Archive for March 26th, 2010

IT – Provider or adviser?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

There is an interesting article over at Outside the Box by Todd Biske.

If IT is providing less software and less hardware to the business as a result of industry trends towards SaaS, virtualisation, cloud etc, then what is left to “provide” other than advice.  Todd contends that whilst it is obvious that IT should play a more advisory role to the business, execution of that vision is harder than it first appears.

I happen to think that it is good for an organisation to buy SaaS et al through the IT function and that IT has a key strategic and advisory role.  I find it helpful to think of IT and the Business as a supplier and customer relationship.  For such a relationship to work, though, there needs to be a commercial element and competition.  In other words IT should have a clear recharging structure to the business – not just hide costs as IT overheads on the corporate P & L.  Equally the business needs to have the choice to buy IT elsewhere, if it feels that it can get better service or lower costs.

All things being equal, all but the most inept internal IT functions ought to be able to deliver IT services to the business most efficiently:

  1. because they are not under pressure to make a profit – merely break even
  2. because they have zero sales and pre-sales costs
  3. because they have intimate knowledge of the organisation

External suppliers (and I include SaaS and the like) do have some advantages, of course, such as providing a more flexible resource pattern to manage peaks and troughs, and being able to share expensive specialist resources (human and capital) across accounts.

One step at a time, though, and addressing Todd’s point about executing against the vision, I guess I am trying to argue here that if IT thinks of the business as a customer and starts acting as a supplier (with or without any commercial implications) then the advisory role is automatic.

This is one subject where I am in rare disagreement with Nick Malik.