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Corporate IT

Do More By Doing Less

IT professionals must get more comfortable with letting business partners lead certain technology projects IT teams face renewed demands to get their work done quicker, as 63% of business leaders believe their company responds too slowly to opportunities that require technology to exploit.

However, much like the momentary illusion experienced by a driver being overtaken by another car that they are suddenly travelling backwards, it’s not that IT is getting slower but that the pace of change in both technology and business has accelerated so rapidly that IT can’t keep up.

The best IT organizations understand that the answer is not to keep doing everything the were doing but more quickly (a fast route to bust budgets or departing staff) but to consider where they can reduce governance or decentralize control. This then allows them to free-up resources to focus on opportunities where IT can add the most value.

An imperative part of this approach is to encourage business partners to lead technology initiatives where corporate IT doesn’t have comparative advantage. Given their growing comfort with technology, business partners are now far more willing than they once were to lead technology initiatives, and they also have growing levels of technical and project management knowledge, or they know where to obtain that knowledge.

Rather than viewing business-led IT initiatives as “shadow IT” (with all its negative connotations), IT leaders should selectively encourage this business-led IT as a way of speeding up the delivery of new technology capabilities and recognize that in certain circumstances, such as where projects require deep knowledge of customer behavior, business partners are better placed to lead than IT is.

How to Get the Business Involved

Progressive IT departments create frameworks that both business partners and IT use to determine where business partner experimentation with technology is not only safest, but offers an advantage over traditional IT methods. One company in the CEB CIO network uses four business capability segments to ascertain the type of engagement that IT needs to have.

The team plot the potential value of changing the capability against its risk, and create guidelines that set out where business partners should take the lead versus where IT should own the initiative.

These guidelines clarify the point at which IT should engage with business partners on an initiative, depending on where its expertise will present the greatest comparative advantage. These different points of engagement call for different models of engagement, rather than the traditional linear approach where IT front-loads its involvement in an initiative.

This work, and experience from other leading IT teams around the world, show that IT organizations should look to develop different engagement paths, based on whether they need to lead, consult, coach, or advise business partners; for example brokering a relationship with a vendor for a new capability.


More On…


  • For more on how IT can improve speed of delivery by through an adaptive approach, see the most recent issue of our IT Quarterly.For CEB CIO Members:
  • For more information on segmenting IT involvement CEB CIO members should read this case profile from a leading consumer goods company on the dedicated website.

  • To learn more about increasing IT speed CEB CIO members should read the full study: Accelerating IT’s Clock Speed: Beyond Agileon the dedicated website.

  • CEB CIO’s new study “Accelerating IT’s Clock Speed: Beyond Agile” sets out a further 17 principles Corporate IT should follow to enable faster time to new capabilities and reduce the burden on IT resources. If you would like to participate in our current research interviews and share your perspectives on increasing IT’s clock speed, we’d love to hear from you. Please email for more information.


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