One byproduct of companies investing more and more in digitization projects, and requiring more and more of their managers to be as comfortable using data and digital technology as they are in managing a team, is that IT professionals are dealing with an ever greater diversity of business partners. They also have to deal with a bigger array of vendors as smaller start-ups spring up or line managers introduce previously unheard of suppliers to IT.
All this means that IT teams must modify their approach to dealing with the line. Whereas some business partners need help from IT to understand the potential of digital capabilities, others may want technical help to access data in enterprise systems or build their own APIs.
It’s important that CIOs realize the different degrees of digital ambition and digital ability that their “internal customers” have. IT teams should think about building a digital engagement model that can provide different types of support based on the kind of help business partners need – where and when.
To do this, IT professionals should play one (or more) of five roles to provide the help business partners are looking for.
Evangelizing: Not all business partners are enthused by digitization. IT should inspire and educate them about new digital opportunities.
A leading brewing company in CEB’s member network of IT teams, for instance, realigned 80% of its enterprise architecture (EA) team to set up an internal digital agency that promotes digital capabilities across the enterprise.
Consulting: IT should offer advice and frameworks to help business partners who want to define and articulate a digital vision and own the digital experiments aligned to that vision.
The IT team at a global medical technology company, for instance, created a framework to guide business partners on due diligence conversations as they work with technology vendors themselves.
Brokering: Enabling business partners who want to own their own digital initiatives also requires IT to provide access to internal and external expertise.
For instance, the EA team at a leading beverage manufacturer evaluated more than 100 startups and emergent vendors and brokered connections with internal business sponsors.
Coaching: IT can also use its cross-company vantage point and technical expertise to coach employees.
The IT team at a large automotive manufacturer, for instance, set up a prototype factory that provides employees with resources and expertise to quickly develop and showcase their own digital innovation ideas to business partners and obtain investments.
Delivering: IT should also enter the “technology delivery process” (IT speak for completing a project or rolling-out an existing technology or piece of software) based on where it has comparative advantage.
A leading consumer packaged goods company, for instance, defines trigger points based on scalability and risk and compliance to inform both business partners and IT when a business-led initiative should transition to IT for full-scale deployment.