IT: Utility or strategic function?

I frequently hear the argument that IT is a “strategic” corporate function since it is critical to most modern businesses. Unplug the servers, or send all the data jockeyed by IT into that great recycle bin in the sky, and the company is hosed, say the advocates of this theory. The problem is that you could apply the same concept to electricity. It’s critical to the success of most organizations, and most parts of an organization simply cannot function or grow without it. Yet, how many companies invite their local electric company to strategic discussions, or thank them for literally splitting atoms safely and cost effectively? A critical system is not necessarily a strategic one.

Where I see IT going wrong is that we expect a “seat at the table” for successfully performing utility functions. What we need to be doing, is demonstrating business results through strategic IT projects, then we get the seat at the table.

By way of example, I’d consider a strategic project something like marketing automation that decreases lead conversion times by X%, or even a receivables management system that decreases AR by Y%. In either case, the system can be directly tied to a financial result.

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