An empowered BT model includes the idea that end users will take on some functions that are typically performed within an IT organization. These may include selecting and deploying applications, buying mobile devices, and contracting with services firms.

With factors such as increased availability of cloud applications, more IT-savvy businesspeople, and IT shops buried in maintenance of existing applications, there’s a lot on the side of increasing IT functions outside of IT. However, security and compliance concerns, the need to integrate apps and data, the complexity of these applications, and cost are just some of the constraints that are holding back this approach.

Whether there will be a trend towards functions moving out of the IT organization or the reverse, with IT taking on more control, empowered BT will happen in some organizations. When it does, there are things that CIOs can do to exploit this and minimize potential damage:

  • Shift senior IT people from “doing” to consulting and overseeing. Architects, for example, spend a significant amount of their time on projects (doing). Some of their time needs to be freed up to provide advice to businesspeople on how to make these functions scalable, secure, and integrated where necessary. Similarly, vendor managers need time to help businesspeople in the selection process for vendors.
  • Select for and build up negotiations skills. The leader of apps that speaks in technical terms, the security expert who generates every possible scenario as an argument for not doing something, and the architect who hoards information while making pronouncements on what the business should and should not do are working against you in an empowered BT world. With technically sophisticated end users and tools that can quickly build functionality, business requests leading to IT responses now become negotiations.
  • Determine whether this is a long-term decision or something short-term that will be brought in later. An IT customer that has an immediate need for an application for a small workgroup is very different from one that has decided their business unit should go their own way and use a cloud-based sales force automation tool.  
  • Help set up the mechanisms so that end users can make informed decisions. Empowered BT moves more IT decisions to the business but should include the requirement that these are informed decisions. For every decision, there is a finite number of factors that will cause serious problems. IT should help business people to identify what those factors are and the trade-offs of each one.

The key to safely exploiting empowered BT is to get ahead of business. This translates to having a relationship with the business where IT is aware of business inclinations before they become decisions. With this, they can prepare business people to take on these added responsibilities, or at least have them understand the full implications of what they’re taking on. For more on Empowered BT, please join me for my keynote at Forrester's upcoming IT Forums: May 25-27 in Las Vegas and June 8-10 in Barcelona, Spain.

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