IT vs The Business – the Final Countdown?

Part of my day job involves briefing industry analysts.  They don’t generally get much good press in the blogosphere.  Vendors pay them to write “independent” reports and buyers think that their reports are 100% biased even though they pay for the privilege of reading them.  Many have told of a theory that the various industry analysis charts (e.g. Magic Quadrants) being scored on the level of vendor contribution.

I can’t afford to take sides in this debate.  More precisely, Blue Prism can’t afford to pay any analysts so I don’t actually know the truth.  So our briefings tend to be a bit one way and the analysts rarely reveal any “trade secrets” to me, and we only get coverage if we happen to hit them exactly when they are particularly interested in our area (in fairness that does happen).

Anyway, whatever your views of the analyst community and there are some grey ones, this week I was very pleased to meet one guy who was very open, very helpful and offered some free insights into industry trends.

This is the first of a small number of small posts inspired by my meeting with Clive Longbottom of Quo Circa who was even kind enough to permit me to post his thoughts (so no doubt he will comment if I misrepresent him!).

Quo Circa are a very small firm (compared to Gartner for example) and although British based, do about 60% of their business in the US.  Before Quo Circa, Clive had a background at Meta but before that had a “real” IT career, at least partly in the power industry.

We discussed a range of topics including some of my favourites from this blog.  Let’s pick one at random – the relationship between IT and the business in the enterprise.

Clive thought that the IT function was being marginalised and turned into a commodity buyer, outsourcer, and business as usual operations function.  There are a couple of drivers and they are both related to SIs.  Firstly the SIs started to bid for work against the internal IT function and started winning.  This led to the second which was that the SIs were able to offer better salaries to tempt away the best employees so it was impossible for the internal IT function to skill up to defend itself, even if it had the management and commercial skills to do so.  A classic vicious circle then…

Depending on where you sit in the industry you can now take your pick on whether the evil SIs stole your work, or the dumb IT departments forgot they had a customer to serve.  Or if you sit in the business you could be blissfully unaware of the debate and just think “hey, there are a number of people who can solve my problem, some internal some external and I’m going to pick the one that’s best for my business”.

Anyway extrapolating Clive’s ideas, IT functions have now implicitly turned into two types:

a) the “can’t do” department, focussing only on operations and not strategy (I mean business strategy not IT strategy) and who buy blade servers and occasionally put out a tender for some outsourced development to compete against an SI proposal.

b) the “can do” department that focuses on business strategy, acts as an interpreter between the business and the IT world, and perhaps most importantly focuses on solving business problems.  Yes, of course the operations, governance, security and compliance still needs looking after – but that’s all overhead.  The exciting bits are the bits that drive the business forwards and deliver value, not cost.  And if you’re not at the centre of the business you are on the periphery – and that is no exciting, rewarding, or secure place to be…

2 Responses to “IT vs The Business – the Final Countdown?”

  1. Allan Says:

    I am currently at a conference for marketing people sponsored by one of the software vendors, and a recurring discussion is about how the business people can bypass IT to implement the changes they need. These discussions are by far the most popular and engaging ones.

    There is always a bt of a pendulum effect in business, but at the moment it is very much swining the way that IT is not so much irrelevant as an active hindrance for most (large) organizations.

    Outsourcing and software-as-a-service is the industry responding to this situation as an opportunity.

  2. WorkForceInABox.com » Blog Archive » Rogue IT Survey - can you help? Says:

    […] commenting on my IT vs the business post suggested that the business views IT as “not so much irrelevant as an active hindrance […]

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