Who drives software purchasing—IT or business?

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Jason Ambrose, Anaplan’s Vice President of Strategic Business Transformation, shares his insights into how enterprises buy software today. He and his team advise Anaplan customers on the journey to adopt connected planning across their enterprises.

Who’s in the driver’s seat when it comes to software selection and purchasing in enterprises?

Not long ago, I would have said the answer is straightforward: The CIO and the IT organization set the course. IT leaders considered business users’ functional needs when making choices, of course, but they also weighed vendor relationships, infrastructure requirements, support needs, and other factors in a structured IT procurement process. Because they ran that process, they were the ultimate arbiters of the software used in the organization.

Not so today. Business users want to make their own choices. Cloud platforms, the consumerization of IT, and API-based integration are the norm. Line-of-business (LOB) leaders exert increasing influence and control over the technology their teams use, and enterprises are making technology decisions based less on technical considerations and more on functional or business needs. As a result, cloud software companies—including Anaplan—market their products directly to business users because those are the individuals who increasingly drive technology decisions.

I thought about this dynamic shift when I read an article on CIO.com by Marc Wilczek. LOB leaders, he wrote, “are seeking greater autonomy and increasingly making their own technology purchasing decisions without involving the IT department. These ‘shadow IT’ projects are being initiated and financed from the functional area budget without the knowledge, involvement, or support of corporate IT.” This, Wilczek said, is a “headache for CIOs.”

Wilczek’s article, Headache for the CIO: Shadow IT is soaring as LOBs seek greater autonomy, is worth reading, but I think the reality is more subtle. For one thing, LOB leaders aren’t just seeking greater autonomy; they crave speed and ownership, and many of them perceive IT as a roadblock rather than an enabler.

Pendulum swinging

Thankfully, there’s good news: In my customer-facing work at Anaplan, I see the pendulum swinging. IT is reclaiming its role in software decision-making—and doing so in a way that emphasizes collaboration. Furthermore, LOB leaders increasingly seek out a better partnership with the CIO if the IT organization is seen as progressive and strategic.

The result is a win for all parties: IT, the LOB, and the organization as a whole. I see three benefits of greater LOB-IT collaboration:

  • IT can ensure that data security standards are upheld. Wilczek makes this point in his article: “Savvy LOB leaders … understand that setting security standards and enforcing policies are far from being just a necessary evil,” he writes. The most obvious reason is that proper data security standards can prevent data breaches that could cost the business millions of dollars. Standards and policies also help ensure business continuity in the event of disaster. In the end, that’s good for everyone—the individual LOB, the IT team, and the organization as a whole.
  • IT is staffed with data experts. Even the most powerful software is useless without the right data, and people in IT know where an organization’s data resides. They also know which data sources are most current, and they know how to access data in ways that are both efficient and secure.
  • IT can be brokers of cross-functional collaboration. Admit it: There might be people in other parts of your company who have the data, knowledge, and expertise that can make or break your project. You may not even know who they are, but IT probably does—because everyone in a company works with IT. The CIO and the IT staff can help you identify and collaborate with people who can implement your LOB’s technology project faster and make it operate more successfully. And that’s a two-way street: IT might also connect you with other people in your organization who need you, which makes you and your LOB more valuable to the entire company.

Strengths-based partnership

In the context of Anaplan’s connected planning vision, LOB-IT collaboration is particularly important. Indeed, companies making the most advanced use of our platform—and deriving the greatest value from it—connect data, people, and plans from across their enterprise in ways that fully support data security and integrity. That shows why the connected planning vision is best pursued with IT ensuring data security, providing data expertise, and enabling communication and collaboration across the organization.

In my experience, successful companies don’t see the LOB-IT relationship as adversarial. Instead, they view it as a strengths-based partnership: IT provides expertise in data and security, and LOB leaders serve as experts in business needs and user experience.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences related to LOB-IT collaboration in the comments below. And in the meantime, read our white paper to discover how business leaders and IT are collaborating to achieve connected planning across their businesses.

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