In 1999, just about the height of the first billing gold rush someone said ‘of course IT departments shouldn’t have their own budgets.’ It was during a billing conference and the announcement was followed by silence. Afterwards it became clear that the silence was caused not just by shock at the sacrilege itself but also because the speaker was addressing a roomful of IT executives who believed that their budget was just about to be increased tenfold. They were right.
Over a decade later and the same revolutionary thought is back.
As billing – the whole process – finds itself in the spotlight again, there is a subtle but important change from the 1999 statement. Billing, payments and the data derived from the process is now seen – again – as being strategic and vital. The difference is that billing, policy management, analytics, even revenue assurance is becoming something that the business controls and uses, IT simply orders it or builds it.
Gartner believes that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on IT than the IT department, which will be almost 20 years since the maverick statement of 1999.
According to GigaOm “as of 1995, the majority of enterprise software dollars were focused on back-office functions while the sales and marketing functions were largely ignored or served by smaller point-solution vendors”.
The shift according to the article is about the move from process to data and we now find ourselves in an age of big data – huge, unwieldy data that is gradually being brought under control and now being used by marketing departments to revolutionise their offerings and ability to measure products and their success in a way that allows them to react quickly, tearing failing products down fast if necessary.
This trend is also being driven by a perception that the business is more agile than IT. This is why, according to Forrester Consulting, Cloud is being used as a method of by-passing the IT department, who do not even know about an investment until the bill comes through.
Data is moving out of the back office, into the hands of the business, who are now demanding it faster and tailored to their needs. Let us hope that the business is careful with it, the dangers of many versions and a disintegration of IT policy and standards could easily lead to problems.
The focus of IT over the past few years has been on centralizing and standardizing IT so that it is better integrated through the business. The result is that the ‘business’ now sees the benefit. However, with multiple departments buying different systems, we could end up back where we started.