Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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2/12/2014
01:00 PM
James Harvey
James Harvey
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IT Is At The Center Of Your Business

Think again if you think IT is just a commodity. Here's why.

IT gets a bad rap: "It's expensive." "They don't contribute to revenue." "IT is a commodity." But the reality is that IT is (or should be) deeply involved in most businesses decisions. Here are a few proof points to support my case:

  • Royal Bank of Scotland had an IT meltdown on CyberMonday 2013 that resulted in millions of dollars in compensation claims. Part of the reason for the failure: "For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems. We need to put our customers' needs at the center of all we do. It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on." That's the CEO, Ross McEwan, stating that IT is critical to the customer experience. It's unfortunate that he had to make the admission in the first place, but kudos for being honest.
  • The ongoing healthcare.gov saga. Forget the politics of the laws, just getting a website up that can service the insurance needs of possibly millions of citizens has been challenging.
  • On a more positive note, CyberMonday 2013 resulted in the most online spending in US history, reaching $1.735 billion. The name of the day alone shows that IT is critical to the success of retailers today. An 18% increase in sales and nearly $2 billion in revenue in one day is nothing to sneeze at. None of those sales would be possible without the support of IT keeping systems running.

The cliché is that money makes the world go around. That is still true, but we're at the point where we need to add IT to that statement as well. Your money can't go anywhere without computing and network power.

[The amount of jargon and tech clutter has reached critical mass. Read 3 Simple Ways IT Must Navigate Tech Jargon.]

Does this mean IT gets to sit in an ivory tower and dictate how technology should be used? No. In Gartner's "Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014"  webcast (available to Gartner subscribers), the firm mentioned the concept of hybrid IT, where technology groups within a company serve as advisors, brokers, and providers of technology. In this model, IT continues to play a crucial role in all aspects:

  • For the marketing team, IT could be the advisor on what email marketing platform to buy.
  • For the web team, IT can help find an appropriate cloud platform to serve pages more efficiently.
  • For finance, IT runs and secures the datacenter that powers financial systems.

In all three roles, the one thing that IT is responsible for is the customer experience. Yes, the entire company should focus on that, but from a technology perspective it is IT's job. That's sort of obvious for business services supported via IT-controlled datacenters where IT management tools can help keep tabs on performance and customer experience.

But even when a technology function is outsourced, IT must still ensure service levels are met and the customer experience is up to, or better than, par.

When an email marketing function is outsourced, an employee is not going to the CMO when there's a problem; they're calling the IT department. Or, if a cloud bill is suddenly pricey, the CFO isn't going to call ABC Cloud Services; they're going to call the CIO. Similarly, if your third-party hosted e-commerce site is down, the customer isn't blaming XYZ Hosting; they're blaming you.

No matter what role IT plays, it must keep the customer at the center of all decisions and have the tools in place for an exceptional experience.

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jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2014 | 6:10:09 PM
Positivity
Thanks for the positive commentary about what IT should be. I read in so many places that the CIO is a dinosaur, and IT is nothing more than the "no" guys who, hopefully, keep things running at status quo. IT can and should be so much more. We need to be the ones asking "How can I help you with that?" and "How can I make your job easier and more effective?" Very few in an organization are fortunate enough to see such a wide landscape of opportunities and confluences. We need to use that to build the business and make everyone around us more successful.
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