Blogger: Craig Roth
I've been noticing a distinct anti-IT trend in vendor marketing lately. There has always been dissatisfaction with IT for everything from failure to understand business needs to technical elitism. But there are more options now for business units that want to get around IT. Especially for the technologies I cover: collaboration and content.
What are those options? Business units can avoid IT in roughly three ways:
- Do it yourself (aka "end user computing")
- Hire outside contractors/consultants
- Software as a service
For example, Microsoft is increasingly marketing SharePoint to the business with as the DIY option of choice. With SharePoint 2010 coming out and their marketing machine in full gear, I am getting lots of comments from IT folks that their business partners are attending an external SharePoint seminar or have had sales people contact them directly. As one poignant example, I did an onsite governance workshop for an organization where SharePoint was growing separately in IT and the biggest business unit. Getting them on the same page would be useful, but unfortunately the business units couldn't attend because they were all at a SharePoint training class they had enrolled in without IT! This is new - I haven't seen anything remotely close to this end user push before.
SaaS and cloud offerings have pushed this button too. By just writing a check, capabilities can be delivered without a painful round of requirements gathering or project approval process.
I can't blame vendors for doing this. There are perfectly good reasons to avoid IT that don't amount to IT bashing. End user computing can enable the business to iterate on its own with the subject matter experts in control. SaaS can be more cost efficient and lower risk than a large IT installation. Consultants help even out peaks and valleys in workload without layoffs, and provide niche expertise. Hey, IT can be happy to work on the difficult problems that demand its skills while leaving the business to help itself for lesser needs.
All of these reasons are evident in Microsoft's marketing for one SharePoint's main capability areas, composites. "Composites – Business users need the ability to quickly create applications without involving the corporate IT group for each request." Wondering why? Well, in the SharePoint 2010 guide handed out at the SharePoint conference, it goes further and describes how the line of business has custom needs that often result in IT becoming a bottleneck. "This common scenario results in a backlog of increasingly unmet needs in the IT group ... By enabling users and decision makers to create [composites] it becomes easier to improve productivity along with the satisfaction in the organization of the company's IT staff." (sorry, can't find a link to it online)
To me, it's all a matter of intent. Using end user computing, external consultants, or SaaS when they are truly better alternatives than a properly working IT department is the right thing to do. But if the business is not happy with the service they get from IT (e.g., too busy, too bureaucratic, too incompetent), the first course of action, before figuring out how to do it themselves or write a check to someone else, should be to fix IT.
My suspicion is that there is often a combination of these two intents at play. Before the business gets too excited about getting needs met without IT involvement and before IT gets too excited about getting to ignore a swath of the business, a realistic assessment should first determine if something is broken .
Note: This is a cross-posting from the KnowledgeForward blog.