Stuart Walters, IT director at international law firm Taylor Wessing, has urged other CIOs and IT managers to engage with customer facing lines of business, such as sales and marketing, in a bid to avoid the emergence of shadow IT.
His comments come off the back of the latest Forrester Consulting research, commissioned by Colt Technology services, VMware and Cisco, which found that less than half of CIOs frequently or often collaborate with marketing (43 percent) and sales (30 percent).
This compares to 79 percent of CIOs that frequently collaborate with finance.
The research, based on 400 CIO interviews across Europe, found that 68 percent of UK CIOs rarely or only sometimes collaborate with the marketing function. Despite this more than half of those surveyed acknowledged that becoming familiar with lines-of-business is a challenge that they need to address.
Some 60 percent of respondents also said that departments buying their own (shadow) IT is a threat to their own roles and responsibilities.
Walters said that he is trying to address this challenge at Taylor Wessing by establishing a team to work closely with different lines of business.
“It’s something that I’ve been proactively trying to change in my role. I’ve been with Taylor Wessing for 18 months and have been very consciously engaging with the business and building an internal relationship management function to aid that engagement process,” said Walters.
“This is basically an internal sales team that goes into the business and sells the IT services that we either already have or are being proposed to us by suppliers – we sell those services into the business. These people are being internally trained on sales techniques and relationship management techniques.”
He added: “It involves going in and understanding the larger business, thoroughly understanding the lines of business, walking a mile in their shoes, and trying to understand what their challenges and opportunities are. Both internally in their lines of business, but also what their challenges and opportunities are with their clients as well.”
Walters argues that this is essential in the enterprise, because departments, such as marketing and sales, now have the option to bypass the IT department and go straight to the cloud to purchase their IT.
He said: “The risk is that now these departments have the opportunity to go and buy services from whoever they wish. I’m sure some of this does occur and it’s very difficult to control, but you have to engage with the business alongside them to understand what they need.
“The danger is that you become just a back-office IT function that keeps the lights on and is not seen to add any value.”
According to Walters, Taylor Wessing is pursuing the cloud where it can. He argues that IT departments just need to ensure that the correct security is in place, contracts are in order and that they understand where the data is being stored.
He also believes that the biggest challenge in addressing this engagement problem is changing the IT department’s brand from a ‘break-fix operation’ to a ‘value adding service’.
“I’ve experienced in previous roles where you feel like the GP at Sunday lunch – everybody stares around at each other in business meetings trying to find out who has got an ailment. That perception change is a difficult one,” said Walters.
“However, IT needs to get involved in business meetings, make sure that they are there and they are seen. They need to sit and listen to what these departments do in the business, research the lines of business, find out what their day job is.”
He added: “You need to get the IT team interested in what goes on in the business.”