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IT's identity crisis: How to remain essential as the business evolves

Minda Zetlin | July 24, 2017
The perception of IT's value and its status within an organization are in constant flux. Here's how to stay relevant.

That figure has been dropping steadily for three years. CIOs who once talked about how to shut down "shadow" or "rogue" IT now mostly face a reality they might not like: They're no longer in control of all or even most of their companies' technology decisions.

How do you deal with security, compliance, licensing and integration issues for systems that you didn't buy and don't oversee? One way to cope is to provide an environment that is so responsive, so fast and so easy to use that no one in the company will ever want to go outside it.

"If I build a container architecture explicitly with security policies and profiles in place, I don't need to fight for control," says Bill Briggs, CTO at Deloitte.

"Instead of IT being dominated by infrastructure teams, I want to automate that as much as possible on standards that it would make no sense not to use, because they're built on leading platforms and you can get things set up in seconds."

People skills are essential. If you build relationships with leaders of business units, they will listen to you when you ask — not demand — to be involved in technology decisions.

"We've been trying to work with the business to say, 'Please don't go out and sign a contract without our knowing about it,'" says Coastal Credit's Brady. "We want that sort of partnership where they involve us so we can point out that maybe there's another vendor that does the same thing but their integration tools are better. Or that the product you want will solve your immediate need but won't scale."

This kind of thing takes a delicate touch, Brady says. "If your approach is that IT needs to have its fingers in everything, they will end up not talking to you because no one wants to feel that from another department," she says.

Instead, offer to point out issues that business executives might not notice. "The better your personal relationships, and the more you understand the business, the more people will turn to you," Brady says. "They're usually happy to have input."

What happens when, despite IT's best efforts at persuasion, a business unit insists on purchasing the wrong product? "That has happened," Brady says. "We pointed out Product X had very few integration tools, that it wasn't very good and would require manual work from business users. They were OK with that. They put the product in place and after a year and a half, they realized it wasn't going to work. They had hit the point of scaling and integration where the only answer would be for their department to hire more people."

In that kind of situation, "It comes down to how mature everyone is," she says. "They were mature enough to admit the product wasn't a good choice. And after that, they were some of my biggest supporters."


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