Has Business Outgrown IT?

This title may sound strange. We live with so much technology today – on our phones, in our homes and even in our cars.  Devices are everywhere and everyone can speak about ‘APPS’ and ‘WiFi’ and such. Does this knowledge mean that businesses don’t need much of an IT team? Well, maybe not, but I am not so sure.

Let’s take a journey back in time, over my 30 years working in the IT field.

“In the beginning” IT and business owners would meet, discuss and document requirements and IT would go off to the basement to design and write code.  After many months, and with much excitement, IT presented the resulting solution to the business – only to find out that it was not going to work. Invariably, there were misunderstandings and changes in the business since the design was set. IT would take down the updated requirements and go back to the basement for another round of time consuming, expensive updates.  This process could go on and on and on.

Needless to say, this was very costly and not very successful.

Well, we came up with a better way. With the ‘just-in-time’ design technique, business and IT met for weeks discussing all processes and requirements and IT would write pseudo code which the business would (hopefully) approve.  Inevitably, there were design flaws. IT would go back to the basement and iron them out.  Eventually, after lots of iterations, the business had a solution. Of course, there came new requirements that needed new code – and so on.

We learned that business and IT should work as a real team to design and test the solution to ensure requirements were met.  The business made a bigger commitment of people resources, many of whom were already over booked and over worked. The result, however, was better and less rework was required.

IT then saw that software to run much of the business was already available. This ushered in the era of pre-written software packages. The new challenge? To teach IT how to set up and run the software and ensure the business understood its capabilities. Alas, this often failed. IT would then proceed to re-design and re-code big chunks to the solution. Again.

A great step forward in this journey has been pre-configured solutions, often specific to an industry. IT reviews the software, tweaks settings, provides guidance and implements with a set design, making changes only if necessary. This is often called ‘Rapid Deployment’ using a ‘Starter Pack’ or ‘Best Practices.’ The result meets most business requirements and the business conforms to the solution as much as possible. This approach has saves time and decreases costs.
Today businesses can reduce the cost of IT and get up and going faster by using software that runs in the Cloud. This requires less hardware and less maintenance. This ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) is paid for monthly.  

What’s next?  Moving from private to public Cloud. The public Cloud reduces costs and implementation time further, but there is a trade-off.  The business must ‘fit to the standard,’ with very limited or no customization. Limited configuration is available within tight parameters. This simplifies set up and makes for faster, easier consumption of the software. IT still helps with custom report writing and ‘Business Intelligence’ (BI), accessing and analyzing data in a thoughtful and productive way.

But wait. What will happen when business requirements change? What happens when the business grows and adds new operations? What if the pre-configured Cloud solution won’t meet these new requirements?

Maybe we are back where we began.  Maybe IT will go back to the basement, develop new configurations, new applications and present these new ‘solutions’ to the business. Only time will tell. 

Regardless of what comes next, IT will continue to play an essential role in a growing, thriving business.

About The Author

Margie Lawson's picture
Margie Lawson
Strategic/Principal Advisor (Fashion)
Over 25 years working with SAP and Fashion solutions: Apparel and Footwear, Retail, and Fashion Management. Worked for SAP for 15 years in various roles: consultant, manager, and solution lead. Now enjoying part time work as a Strategic Advisor for Fashion for Applexus Technologies.

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