Who is making your company's purchasing decisions of technology; the IT Department or the end user?

Updated: August 13, 2009

There are essentially two types of buyers in any organization; Business Minded Buyers (BMB) and Technical Minded Buyers (TMB).

The BMB's select technological solutions to their problems based on if the product will help business flow, efficiency, and process. Generally, BMBs are individuals in Sales, Marketing, or Executives of some sorts.

TMBs are primarily concerned with making sure the product will work with the network infrastructure and will be reasonably easy to support and maintain. This is usually the responsibility of the IT personnel or department.

More often than not, BMB and TMB have very different criteria when evaluating a technical solution to a problem and therefore they often 'butt heads' in deciding on a preferred technology based purchase.

Ultimately the most important factor in the buying process in most organizations is: "Who welds the power?" There is often a fundamental power struggle in most organizations between the Information Technology (IT) department and the end user's department, which usually dictates who 'wins out' on picking the solution to the problem. The outcome is typically decided by the way the organization has decided which comes first; the chicken or the egg. (ie. the IT department or the profit centers)

This on-going struggle often boils down to the way that the CEO/President/Executive management team/Board views the IT department. Has the IT department been given 'dictator' status in the company's political realm? Or are they there to SERVE the needs of the other departments as an 'enabler of technology'?

All too often I see organizations that allow the IT department to completely run the show and dictate to the other departments what information technology tools will be purchased and implemented in their department.

This often results in tools that are preferred by the IT department but not necessarily the best solution for the department who will actually have to use the tool. This often is due to the fact that the priorities of the IT department (SLA's, uptime goals, support resources, etc.) are not the same priorities of the department which must ultimately use the technology.

The other side of the coin has the department that is seeking a technology based solution to their problem, doing their own research, then selecting and sometimes even implementing technology without the approval, blessing, or even notification to the IT department. The IT department quite often then inherits the technology and has to scramble to support a solution that they had no input in buying.

In addition, both departments are typically striving to meet their goals with limited funds and staff. All too often this factor leaves the organization with the dilemma of choosing a substandard solution versus NO solution. This often results in purchasing a solution that will not satisfy everyone, anyone, or even worse; is doomed to fail from the start.

The proper balance, in my opinion, is when the IT department recognizes they exist to assist and support the other departments in being able to perform their jobs as efficiently and profitably as possible through the prudent use of technology.

In turn, the other departments must recognize that the IT department has valuable expertise in selecting technological solution to meet the department needs and solve their problems. The IT department's recommendations should be very heavily weighed WHENEVER there is any purchase or acquisition of any and all technical solutions.

Finally, ACCOUNTABILITY for all purchases should be applied properly. If this attitude of RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONES ACTIONS & DECISIONS within an organization is implemented and followed religiously within an organization (regardless of one's political power), the political environment will right itself, so to speak.

The people who consistently make bad decisions will be demoted or let go. Those that make the right decisions and go the extra mile to insure their projects succeed will be rewarded and be given more responsibility and power.

Okay, so we don't live in a perfect world. Injustice often occurs. People sometimes go unrecognized for their hard work and wise decisions, while others seem to skate by, even while making decisions that end up costing the company a lot of money.

It is the responsibility of the executive management team to steer/guide the organization in the right direction. Through their actions, they have the ability to reassure all employees that accountability and responsibility will consistently be used as the ruler that everyone in the organization is measured against. REGARDLESS of one's political standing within the organization.

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