Long ago, in days or yore, it was common to complain that most information technology leaders and staff were too focused on deploying cool technology just for the sake of technology rather than ensuring that there was valid business justification for what they evaluated and implemented. CIOs and IT leaders were told to learn the language of the business and focus on things like Return on Investment (ROI), productivity improvements, cost control and revenue enhancement.
I’m not here to say that this was a bad thing. In fact, I have to admit that quite a lot of good has come from all this attention to the business by IT leaders. It has given us a chance to play an important role in generating revenue within many organizations, helped us to gain traction and credibility with our peers within organization, and improved our career opportunities.
Recently, however, I have seen a number of situations that make me question whether or not businesses have forgotten their own rules of investment. There appears to be excitement over every trend that is identified in the mainstream, business and trade press, even when no clear value can be articulated.
I can understand the hoopla surrounding cloud computing, because of the increased flexibility it provides organizations with, as well as the potential for cost savings. I can even accept the embrace of social networking, because of its ability to change the landscape and lower the traditional barriers from a marketing and customer interaction standpoint.
What I don’t get is the attraction to devices such as the Apple iPad. This is not a specific anti-iPad rant, per se, but since its release at the beginning of April 2010, the iPad has generated the most buzz within various enterprises of any device in recent memory. My question to the business is, why?
- What is the business case for even evaluating a tool that is cool looking, but provides no new business functionality over existing tools?
- What is the ROI on such a device? What is the business case?
- How will it be secured? Does it add any risk to the business, and how will those risks be mitigated?
- Is technology integration and vendor support given any consideration or only initial pricing and market appeal?
- Is it reasonable to obtain the device first, then ask IT to simply deal with it?
- Why does something as vital as information security have to be explained in painstaking detail when there is constant news about breaches and their penalties, when something like the iPad is embraced without anyone stopping to ask what the benefit will be?
Surely, we haven’t abandoned the need for coming up with real business cases before we invest valuable resources, have we? It’s not just about IT not wanting to do things, or thinking that they run the business. Nor is it some sort of fear of consumer-marketed technology.
Why is it that if IT pushes for cool or sexy “toys” for whatever reason, that the business gets up in arms about how they are not helping the organization?
Why is is that whenever the technology team questions why the business is pushing for cool or sexy “toys”, that IT is seen as not getting with the times?
I’ll grant you that there are *some* technology departments that are afraid of change – whether for good reasons or for bad ones – but most information technology teams today have embraced their modern role as information and capability stewards of the business. They understand that they need to keep up with trends, technology and process that can give them and their organizations an edge in the marketplace.
Therefore, it is vital that they have the opportunity to understand and appropriately support technology that the business uses, such that issues pertaining to productivity, security, privacy and accessibility are well addressed. The recognize this challenge, and accept that they have to accomplish it with staff sizes and budgets that are smaller (sometimes, much smaller) than in the past.
Now is not the time to resurrect the “IT is only there to serve the business” game. Every successful organization in today’s market requires management of technology at some level, and every technology team requires an organization within which they can add value. Neither element (business and IT) can operate independently, and neither element can simply do things because they are cool or because other people are doing them.
If “business value” is the standard by which all technology purchases are judged, then let’s be sure to apply that standard consistently across the enterprise. We all need to work together to ensure that our business investments, whether technology based or not, are done wisely and with a clear return on investment or with a reasonable mitigation of risk.
If you feel you have some good use cases or business justification for iPads in your organization, I would love to hear about them. Otherwise, we’re just not making business sense…