Stop Setting IT Up to Fail III: Article Series by Jon Ladle

Stop Setting IT Up to Fail III: The New Model

A model that is gaining more adoption and acceptance at the C-level is outsourcing complimentary technical solutions and services, or “Bolt-on” applications, to an external technology partner.  These Bolt-on services function outside core systems and provide much needed functionality and features unavailable in the core system, yet contain the necessary connections out of and into the core system to seamlessly connect the end user.

Rapid development, iterative cycles, frequent users touch points, constant improvement, willingness to make mistakes, etc. are all hallmarks of a successful ecosystem of highly functioning and adaptive technical solutions, that also tend to come from smaller organizations built on a culture of innovation, rather than scalable and repeatable processes.

What forward thinking companies are finding out is that the core skills, expectations, and assumptions of the internal IT team and external IT partner should be different.  Instead of seeing these groups as having competing interests, business owners recognize the different roles of each group and embrace the differences.  Internal IT should continue to maintain and actively manage the core internal systems of the company.  External technology partner(s) should be focused on delivery highly customized solutions improving business processes, sales effectiveness, margin management, etc.

When looking to leverage technology as a differentiating service, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  • Internal IT departments should be expected to be risk averse and staff, compensate, and measure accordingly
  • External technical partners should bring innovation and a diverse set of skills capable of building stand alone, web based systems
  • A strong knowledge of business process and data integration facilitate the passing of data from and into core systems
  • An outside partner, when leveraged correctly, can be folded into Agile workstreams seamlessly, offering staff augmentation that stays fresh


Stop Setting IT Up to Fail II: Article Series by Jon Ladle

Stop Setting IT Up to Fail II: The tough spot distributors are in with technology and innovation.

Large companies and distributors should be constantly evaluating and measuring opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. With the immense growth of eCommerce sales, more and more manufacturers are testing out selling direct to consumers to improve their margins and drive more revenue. This means distributors need to find differentiating service offerings more than ever before.

Given a distributor’s role in the supply chain, innovative and game changing activities are unfortunately few and far between. Restricted by both manufacturers and customer sites, distribution companies are constantly blocking and tackling to meet a vast variety of stakeholder needs.

Many of the traditional business roles such as product management, sales and marketing, finance, inventory, etc. have received a large amount of attention and accompanying suggestions, ideas, and models. Much too little has been said of the opportunity within the technology landscape of companies both large and small.

Large companies tend towards being reactive, and investing in whatever large initiative is immediately prioritized, putting data augmentation, infrastructure, system innovations and especially innovation on the back burner. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

But when faced with a game changing competitor or business landscape, without key infrastructure improvements, businesses can’t pivot or adapt. Whatever systems you use today to manage your business, taking a fresh look at how technology can differentiate your business should be at the top of every C-level executive’s checklist.

Stop Setting IT Up to Fail I: Article Series by Jon Ladle

Stop Setting IT Up to Fail I:  The Nature of Large Companies and Distributors runs counter to innovation and game changing technology.

Most IT departments, especially those in large corporations or distribution companies, are set up to fail in delivering innovative or value creating technological solutions for the business. The #1 measurement of a large, corporate IT department’s success revolves around minimizing operational risk, and developing scalable and repeatable processes. This is how companies that are large build success – they optimize, repeat and continue to grow around their core competencies.

Think about it, IT has as a primary responsibility to ensure that the company’s core operating systems are up and running efficiently ALL the time (typically this means 99.999% of the time). Employees must be able to accept and process orders, manage product and customer records, update inventory, or review the company’s financials at any point in time. Is it any wonder then that IT implements numerous controls, procedures, internal reviews, lengthy QA cycles, etc. to ensure that a change to any system, big or small, does not negatively affect the system itself?

IT rarely receives high-fives for keeping the business running efficiently each and every day (meeting their quota). Even rarer are the congratulatory thanks or words of appreciation for successfully implementing enhancements or upgrades to core operational systems (exceeding their quota). What we hear most often are words such as “Isn’t that IT’s job?” or “It’s hard to not get it right when you have months and years to figure it out”. On the flip side, there is plenty to blame when systems go down, run poorly, or data is lost or corrupted. Against this backdrop, we can clearly see that IT is therefore heavily incented NOT to push the envelope when it comes to delivering game changing solutions.

As well, the very nature of innovation in technology is a willingness to accept failure and try new things, the outcome of which can’t always be anticipated. Why would a large IT organization, focused on spend management and system up time deliberately take unneeded risks, even to drive the company forward in creative ways? They wouldn’t.

About Jon: Our COO, Jon is a seasoned IT professional, innovator and process master.