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From Chief Digital Officer, to VP of Customer Experience to Chief Applications Officer or Head of Apps the modern organisation is full of new technology oriented job titles. Likewise you can’t look at a company mission statement these days without seeing the words digital or transformation.

Looking around at all the advances in technology in the last decade this isn’t a surprise, IT is no longer about provisioning phones and PCs, or making sure the company internal network runs smoothly, it’s about your corporate differentiation, your customer satisfaction and even your staff retention. 

IT & “the business"

And yet… although digitisation seems the goal for many companies the debate about who really delivers this goes on with IT feeling that you first need to understand digital before you can understand digital transformation, and the rest of the business feeling you must first understand what you’re trying to transform to stand any chance of being successful. 

For both sides this can be incredibly frustrating. The IT teams feel like Formula 1 mechanics who’ve now had management consultants brought in to advise them on how to build race cars, and the business functions feel like the drivers being asked to take care of the car while they’re trying to win the race. 

To be clear here, I am on the side of IT, perhaps unsurprisingly. But the idea that an IT function can work in a business without being part of the business is nonsense, we may as well extend the same logic to HR, or Legal, or Finance… or any function come to that. I do have to concede though that ultimately this needs to be a partnership, no one side can succeed without the other. 

The inevitable union

So, we’re all in it together. Let’s admit that in depth discussions about protocols are only really for the architects and that technology for technology’s sake is undesirable, but also trying to sail around the world knowing nothing about boats is pretty foolish. 

The future, in my mind at least, will be one where IT becomes more embedded in business process and the other business functions become increasingly technology driven, so ultimately we all meet in the middle. In order to achieve this a couple of things need to happen:

  • Firstly, IT must be able to reduce the amount of time spent managing infrastructure and legacy platforms. In my experience, the main thing holding most IT departments back is technological debt. So an IT function has to break free of that maintenance mentality, at least as far as is practically possible. Only then can they truly focus on the business of innovation.  
  • Secondly, business functions need to be given a simpler, more intuitive way to access the technology they need to transform their business process. The main frustration business users have with IT, and the main driver for Shadow IT, is the opaque or impenetrable nature of corporate technology. "I’m saying no to you, but the mechanics of the machine are so complex that I’m not able to explain to you why I’m saying no, in a language that you’ll understand" - effectively a re-creation of Kafka’s Trial. If that “no” was replaced with a set of tools intuitive enough for a business user to build and define their own app & process, suddenly they’re empowered and the world’s a better place.

Now yes, there are all sorts of complexity and dependencies here and it’s not a simple as waving a magic wand, but the choices we make should get us closer to that goal. If information is king, and the tools we use to capture, transform and act on that information differentiate our business, we have to be able to do that throughout the company. Especially in a world where we now need to factor in IoT type data from devices and machines, customer transactions & history, employee collaboration, artificial intelligence, and much more besides. 

A way forward?

So the world of business & technology is a complex place, but there are tools that are emerging that help us define it and build new processes without having to learn code. In the first of our How to Build an App with Salesforce App Cloud webinars we started our journey by defining our data model and an introduction to Scheme Builder which helps us define what information we want to capture and starts to move us away from manual paper based or spread-sheet based processes to something that’s more digital.

In our next webinar set for October 20th we’ll start to look at workflow with the Lightning Process Builder.  This will show us how non-technical users can start to build simple workflows that trigger actions and automate processes based on that information.  It should give you a view of how building sophisticated apps can be open to anyone. 

Join us for our next webinar - Streamline Your Business Process with Lightning App Builder on Thursday October 20th at 10:00 UK time where you’ll also find a recording of our first webinar.