Who Should Pay For New IT Projects?

Who Should Pay For New IT Projects?

Despite everyone proclaiming we live in the digital era, battles over who is going to pay for IT projects can seem never-ending. This chart offers some guidance on which departments should fund what sorts of projects — and which projects don’t deserve funding at all.

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Survey after survey confirms that most IT pros have to spend the vast majority of their assigned budget on “keep the lights on” activities: maintaining existing systems and keeping them running. The usual best-case scenario is that the budget remains the same (which still means less money when you account for inflation); often it is reduced. Under those circumstances, launching new initiatives is near-impossible unless the funding comes from another business division.

So just which division should pay? During a presentation at Gartner’s PCC Summit in Los Angeles, Gartner analyst Matt Cain offered up some guidelines on who ought to be providing the funding for some common current scenarios in enterprise IT:

  • Building new mobile apps for use by customers
  • Constructing an in-house enterprise social network
  • Redesigning the corporate network
  • Gamifying apps to increase user engagement
  • Dealing with “skunkworks” initiatives such as staffers using Dropbox

These are the approaches Cain suggested, covering who is likely to demand those kinds of services, who should provide C-level sponsorship for the initiative, who provides the funding, and how the actual implementation should occur. None of these rules are written in stone, but at the very least they provide a starting point for discussion.

Activity Pressure from? Who sponsors? Who funds? How provisioned?
Mobile app development Customers Marketing Sales Outsourced design boutique
Enterprise social network Employees Leadership IT Cloud
Intranet redesign Employees HR HR/IT Contract workers/IT
Gamification of apps Leadership Leadership Business unit In-house development
Unofficial use of Dropbox Employees No-one Employees Cloud

Note that in some cases the best option is to do nothing at all. If you’re not working in a highly sensitive environment, letting people install Dropbox is far less hassle than trying to block it.

Those kinds of decisions reflect the need to change from a centralised management approach, Cain said. “We have a lot of unstructured processes which require a lot more autonomous decision making and local leadership. We have to think about the tools and the attitudes we have towards workers as the nature of work starts to change.”

Having spent money on developing new initiatives, you also need to allocate resources to managing their take-up. “You can throw up big social networks and make huge investments, but unless there’s active management there’s not going to be lots of adoption,” Cain said.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.

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