Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Growing Power of the IT Department

As I mentioned a few times before, in my current position at PTC I get the opportunity to visit many companies. I just returned from a trip to Europe where I was able to visit two very large companies. One interesting thing I am recognizing is the growing power of the IT organization, especially with large companies. I’m sure one of the reasons that this happens is that as a company grows AND as they become more dependent on computers, the internet and infrastructure, a good portion of the company budget goes to IT. When I first started in the industry I don’t even think the term “Information Technology” existed, we were kind of on our own with our big CAD workstations. When the concept of the IT organization did emerge, it was considered a “support” organization”, and it provided a very welcomed and needed function. For many companies IT has now grown into something entirely different.

I am usually visiting these companies to make recommendations in the area of product development productivity. I do my best to follow what is suggested in the diagram below.

A company’s business drivers and key business objectives should drive and guide process, and process should define the supporting technologies. If we do this correctly the technologies will enable and support the defined process improvement initiatives, and the improved processes will deliver to the business drivers. In too many cases I’ve witnessed situations where companies have tried to force fit technology into the process with little regard to the process and business, rather than working from top to bottom and back up as indicated by the chart above. This often results in chaos in the deployment project and overruns in the project budget.

So where does the IT department fit into all of this? Chances are that they will be responsible for deploying the technology. Are they also responsible for determining what technology best supports the process and yields highest return at lowest cost? If so, does your IT department understand the product development process enough to make the appropriate choices? How is success measured with a technology deployment that impacts product development?

It is interesting to witness IT’s involvement and influence within the context of product development. It can range from complete and dedicated “support”, to complete and dedicated “control”. In most cases there is a healthy balance and interaction between IT and Product Development, but not in all cases.

Regardless of IT’s roll in the acquisition of technology, where does “productivity” of Product Development fit into the decision criteria when acquiring tools for your product development organization? What are your observations?

As a representative of a company that sells product development technology, a key to success is in knowing who the buyer is. It’s fascinating that in many cases our “buyer” is IT.

Paul