IT organizations devote significant attention to delivering the technology and processes that ensure the achievement of business objectives. It’s what we do in IT. It’s the recognition that drives our actions. It’s our purpose for existing. Yet is it sufficient to simply deliver value without any executive recognition for that contribution? IT best practices require that we not only deliver on the promise of IT, but that we also take the necessary steps toward recognition of that value so that the business “buys IT.” This marketing-style approach allows IT to remain adequately funded, gain support for technology investments, obtain backing for critical IT initiatives, and ensure responsiveness to our dependencies.
Marketing IT Is Not a Natural Behavior
If we don’t ensure market recognition of what we do within IT, it simply won’t happen. Delivery of technology and IT processes for business use is a competency factor that is second nature to IT operational staff whose career anchor is in providing critical automation tools and effective service. However, positioning or “marketing” that delivery so that its value is simple, compelling, and obvious to business personnel is not second nature to most IT professionals. Rather, within IT circles, it’s difficult and uncomfortable to blow your own horn. So the typical IT response may be, “Don’t they see what we’re doing for them?” Generally, the answer is “no.” Business executives understand the importance of sales, finances, customer relations, manufacturing, research, or whatever function upon which they have created their career focus. Unfortunately, it is the rare executive who comprehends and acts on the value of unfamiliar business disciplines.
So the business community doesn’t understand all the great things that IT does for them? What else is new! If our end users are going to “get” IT, it will be because we have packaged what we do in such an awesome, compelling way that they can’t help but understand the tremendous value IT brings to their business functions. Importantly, it will be because we know how to market IT to our business customers. And, fortunately, this is not rocket science; it’s merely about being crisp, clear, and compelling in how we package what we do so that we’re seen as highly desirable and beneficial to what the business does each day.
While outsourcing some IT services has long been an option, the acceptance of the cloud for such purposes is accelerating. Business demands drive most cloud initiatives. These include the need for more rapid provisioning of infrastructure and applications at a lower cost and some dissatisfaction with IT’s ability to deliver technology in a format acceptable to business decision makers. The flexibility of leveraging virtual servers and online storage through IaaS, for instance, has become a “must evaluate” decision for both business and IT managers. The pervasiveness of Salesforce.com for CRM is but one example of the readiness of business to bypass IT for SaaS capabilities.
Even though cloud expectations reflect some lack of understanding by business users regarding how IT operations deliver and manage technology, keep in mind that the business generally has limited ability to grasp the nuances, issues, and tradeoffs continually required by IT operations. Consequently, the role of IT operations in managing infrastructure, platform, and application cloud initiatives now becomes a more urgent requirement. Competitive cloud migration requires IT to market its role in the correct path forward.
Unfortunately, the perpetual, competitive option of “do nothing” remains a choice among business decision makers who are continually cutting the IT budget even though complexity and end-user expectations regarding IT’s contribution is increasing. So there’s a definite need to correctly market and position IT to simply continue the IT operations tasks at hand.
[I've written more on marketing IT. Cutter clients can download my recent Business Technology Strategies Executive Update, "Marketing IT Operations: Part I -- If You Don't Do It, Who Will?". Soon we'll publish a second part. If you're not a Cutter client and want to read it, reach out to Cutter for a copy!]