In part one of this article, I discussed the recent evolution of the IT department’s relationship with its customers. This evolution is rooted in IT’s customers being able to evaluate and select technology without IT’s help. Many IT staffers perceive this activity as negative, often referring to the activity as “Shadow IT” or clandestine activity. Their interpretation is that customers don’t trust or rely on them anymore, creating great disharmony, animosity, and a perceived violation of trust. What’s often missing from this assessment is recognition that IT’s customers are developing competencies in skillsets previously off-limits. User-centered technology, consumerization of technology, and convergence of devices and software as a service— including mobile-first solutions delivered straight to the business—opened the doors for IT’s customers to become tech savvy quickly.
"IT must embrace and adjust to these changes, accepting them as both the new norm and as an opportunity to accelerate business digitization."
The key roles in IT that must advance to keep up with the evolution are the Buyer Agent or Vendor Broker role, Data Management and Integration as a discipline, IT Security, and the role of the Service Desk.
At BAYADA Home Health Care, we have a simple policy that if you work in a business unit and are planning to sign a contract with a technology vendor, the contract must pass muster for a few standards and then pass through the CIO office for final review. Those standards consist of service-level agreements, protection of intellectual property, an implementation plan, access to APIs, good security, data ownership and management, and access to product roadmap information.
Often these contract reviews force the parties to go “back to the drawing board” on negotiations when a businessperson asks a vendor to meet some of these standards. But, as the skillset to select technology continues to transition and evolve in the business units, these standards will become second nature and addressed from the start. Usually, this is where IT steps in as the vendor broker or buyer agent. In other instances, business units request vendor brokering from the start, because either they need help researching the product space, or they require assistance evaluating some aspect of the technology that is beyond their expertise.
IT employees are well equipped to perform in the vendor broker role. Whether they provide guidance via standards, sit with their customer while they speak to vendors, or participate in vendor selection, IT staff members use their operational IT support experience to know whether or not their customers are getting a good business deal. If that’s your role, be ready to take action on-the-fly, as you may be invited to the party late.
The IT role of data management consists of the aggregation, organization, integration, and presentation of data in a form that business customers find highly consumable and actionable. As companies adopt or replace new applications, the need for a consistent way to absorb data into a single data dictionary becomes paramount to making sense of the various applications supporting the business. Advancing the Data Management and Integration functions create the rigor and organization to prevent the Tower of Babel while software is being adopted at a faster pace. =
Whether you have a small IT shop or a large one, architects exist in your group. These are your senior-level technology managers who see the long view on your technology stack.
The architect’s role is comparable to a city planner. They look for opportunities to enhance the infrastructure, maintain water (or data) flow, and keep technologies knitted together. The architect’s role in setting standards was traditionally the iron fist that prevented sprawl. Today, standards act as the brakes on the car that enable our customers to keep moving quickly without crashing.
IT security continues its traditional role in the IT department while also evolving into the risk management and compliance business functions. However, despite this evolution, and given the sophisticated needs of today’s security posture, I suspect this role will continue to thrive in IT. The challenge here is to keep security off the minds of our business customers, letting them do their work unencumbered.
Another key area requiring focus is the IT service desk. Traditionally, the service desk efficiently on-boards, and runs technology systems with superior customer service, and lights-on support. While typically adept at managing service-level agreements, the service desk has a few challenges including rapidly onboarding support for an increasing number of SaaS systems, absorbing and managing service levels, and routing and monitoring responses to second-and third-level support. The service desk will hold the vendors accountable in their support models with their expertise in monitoring ticket closure rates and speed.
Other traditional roles (such as desktop management, application developers, and administrators) must be poised to handle initiatives at varying stages of the system development lifecycle (SDLC). Managing SDLC is the IT department’s bread and butter skillset. By taking the simplest approach to discovery, requirements, design, development, testing, training, and deployment, a good IT employee can rapidly assess the state of any initiative.
Learn, evolve, and adapt: The keys to great customer collaboration and business success. As our customers continue to evolve and apply technology at faster rates, IT must also continue to learn the business of our customers.
The key to success in business-led innovation will be IT’s ability to adapt to change and recognize new ways to work with business partners. Shifting and reimagined roles in IT reflect users’ newfound access to friendly, consumable technology— technology easily obtained via the industry’s new delivery models.
Many roles will shift into business areas. In fact, many already have—by virtue of highly engaged business leaders driving and funding innovation. Other roles (such as the vendor broker, security, architecture, and data management) will become vital to managing the wellspring of innovation across the company. Finally, IT’s ability to rapidly onboard new technology, efficiently manage lights-on support, and jump into action as a timely partner to business leaders will foster greater partnership with customers and ultimately drive company success.