Magazine Article | July 1, 2003

Get Buy-In For Your IT Buys

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

IT purchases require all key players to hold hands. Otherwise, they'll be free to point fingers if payback isn't obvious.

Integrated Solutions, July 2003
Tom von Gunden

IT spending at your organization is likely to soon emerge from deep freeze, if it hasn't already. Many companies report they are going to have to bite the bullet and open their IT purchasing wallets. Several factors are driving the "can't hold out any longer" impulse. First, explosive data growth rates mean that two- and three-year-old server and storage infrastructures can't scale to meet current demands. Second, browser-busy customers increasingly expect to have greater supply chain visibility extended to them online. That means open systems application upgrades; it might also mean Web services initiatives. Finally, downsized IT staffs need automation tools to help them manage expanding IT operations.

However, throwing some caution to the wind - i.e. expanding the IT budget now - doesn't mean throwing all caution to the wind. It definitely doesn't mean spending without concern for value. Granted, you can't always predict exactly if and how value will ensue from IT expenditures. Nevertheless, if you're an IT director or systems administrator about to make the case for a hard dollar outlay, you need to partner with key project stakeholders. Without team efforts that go beyond the scope of the IT department, you'll struggle to drive value from the deployment. While you're probably anticipating the struggle, what you won't want is the blame if value doesn't follow. So, make sure you have, on one level, full-brain attention from line-of-business managers and users. You'll also need, on another level, sustainable commitment from your C-level executives. Only when you sense "buy-in" from all of these folks, should you trust the directive, "OK, buy it."

The Upside To Top-Down Management
If you are one of those line-of-business managers or C-level execs, do not expect IT directors and staff members to be fully responsible for pulling value out of IT purchases. It's business users who primarily generate value from technology deployments. As a manager or C-level overseer of the business processes within which these users operate, you must keep a keen eye on whatever technology rollouts are underway. Remember: the easiest way to throw away IT dollars is for you to throw them at an IT project ... and then walk away.

Say, for example, the last purchasing bullet you bit was a server and storage upgrade to back a new centralized repository of CRM (customer relationship management) data. The primary goal of the project was to eliminate information silos so customer data could be accessed by applications run by various departments - finance, marketing, customer service, and so on. Only by diligently monitoring actual use can you determine if enterprise-wide data sharing is not only occurring but also contributing to increases in things you care about - efficiency, productivity, revenue, and profit.