A greater share of technology purchasing decisions are being made outside of the IT department, leaving CIOs with an uncomfortable choice: do they facilitate the change or protect their turf?
Major vendors like IBM and HP have engaged in covert campaigns to chase the chief financial officer, while Amazon.com and Salesforce.com have sought out the discretionary spend of sales and marketing directors.
Neither party tends to consult IT, often marginalising those in the organisation that will ultimately be asked to consolidate and integrate the software further down the track.
There is a growing sense among CIOs that the landscape has irrevocably shifted. The SAP Australian User Group (SAUG) is the latest to concede a conciliatory role in the purchasing process.
The SAUG CIO Council - a VIP group given unprecedented access to SAP’s management and technical resources - was until recent weeks open only to CIOs or the most senior person in charge of an SAP deployment.
It has now been rebranded as the SAUG Executive Council (SEC) and is openly inviting CFOs, CMOs, managing directors and other executives into the fold.
Linfox CIO John Ansley, chair of the SEC steering committee, and SEC member and Officeworks CIO Brett Proposch, spent time with iTnews last week to discuss their motives.
Ansley described how the breadth and depth of SAP solutions target a wide range of stakeholders in a business. SAP’s acquired HCM play - SuccessFactors - tends to be pitched to HR directors, its HANA-powered big data solutions to CFOs, and Ariba supply chain solutions to procurement directors.
“There is a long-term shift away from IT delivering a back office system,” Ansley said. “There is far more engagement outside of the CIO office. SAUG wanted to make sure we weren’t being isolationists - we want to encourage as much participation from as broader group as possible.”
“Most CIOs are reporting to the CFO anyway,” Proposch added.
The SEC steering committee that runs the group continues to be primarily a CIO affair, but Proposch said he expects that SAUG “will broaden that representation over time”.
From a practical perspective, neither expects CIOs to be sending their executive peers in their place at future forums. They might, however, choose to invite one of their peers when the focus of conversation is relevant.
“We’re not trying to be overly-prescriptive,” Ansley said.
Ansley said the group will benefit from “more insights from people telling us why technology is important from an operational point of view.
“We shouldn’t expect that as CIOs we get to see every aspect of operations, this is a chance to open that up,” he said.
Proposch said non-IT executives would gain from meeting the SAP leadership team for ‘candid discussions’ and from sharing their experiences with other SAP shops.
SAP has been “a big supporter” of the plan, he said, as it is “easy for them to get to CIOs, but harder for them to get to other C-level executives”.
“I welcome it,” he said. “Instead of me delivering the message to our organisation, the other executives hear it themselves.
"I can always say that x or y is the technology we need, and set the agenda for where we want to go. When your colleagues hear the same message from somewhere else, it tends to help validate your choices.”