Man, technology is moving fast. If it feels as if the pace of technological change is gaining speed, that’s because it is. The advances in computing power, algorithms, data and software have reached a point where they are driving exponential increases in new technology delivery on an annual basis.
When I joined the computer industry 30 years ago, NCR Corporation, my employer and an organization that had one of the most admired training programs in the industry, educated its new hires about Moore’s Law. For those not familiar, Moore’s Law basically says that computing power will double while pricing will be halved every 18-24 months. What’s amazing about this ‘law’ is that it still holds true today. This is largely due to advanced in imaging and other technologies that have made it possible to shrink computing circuitry thereby plowing more capabilities, speed and power into the chipsets we find in servers, tablets, laptops and cellphones amongst other common products in use today.
We’ve also seen dramatic shifts in how computing technology is utilized. Again, going back to the computing stone age, thirty years ago brought the advent of the Intel x386 architecture, basically a snail in today’s parlance but super powerful in those days. This chip would lead to the demise of the mainframe and usher in the distributed computing we see today characterized by multi-processing architectures and ultimately cloud computing.
Of course, my brief history lesson above only speaks to hardware. The same holds true with software and with the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are seeing and experiencing capabilities that, in some cases, can hardly be believed.
With advances in technology and the speed of such advances seemingly having no end in sight, it raises an interesting challenge for business. How to source the right technology at the right time ensuring that it meets the needs of corporate stakeholders and in particular, line of business leaders.
In my experience, technology acquisition has typically been the purview of company sourcing departments in collaboration with IT; with IT generally providing input concerning technology requirements as well as validating technology operation and sourcing handling pricing and contract negotiation.
There’s an important stakeholder missing from the past equation; the line of business leader. In the past, the line of business leader was generally not technology literate. They often relied exclusively on IT and Sourcing to select and provide the technology required to support their area of the business. That was then…this is now! Today’s line of business leader is dramatically different from those of the past. Not only possessing expertise in their core area of responsibility, the line of business leader is also highly fluent in technology and often is the key decision maker with respect to which technology is to be adopted by the organization. In organizations still operating under old sourcing methods, a sort of ‘shadow IT’ has emerged where line of business leaders have bypassed IT and Sourcing in order to ensure their requirements are met. Of course, this creates all types of headaches for any company, but today’s line of business leader recognizes that a lack of effective technology makes it challenging to deliver value to the organization.
There’s an interesting dynamic that is emerging in many companies today. While the line of business leader is emerging as the key decision maker with respect to technology acquisition, the IT and Sourcing organization’s in many companies are still holding on to their traditional roles. This ‘internal conflict’ sets up the ‘shadow IT’ scenario mentioned earlier which in turn contributes to a wandering technology infrastructure and patchwork of systems de-linked from an overall corporate technology strategy.
Does it need to be this way? Certainly not! There’s no reason that the technology acquisition process in any organization can’t easily include IT, Sourcing and Line of Business leaders. Doing so however may require a recognition that there is a new boss in town.
How is technology being sourced in your organization? Are line of business leaders driving this process and actively involved or is this still the purview of Sourcing and IT? Is your organization afflicted by ‘shadow IT’?
Feel free to share your experiences with Technology Sourcing. We’d love to hear from you!