Distributing IT Decision-making Across Departments

Written by Tori Miller Liu on April 23, 2018

In most modern organizations, we’re seeing a distributed technology decision-making model. The IT department is no longer the only place where technical decisions are being made, and we are not going to regain full control (nor should we want full control).

This can be a good thing. When technology infuses every corner of an association, employees are more likely to be tech literate and to leverage their knowledge to get the most out of systems. They are also more likely to be innovative.

Instead of fruitlessly struggling to regain control, we should be looking for opportunities to collaborate. Collaborative relationships require the sort of transparency and openness that can inspire long-term and effective change.

The IT department should not hide behind the Wizard of Oz’ green, velvet screen, trying to exert authority behind the scenes, but should focus on building trusting and consultative relationships with other business units. This is a powerful opportunity to orient ourselves inter-departmentally around the strategic plan and organizational mission, letting the business needs of the association drive all our decisions.

At my association, ASHA, we avoid having the IT department be a project owner. While we have general oversight over technology within the association, it’s important that the business owners are driving projects. This has an impact on our systems, of course, but also affects the way we make decisions and participate in projects.

Our goal should be to protect, not control. We are there to support business owners and help them achieve their goals while also ensuring new systems or development comply with our information security policies and industry regulations. By asking project owners what they think, and creating this foundation of trust, people can feel empowered rather than alienated by IT strategy and implementation.

Relinquishing ownership is one way to mitigate the tensions that sometimes exist between IT and other departments. IT strategy should be a collaborative effort directed by actual business needs rather than silo-ed politics.

In my organization, I am using formal and informal cross-departmental conversations to establish a dialogue, share strategies, and discuss new ideas.

It is from this position of open dialogue and distributed control that we can begin to see how individual concerns, plans and passions coincide, and how at the heart of it all is – or should be – a focus on our larger organizational endeavor to help our members and the communities they impact.

Tori spoke in the “A Practical Discussion on Driving Rapid Technological Change” session during SURGE Spring, an interactive virtual summit hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on May 2nd-4th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.