Business applications are the apex predator of the IT world. All the servers, storage, routers and switches, virtualization software, databases and middleware in enterprise IT organizations exist to deploy applications to knowledge workers.
Until recently, corporate IT has been responsible for delivering the meat to feed the application beast. Now, a shift is changing the traditional IT role and the impact is only going to get more radical. Non-IT professionals -- managers of other business functions and other knowledge workers in general -- are buying their own software and apps and services. Even when they're not the actual buyers, it is pretty clear their influence over the business application purchase is growing. Recent research from ESG indicates that as many as 42% of knowledge workers either influence, sign off on, or outright make purchase decisions for business applications.
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The reason for this transfer of buying power is, in large part, because the expectations of knowledge workers have already shifted. The average knowledge worker is used to procuring his own software for personal use via browsers and – albeit to a lesser degree to date - as mobile applications. Knowledge workers' empowerment as technology consumers is spilling over into their working lives.
That's the motivation. And the means is cloud-based applications. When knowledge workers were asked how they access business applications not provided by their IT organizations, the most common method was via a browser on their desktop or laptop. Browsers provide a convenient method not only of deploying on-premises applications and sanctioned cloud applications, but also buying applications without IT involvement. Knowledge workers are no longer willing to wait for IT to go through a lengthy process to procure applications when they know they can buy them from a cloud application provider with their own money, on a subscription, and often with a credit card. In short, they are buying their own software because they want to and they can.
This trend has several crucial ramifications for both vendors and traditional IT departments:
1. Application Vendors No Longer Can Rely On Selling On-Premises Software To IT Departments.
Software vendors have to contend with a totally new customer. Vendors that do not embrace the knowledge-worker buyer will be the vendors left out in the cold in the future. This will drive changes to sales, marketing, service and especially support. No longer can software vendors expect the buyer to be a technology savvy IT person with a technologist's expectations. Instead, vendors must contend with buyers that have more domain knowledge than they do, but much different expectations of technology. Subsequently, cloud applications have to be like electricity -- something that "just works" for people who have neither an idea nor especially care about how it works.
2. IT Can Control -- But Not Stop -- Non-IT Buying.
Most knowledge workers (73% in ESG's research) claim that they never access non-IT-provided applications in the presence of a clear policy prohibiting such access. That doesn't mean they don't want to. The flip side is that nearly a quarter of knowledge workers will still access non-IT approved applications even with a policy against it. Pressure to allow knowledge workers the ability to safely choose their own applications will only increase. And fighting the trend will only encourage knowledge workers to go around IT.