When IT Doesn't Choose Applications - InformationWeek
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Tom Petrocelli
Tom Petrocelli
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When IT Doesn't Choose Applications

Choosing and purchasing business applications continues to move to the business side of the house. Here's what to expect in the new world order.

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For this column I have passed the editorial baton to my colleague Tom Petrocelli. Tom is ESG's social media guru and highlights not only how crucial these new tools are to the development of IT from an application and value perspective, but also reminds us how such dramatic changes in what IT does also have an intense impact on how IT does -- or at least should do -- things. Whether that's storage, security or servers, the world becomes different. -- Mark Peters

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.

[ Need to do a better job of plugging security holes? Read Who Owns Application Security, Patching In Your Business? ]

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.

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2013 | 3:56:22 PM
re: When IT Doesn't Choose Applications
"...deploying on-premises..."

Thank you for not making the increasingly common error of leaving off that second "s". The buzzword/term "on-prem" is wedging its way into the IT vernacular, which is acceptable as long as people know the correct, shortened word.
Ramon S
Ramon S,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2013 | 11:18:44 AM
re: When IT Doesn't Choose Applications
Until now it was IT's job, but I found that in most companies IT is unresponsive or slow at best, then picks a solution that is the cheapest on the market and meets only a very limited amount of core features. IT is forced to buy by price and often lacks the understanding of what the business unit really needs and doesn't bother to find out. IT is unfortunately a carbon copy from the Dilbert cartoons, a service preventer rather than a business enabler. Just recently, I had a need for a 1TB external drive. It was impossible to get through IT despite us all working for a well to do multimillion Dollar company. The twist was that it had to be from Dell and that we could not use the specials from other vendors that would have cut cost in half. Next time I ask for an entire rack of servers, at least the effort will be worth the results.
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2013 | 10:43:59 AM
re: When IT Doesn't Choose Applications
what planet are you from Tom? IT has never selected applications: IT installs the software it is told to install
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