Is Business Displacing IT in Deciding What to Buy?

CIOs aren’t the only ones buying IT for their companies anymore, new research from Forrester shows. And how IT executives respond to the shift could have a major impact on their standing in the front office.

The yet-to-be-published findings reveal that 25 percent of executives outside of IT are directly selecting vendor tools entirely on their own or more than IT executives. Also, 25 percent of executives are negotiating directly with vendors or managing relationships with those providers.

A number of factors play into this shift, according to Bobby Cameron, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester. IT departments today, mired in major projects like systems planning and architecting, have a difficult time meeting the needs of their various business units, he says. And with the continued rise of software-as-a-service and business process outsourcing, executives outside of IT can more easily buy into tools and services they don’t have to manage in-house. "The business executives aren’t hiring dweebs who come into the IT organization–they’re hiring dweebs to do the work that delivers on business," says Cameron, who’s heading the research.

Those figures are expected to drop to 18 percent for both by 2010, he says, adding that businesses would much rather have IT handle purchasing responsibilities. "That’s what they want, because it’s a pain," Cameron says. "If they could get someone out to do it, they would."

Still, when leaving others to manage critical software or processes, businesses need to worry about risks to security, compliance, performance and data integrity.

So how can CIOs respond? Cameron sees two possibilities. The wrong choice is for IT to try to pull control back into the department. Barring the door won’t stop everyone from bringing in new technologies; in today’s Web-centric world, IT officers would literally have to block Internet access to achieve total control.

The more proactive response would be for CIOs to better anticipate the needs of the business units. "Since there’s no technical issue" Cameron says, "CIOs should help them move in the direction they want to go."

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