week’s post provided a few high level steps to achieve SAP IT Convergence, and this week I am adding to that list the following items.
- Pursue business executive sponsorship but don’t wait for it to get started.
- Start a communication program
- Engage at all levels of the organization
- Conduct one or more pilot programs and capture lessons learned
- Hold IT staff accountable for participation
- Don’t let available tools stifle participation or innovation