Battle of the budgets – who will win control of IT and why?
A battle has been raging behind the scenes in many large organisations over the last decade or so. Until recently, it’s been a quiet conflict, often fought behind the scenes and off the record. But that’s changing rapidly as opposing voices are getting louder. Like most battles, it’s about decision-making power and control. But it’s also about two different mindsets and end goals – both equally valid.
In the one corner, there’s the traditional IT department with its remit to procure and implement technology on behalf of the whole organisation, but with shrinking budgets and a need to maintain standards and good governance. In the opposite corner, there’s today’s ambitious business unit and its tech-savvy end users. They’re ready to take on the world by launching new products and services to customers faster than the competition … and wants, no demands, the latest and greatest technologies to help them do so. If IT can’t deliver fast enough, well – as the old adage goes – it’s sometimes easier to do your own thing and ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. In fact, the plethora of cloud and IT-as-a-service options available on the open market today have made it easier than ever to ditch IT.
This familiar scenario has recently been given a name: it’s called bimodal IT and it’s playing itself out in large organisations of all industries. Predictions are that, very soon, as much as half of an organisation’s IT budget will no longer be under the IT department’s direct control, wile individual business units gain more and more say in what needs to be bought, and when. The trouble is, organisations can’t afford for IT to lose this battle outright – in fact, it’s quite literally a question of unaffordability. It’s not only cumbersome and ineffective to run disparate technologies across business units, it’s also hugely expensive thanks to the lack of scale.
The truth is, bimodal IT shouldn’t be a battle at all. It’s an opportunity to broker peace and prosperity for the whole business by understanding and acknowledging the validity of each warring party’s interests. Without IT’s standards, governance, and ability to procure en masse, costs and inefficiencies will spiral out of control. Without the innovation and constant drive to serve customers better and faster, which is often the central goal of today’s business units and end-users, organisations will become increasingly irrelevant and sink into obscurity.
The bottom line is that the role of IT needs to change from simply delivering IT services that focus on system availability, to facilitating IT outcomes that deliver real business value. That implies that IT won’t ever control 100% of the IT budget again … and that’s ok. But business units also need to accept and understand the necessity of keeping the bigger, organisational picture in mind. Standards and processes are there for a reason. The question is: how can this change in mindset be brokered practically?
We have some advice for you in this latest thinking article. It’s time to make peace, shake hands and, most importantly, work together towards accelerating your organisation’s ambition.