A Three-Part Series | by: Connie Pearcy

With “everything as a service” what’s the role of the IT team within a business? If technology is a click and credit card away, how should IT be engaged when other units are evaluating tools? What is IT’s role in Digital Transformation efforts?  


I have had the good fortune since 2015 to serve as a CREO technology advisor and consultant to dynamic organizations around the globe.  During this time, I have learned a tremendous amount from the many talented people with whom I have worked and gotten to observe how a variety of IT leaders serve their organizations.  

This experience has re-enforced an observation I had during my last tenure as CIO – the explosion of “Everything as a Service” has dramatically changed the relationship between IT and other business functions creating challenges and exciting opportunities for IT professionals.  

IT Professionals and The Tech-Savvy Employee 

Not too long ago, IT folks were a bit like the wizard in Oz. We took care of things behind the curtain and didn’t need to explain too much about the whys and wherefores.  Engaged IT leaders worked hard to really listen to the “customer” while other leaders gave instructions to literally, “go pound sand” if you didn’t like what they were doing (true story).     

Organization’s may have had “IT Governance” in place to approve planned investments and “IT Strategic Plans Aligned to the Corporate Strategy” to keep IT on track.  But fundamentally, other parts of the business left the analysis of tools and solutions, and weighing of pros, cons, and risks, as well as the longer-term operational planning to IT professionals.  

This dynamic is rapidly changing as staff members throughout the organization become more comfortable with technology throughout their personal lives, and begin to bring an “I can do it myself” attitude to work.  The fact is, employees throughout any given company spend a good portion of their non-work life using technology, are very comfortable on their devices, and are excited to try the latest and greatest apps.  Folks are motivated to use technology to improve their day-to-day lives and are seeing true benefits from apps they find, install, and use all on their own.   

On the one hand, this pioneering spirit and increased technical literacy is great. The IT staff doesn’t have to spend as much time training folks since staff members are increasingly tech-savvy, which frees up IT to concentrate on more specialized tasks.  “Many hands make light work” as the saying goes. 

On the other hand, staff outside of the IT organization may make decisions without understanding the broader context and long-term impact.  The following questions are often overlooked when it comes to managing and implementing technology such as new devices, applications or SaaS offerings: 

  • Could this introduce new security risks to the company? 
  • Does GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI compliance need to be considered?  
  • Is there a critical business data or private data (PII) at risk?  
  • How will ongoing operational issues be handled?   
  • What’s the cost to implement this new tool and what processes will or won’t need to change? 
  • What is the total cost of ownership?   
  • Is there a standard discount that can be negotiated?   
  • Does the contract auto-renew and lock you into a longer term?   
  • How does the system integrate with other tools?  
  • How do staff login and who is responsible for terminating accounts if someone leaves the business? 

These are just a portion of the many questions that should be assessed when making IT-related decisions that impact a company. 

Finding Balance Between IT Pros and Business Units 

When I served as CIO, I committed myself to being very collaborative, listening and asking questions, and being open to other approaches.  But at times, I found myself sounding like Chicken Little in some of these conversations when a technology decision was well underway before the IT team was engaged. I struggled to get digital natives who were used to rapidly exchanging apps as new systems hit the market to understand the long-term impact their decisions might have on the technical ecosystem at our company. On the other side of the equation, it was not always easy to get myself, or my team comfortable with a shorter planning horizon and “disposable technologies.”  

Ultimately, of course, finding the right balance between what business units should do on their own, and what IT should control is the best approach for any company and for IT professionals. While I have not found a magic wand to make this shift of roles, responsibilities, and relationships happen seamlessly, I do have some suggestions to help navigate this changing dynamic. 

3 Rules to Help You Manage Technology in 
Your Organization 

Rule 1 – Update the rules of the road regarding technology purchases 

The old rule set throughout many companies was that all technology purchases should go through the IT organization.  I still like that rule because it gives one organization a comprehensive view of what is happening.  

However, IT cannot become a bottleneck in the evaluation process.  In addition, the definition of “technology” purchases should be clearly defined. Does IT need to be engaged when teams are looking at subscriptions for marketing optimization platforms or online project management tools?  How will you define how decisions are made regarding using free accounts like Google Drive  to share information with outside teams?  

The leadership team needs to be on the same page regarding procurement, so staff don’t just do their own thing, and IT needs to be prepared to offer a new tech evaluation service to their customers. 

Rule 2 – Help increase the literacy around how to evaluate technologies 

Document key considerations and questions around items such as security, data management and privacy, contract termination and renewal, and data ownership. This will be good for your IT evaluation service and good for individuals throughout the company to understand key decision points beyond the functionality they need. 

For people who use “free” services in their personal life, help them understand the difference between things that are, to quote Dede Ramoneda, EVP & CIO at First Citizen’s Bank, “free like a beer” versus “free like a puppy.”  What are the hidden costs and risks that could be very bad for a business financially, reputation-wise, or from an IP perspective?   

Rule 3 – Pull back the curtain and people will be amazed 

Unlike the Wizard of Oz, we have a lot of real magic happening behind the IT curtain.  What IT professionals do is not easy.  It requires training, discipline, and real commitment.  It’s not easy to keep all those bytes flowing 24×7.  Yes, we are “just doing our job” but sometimes we make our job seem too easy.  We don’t celebrate our operational successes.   

One summer, I worked at my dad’s company – a rock quarry.  They took safety very seriously and celebrated each week that went by accident free.  They didn’t take it for granted that everything would work as designed and everyone would do the right thing.  Like the nightwatch of old, they celebrated when “all was well.”  

IT has become a utility for many people such that we just expect everything to work.  It’s good that we’ve set such a high standard for ourselves, but we shouldn’t let the hard work go unnoticed.   

New Opportunities for IT Professionals 

As the number of “as-a-service” and cloud offerings has increased, it gives technically minded people some new options for how you want your career to advance.  There will always be a need for the geek of geeks — those people who have a passion for configuration, command line interfaces, and all the nitty gritty details.  However, as IT functions are decomposed into services and those services are offered as commodities to the business, we’ll see a shift in how IT careers develop, where the highly specialized, hands-on folks are in highest demand, and in what skills smaller and mid-sized businesses need in-house or from trusted partners.  

People who can understand the technical options, communicate with end users, synthesize information, understand integrations, and document workflows will become increasingly important as translators between business folks with a need, corporate policy makers, and internal and external IT service providers.  These people form the glue across disparate teams and system, functioning much like a general contractor with many of the same skill requirements – the ability to:  

  • Understand business goals and serve as the guardian of business assets 
  • Detect BS and hold service providers to high expectations 
  • Tell folks what’s doable and not doable 
  • Assess business impact 
  • Adapt to rapidly changing environments 

One of the things that attracted many people to IT over the years is the pace of change.  In my career, I’ve never fretted that I wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn new languages and new technology.  In fact, it’s more like drinking from a fire hose sometimes!  But now, we have a new variable to consider — changes in how IT services are delivered at a fundamental level. 

Looking into my crystal ball, I encourage IT professionals to think about what these changes mean for our career opportunities.   

  • How do we each capitalize on the changing landscape to envision new roles for ourselves?   
  • How do we prepare our staff and our organizations for the change?   
  • How do we get the advantages “X-as-a-Service” offers while avoiding risks for our companies? 

As IT professionals we have our challenges but fortunately we’re not alone.  Don’t be afraid to ask your peers about what’s worked or hasn’t worked for them. Or consider consulting with other IT leaders that have walked the walk. 

CREO offers IT advisory services from seasoned professionals with decades of practical experience navigating through IT challenges.  We specialize in helping healthcare, life sciences, and tech services companies solve challenges across a wide array of business and technical domains with a focus on delivering tangible value. CREO offers experienced IT leaders and consultants who can help design and implement a secure cloud-first strategy customized to the needs of your organization and who understand the unique demands placed on technical teams in regulated industries. If your company is seeking guidance, contact us today