Getting IT to Take Care of Business

Sometimes it seems like the business side and IT are at war.

Instead of collaborating, some IT departments warn it could take months if not years to develop the applications that business managers need in days or weeks.  The reaction? Many business owners go around IT, ordering services on their own.

“As we go into the cloud to take advantage of the business attributes of going into the cloud, we still need to be really mindful of data privacy and protection.”

This scenario plays out daily in companies around the globe. Of course, there are ways to solve this problem by adopting new technologies, like a transforming the datacenter into a hybrid cloud environment.  And many enterprises are moving in that direction.

Before any of that happens, though, the company will have to make a cultural shift that starts in the C-suite, according to Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, an analyst for Constellation Research specializing in integrating traditional business strategy with digital business transformation.

“I don’t see how IT can meet all the needs that they’re being asked to meet unless they go to the cloud,” she said in an interview. “We already know that doing it the on-prem way didn’t work. That’s why it created a rub between the business and IT.”

If companies put their data in the cloud, “it will be more agile, IT will have their hands a little bit freer and they’ll be able to focus on the business needs,” she said. “But we need very strong leadership at the top of the company to say, ‘We’re going to the cloud because we’re going to be more agile and we’re going to be more customer-focused.’”

Need and Resources

Petouhoff noted that IT has long been the steward of privacy, protection, system upgrades and maintenance. “So it’s a new role for them to be involved in the business,” she said. The reason that IT “fell out of favor” was because it couldn’t provide the kind of agility needed to fend off competitors in today’s business climate.  “The business came by and said, ‘Oh, I really need this.’ And IT would say, ‘Well, I already have 15 projects on my plate. Yours is going to be No. 16.  We’re talking about organizational change. We’re saying to IT, ‘You need to change how you do business.’”

However, business managers who chose to go around IT may be learning it wasn’t such a good idea. Most business owners have never written a technical RFP or learned the nuances of an SLA. Now, according to Petouhoff, they’re telling themselves ‘IT is not my core strength. I really don’t want to own this application. I really don’t want to figure out how to integrate it.” 

To address that in the short-term,  some businesses have adopted a “hybrid IT” approach that blends the capabilities of the on-premises data center with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that provide the kind of apps the business side wants.  IT runs the show after considering business needs.

Still Not Enough

The drawback there is that it tends to offer limited functionality because the cloud-based apps don’t always have access to the data they need or can’t share that data across ERP or other SaaS applications. Expanding internationally can also be a problem, with each company facing compliance issues for all elements of its network – on-premises and off – in various countries where they do business.

As a result, the movement towards the hybrid cloud is gaining speed and momentum, though some obstacles remain, like regional availability of telecommunication services or the No. 1 concern: security.

“As we go into the cloud to take advantage of the business attributes of going into the cloud, we still need to be really mindful of data privacy and protection,” said Petouhoff. That said, “we don’t want to make the cloud so cumbersome by protecting the data that is become less agile and almost goes back to what we have on-prem.”

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To move to the next level will take plans, process, checks and balances, according to Petouhoff.

“Change is not easy. It has to be led well and you have to have strong leadership,” she said. “Being a business process person, I see the opportunity. And the opportunity is huge.”


Dr. Natalie Petouhoff
Vice President and Principal Analyst
Constellation Research, Inc.

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