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IT is loosening its grip on the BU

Do you know how to succeed?


By Fred Engel

Westerly Consulting


Last week I attended  a meeting of a group of IT executives that meets once a year to discuss the current on upcoming issues to managing IT.   The new mobile devices are having a profound impact on IT’s ability to do its job. Here are a couple of the more significant items.


IT Focusing on Risk

A big surprise was that many of the IT organizations have figured out that they can no longer control their business units, so they are focusing on managing risk, not controlling all activity.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.  The new smart phones are just too prevalent and disruptive.  People are using them to conduct business so the organization should just adjust.

2.  The iPad is brought into work as a personal device but is being used for business purposes. It is outside the control of IT.

3.  SaaS and the Cloud have caused many business units to clamber for a model that allows them to move forward faster than IT is able to do.  It is just too easy to buy solutions without needing any infrastructure.

4.  IT is just overburdened and not delivering. It is hard for IT to be as motivated to solve the business unit problem as the business unit is.  The business units are making a lot of noise for better faster service.


However, losing control does not mean ignoring the risk to the business.  IT is still responsible for making sure that the core assets of the company are not compromised. The challenge for IT is how to manage risk while not being in control of all the assets. New products that help manage the risk are being received with open arms.  It’s a big challenge.


Business Units going it alone


To the Business Unit it is always a sense of joy when the pendulum swings in favor of more freedom from IT.   They often see it as finally doing what they want without having to drag it out IT over a very long time.  The basic belief is that “we can do it faster and better”.


Whether SaaS, the Cloud, virtualization, and mobile devices will cause a long term shift in what IT can do is not clear, but it certainly is driving change.   The biggest change is that they are going it alone in creating their own applications or in buying their own applications.



Below are some things to consider before going it alone in the creation or purchase of a new application:

1.  How will the new application integrate with the other applications or the data from other applications?

a.  Workflow often goes from one application to another. Will the workflow for this new solution need to connect to other applications and if so how will that be accomplished?

b.  Data integration – Usually, the integration of data from several applications (or  data sources) provides a better view than the data from just one application.  Broader views of the business usually yield better decisions.  It is usually reasonably hard to integrate these different pieces together into a single view. Thinking this through before you buy or build is critical.  You need to think about what data you need to integrate with and how you will accomplish this. Doing it after the application is running and being used may well be too late.

2.  Make sure you understand the core functions needed to solve the problem.  Write them down and review with the end user.

3.  It takes more than the core functions to make a system. 

a.  How is the solution configured and who is going to configure it?

b.  Who is going to decide what needs to be configured?

c.  How are administrative tasks handled?

d.  What about reporting?

e.  What about support?

f.   Training? 

g.  Who is going to be in charge of running the software and how much time will it take?

h.  How much will it cost to expand the application and to maintain it over time?

4.  The amount of attention to detail required in buying or building a solution often exceeds the patience of the end user (e.g. the business unit). 


The business unit often would prefer to run the business, not the application.  When it takes on the burden of owning the application, giving it back to IT is often not an easy thing to do. IT may not tae it from you.  Don’t let your desire for ownership let you get in over your head. This is difficult stuff.

Send comments to: fred@westerlyconsulting.com