IT services firms need to become business therapists

Posted by Mike Vizard on Jun 25, 2015 10:55:00 AM

Conference_RoomOver the years the divide between IT and line of business units has widened, thanks mainly to the rise of mobile and cloud computing. But a new study from the IT industry association CompTIA involving 650 business and IT professionals suggests that the gap between these two camps might finally be starting to narrow, creating an opportunity for IT service providers to help bring this reconciliation about.

Rather than seeing a shift in control of IT spending moving away from IT, the CompTIA report finds that the IT budgets controlled by IT or line of business (LOB) either continue to grow or remain steady.

Business leaders are making more IT decisions

The problem, finds the study, is that business executives are not particularly satisfied with the results of projects lead by their internal IT organizations. For example, only 22 and 28 percent of the business executives surveyed said they were very satisfied with their organization’s customer relationship management and ERP software, respectively.

In fact, the top ranking for satisfaction with a technology implementation went to the Web portal the organization created, but even then only 40 percent of executives described themselves as very satisfied with their implementation. In short, there’s still a good amount of IT discontent within the ranks of LOB executives.

Nevertheless, 79 percent of the IT professionals surveyed described themselves as being either highly or extremely confident in their abilities to apply technology to meet business goals. That suggests there is a major disconnect between the experience of business users and the perceptions of internal IT organizations.

The good news is that regardless of how wide the divide might be the report finds that business leaders are getting more involved in the IT decision-making process. A full 70 percent of all respondents report that the IT organization is still the primary decision-maker when it comes to acquiring technology. But it’s also clear that when it comes times to make those decisions more input from across the business is being taken into account.

IT service providers bridging the divide

Therein lies the opportunity for IT service providers. The fact of the matter is that IT organizations and the rest of the business essentially speak different languages. Most IT people have little understanding of how the business operates or the goals it’s trying to achieve. And, while business executives are becoming savvier about technology, few of them appreciate what’s required to successfully implement any given application.

Of course, that makes it tempting for IT services firms to try to end run the internal IT organization by selling directly to frustrated business executives. But that’s a self-limiting proposition when you consider that IT either controls or heavily influences 70 percent of IT decisions.

In fact, 59 percent of the LOB executives surveyed report that the first thing they do with their tech budgets is initiate projects involving the internal IT organization. Furthermore, half of those executives describe their relationship with the internal IT organization as being good. That means that IT services providers that focus solely on the LOB executives only gain access to half or a third of the potential project opportunities in any organization.

Conversely, IT services providers that establish relationships on both sides of the IT divide will not only be invited to participate in more projects, but their overall customer satisfaction rates within those organizations is likely to be substantially higher as well.

As is often the case in any organization there’s also dysfunctional behavior. In order to elicit more business from any organization, IT services providers need to discover both how that behavior negatively impacts the business and how to get the members of that organization to recognize the need to change that behavior.

The good news is that like most families the members of those organizations at least in part still like each other, which usually means bringing them back together around a common set of business goals shouldn’t be all that difficult.

Of course, IT service providers need to recognize when the dysfunction inside a business has reached a level where no amount of time invested in trying to build bridges is going to make any material difference. The good news is the number of instances where that truly occurs appears to becoming fewer and farther between.

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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

Topics: IT Services Trends

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