IT-Focused versus Business-Focused
Is your firm IT-focused or business-focused? That should be a very straightforward question to answer, but it’s not that simple. A business is a business, no? However, when a firm focuses on the technology used for their business versus focusing on the needs of the business, then they are IT-focused versus business-focused. What matters to you and your firm, your technology or your business? Both are important, but where should the focus be? One serves the other, so your business is the focus, of course.
Organizations invest a lot of time and money in IT, and it is an essential component of their business model. Our entire business model is built on helping firms recognize value with IT, so I get the importance. But, you’ve heard me say it before: Technology is just tools. Essential tools, but tools nonetheless and tools are only a means to an end. You don’t need a hammer; you need a nail driven in. You don’t need a drill; you need a hole. That same is the case with IT, and at times I feel firms tend to forget that. Technology—along with associated solutions and services—is a set of tools to help you do business better. If not, what’s its use? And this is from someone who makes a living and has a 24-year career helping firms with these “tools.”
So what does that mean to employees within an organization? It means that people need to think and act on what’s best for the business and not what’s best for IT. Not easy, especially for firms that have dedicated IT people. From our experience, most IT people tend to focus on IT, which of course (duh) makes sense. They want to make sure that the technology works and does what it’s supposed to do, that’s job description. However, it’s up to the firm to ensure the IT people—and all employees frankly—focus on the needs of the business above all else, no matter their role. Not necessarily an easy thing to do and a hard culture to change.
No matter your role, there needs to be an understanding—from the top down—on the importance, use, and value of the IT tools to the business. You want and need people to behave in ways that support business focus and initiatives instead of just focusing on IT. What does that mean in practicality? When a sales team member needs help and support on a deal, people should rally around to help. Operations have something that needs to addressed at the end of quarter, so all should rally around that, including IT to help, etc. Much easier said than done, as it’s a change in culture and mindset for everyone. As my President likes to say, “We all need to be in the same boat rowing in the same direction.”
This also means that your business processes, vision, and mission should support your actions and be driven from the top down. What do you think our CEO and President are focused upon: technology and IT or driving the business forward? That’s an easy one to answer. It’s always about driving the business forward because that’s what matters—and we are an IT firm. Technology helps, but it is not the thing that drives it forward. That’s why our executives are constantly out in front of customers, vendors, and business partners, and not in the office worrying about and focused on the technology. They behave and lead in that way, and it trickles down to the rest of the organization.
Let's look at your partners and what it means for them. As I mentioned above, it’s not always an easy thing to be business focused. Here are some examples of the differences between IT-focused and business-focused to illustrate the differences:
IT-focused: IT believes that keeping the infrastructure and technology on-prem tends to make more sense, with certain workloads running in the cloud, which makes it easier to manage applications and infrastructure. This may or may not be in line with the CEO’s thinking.
Business-focused: The CEO wants to put as much IT in the cloud as possible so he can free up capital and his IT resources to work on new business initiatives to help propel the company forward, such as website, social, mobile, etc. The CEO is thinking of the business and the cloud may or may not be cheaper than on-prem IT, but is weighed with other factors on how to improve the company’s bottom line.
IT-focused: IT likes the control of having their mail and other IT services in-house. Better control and management, but they understand that the majority of firms are looking towards O365.
Business-focused: The CEO wants to use O365, so the IT people don’t have to manage technology but can focus on the user experience. It will allow end users to be more productive and IT people can start to think about how IT can focus on more strategic initiatives versus only managing mail and IT services.
IT Support and Managed Services
IT-focused: Keep all support in-house. IT says we’ve got it and don’t need to look towards outside firms for help and support.
Business-focused: The CEO wants his IT people not to focus on day to day support, but on things to make the business better. Let someone else do it so my IT people can think bigger for me. If done right, the costs can be about the same or even less by outsourcing support. IT people will now focus on IT initiatives to help generate more or better business.
The Latest IT Fad - whatever it might be
IT-focused: Yup, we need it.
Business-focused: Let’s be prudent about it and look at the business justification. If the investment makes sense, we’ll do it. IT needs to help drive revenue and business and not just be a cost center.
Do you notice the trend here?
These are things we see all the time. Will moving from an IT-focused organization to a business-focused organization present challenges and change the culture of the company? You bet. Does it mean you have the right people? Maybe, maybe not. You might have to bring in new players and people that share the vision needed to make this happen—all across the organization, from top to bottom.
So here’s a question: How does this pertain to your IT partners? I’m sure you figured I would ask this at some point. You want partners and solution providers that help you be more business focused. We’ve all worked with partners and manufacturers that offer you a deal for closing something within a certain period. Buy this by the end of the month, quarter, year, etc. and we’ll give you this great price, free this, free that. Now does that sound IT-focused or business-focused? Perhaps business-focused for them, but IT-focused for you.
You want partners that look at your overall business and provide help in that context. Now I am all for our customers making quick decisions about the solutions and services we offer, and I want them to buy more from us, but we want it to be the right decision for them and their business needs. That phrase “business needs” has become so played out, but it is still so important. It’s about what’s best for the business. Your good partners will help you in that way. You’ll know it and sense it in how you work with them, as you have for many years. You want partners that “have your back” versus someone only trying to sell you something.
If you’ve worked us or me before, you've probably heard me say it: we are looking for customers, not transactions. We want customers to buy from us, but not just for the sake of buying. We want people to invest in us, use the solutions and services that we provide and see business value in them and keep coming back. That will lead to lots of “transactions” (or orders) with us, which is the goal: to work with customers who are happy that want to continue working with us and feel that they are receiving value in what we. That’s value and what you should always demand, and expect, from your partners.
So is your firm IT-focused or business-focused? Not always an easy thing to discern, but you’ll know it when you see as it happens in your firm. Business-focused thinking will get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. That’s a good thing for your employees, your partners, you, and ultimately, your firm.