The dynamics of today’s IT decision making

Over the past five years, some technology marketers have lost sight of one of their most important audiences – the IT department. The rise of cloud applications, mobile, IT consumerization and BYOD made many technology vendors believe that the IT department was no longer relevant. They envisioned end-users going directly to the technology providers they wanted to use and leaving IT behind to tend to a largely abandoned infrastructure. Looking back, these beliefs about the market followed the usual technology hype-cycle of over inflated expectations and a trough of disillusionment. Today we are in the slope of enlightenment and IT plays a critical role in bringing these technologies to meaningful levels of productivity.

Two broad assumptions drove predictions of IT’s demise: 1) The IT department was threatened by the new technologies and would resist the changes they brought because it was afraid of losing its power in the organization. 2) Having functional departments directly acquire the technology they wanted would improve their productivity and time-to-market performance. These two assumptions turned out to be off-base.

IT’s resistance to change

The IT function is more conservative than other functions such as the marketing and sales teams. But that doesn’t mean it is resistant to change. Cloud and mobile technologies have freed IT from some of the mundane aspects of keeping the infrastructure up and running and enabled IT to focus on the business value it brings to the organization. Pick up an IT trade journal such as CIO magazine and you find far more articles about how IT can add value to the business by better meeting the needs of internal and external customers than you will about technical issues.

On a more tactical level, the talk about IT’s unwillingness to change overlooked a basic truth about the IT department: At heart they are the “geeks” who find technology so interesting that they decided to make a career out of it. New technologies are on their radar screen well before anyone else’s. By the time another department brings at technology too their attention they have already been thinking about the benefits and drawbacks. In a similar vein, resistance to new technologies is often driven by the legal and compliance department that sets the policies the IT department must follow in terms of data security.

Going direct wasn’t a panacea

It turns out that the best application or technology for an individual or functional department isn’t always the best for the company overall. It’s true that by selecting their own systems functional departments are more likely to get the functionality they want and get it sooner. However, these benefits are often off-set by drawbacks from an enterprise-wide perspective.

Effective CRM, SFA, analytics and big data applications requires integration across multiple enterprise systems. Point solutions that functional departments acquired on their own don’t always integrate with other systems as promised creating silos of data across the enterprise. Some departments find that their cloud systems weren’t as easy to manage as they expected and ended up relying on the IT department which creates an adversarial situation where IT was supporting applications it didn’t have a role in selecting. Functional teams didn’t fully factor in how bandwidth would affect their applications performance. Data security requirements cascading down from the legal department resulted in so many restrictions on personal devices that many BYOD programs have stalled.

Better technology decisions

The dynamics of enterprise technology decision making have changed for the better. IT and functional users sit at the table and share in decisions about which technologies make the most sense for the organization. Advances in technology have enabled both sides to focus on the business benefits of technology. National headlines make everyone aware of the security risks that must be considered with any new technology. As a result of these trends, organizations are making better decisions than when one side of the house had a disproportional influence on the decision.

For many enterprise technologies, the primary audience from a sales and marketing perspective should be the functional departments that will get the most benefit from the application. However, technology marketers forget about the IT department, or worse, treat them as a road block to get around, at their own peril. Although the message, value proposition and channels may be somewhat different, savvy marketers recognize the partnerships that exist and look to make connections with both sides of the house.