Working with LOB to define project ‘success’

Line-of-business units are taking an increasingly active role in formulating their organizations’ collaboration and overall IT strategies, according to a new report. Here’s why IT and LOB need to collaborate when it comes to collaboration technologies.

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IT and line of business units are collaborating more closely than ever in their joint quest for the Holy Grail of technology known as successful adoption. But how do you, as an IT manager, define that success? Even more importantly, is your definition the same as your LOB managers’?

Those questions crossed my mind after I read the 2016 Connected Enterprise Report. Put together by Dimension Data and Ovum, it looks at how organizations roll out collaboration technologies in 15 countries, including Canada.

In all, researchers polled 900 people who call the shots on buying and deploying enterprise collaboration tools.

What do they view as their main collaboration technology goal? Not surprisingly, boosting productivity was the top goal, but boosting sales or revenue was right behind in second place. In Canada specifically, the twin financial goals of increasing sales and cutting costs were deemed more important than organizational gains like improving teamwork and supporting remote workers.

Clearly, dollars and cents are big motivators for adopting collaboration tools, and they also play a huge role later when companies assess whether these tools were worth adopting.

According to the report’s authors, however, the bottom line isn’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all in determining if your collaboration deployment was successful. They suggest companies should take more of a TCO approach — by including stuff like employee productivity data, user uptake rates and cost savings — to assess overall ROI than just ‘sales up, expenses down.’

Yet, “only four per cent of [surveyed] organizations measure success by calculating ROI” this way for collaboration technology, the study noted. “This is problematic because ROI is an important way of justifying most any kind of technology investment.”

So if you’re an IT manager, how do you calculate ROI to justify a recent tech investment as successful? Is it based mostly on sales? Cost reductions? Customer acquisitions? Quicker turnarounds? Better internal communication? Improved external relationships with clients and partners? More contributions to your teams from remote workers?

There’s no question that LOB has more say in buying and deploying IT today than it used to. What I wonder is this: does LOB also have more influence over how enterprises measure tech ROI and define what constitutes a successful deployment?

The answer is likely yes, based on this passage from the report: “[LOB units] are taking an increasingly active role in formulating their organizations’ collaboration and overall IT strategies. They’re also making IT purchasing decisions in conjunction or entirely separately from (those are my italics) their organizations’ IT departments and, in many cases, taking responsibility for deploying and supporting … business applications used in their organizations.”

So IT departments have made a big adjustment. They’re getting LOB way more involved in the IT process way earlier than ever before, in order to choose technology that really fits LOB’s needs and goals.

The thing is, business and IT won’t always have exactly the same goals for the technology adoption process. While LOB might worry a lot about sales and costs, IT also worries about stuff like migration, integration, interoperability, training, mobility, security, user experience and usage rates.

IT and LOB are getting closer to being on the same page when choosing and implementing technology; that’s a positive thing. Are they still on the same page later on, when it comes to measuring ROI and deployment success?

Since IT managers depend on ROI metrics and proof of ‘success’ to justify future and past tech investments, it’s worth pondering as the process — and the dynamic between IT and LOB — continues to evolve.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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