Technology is critical in helping to drive success in business. From enhancing the sales process to automating operations, technology is intertwined into most major functions of the business. So with the increasing level of importance surrounding technology, who exactly is responsible for the performance? Better yet, who is accountable if something goes wrong?


You would think this is an easy answer. It’s the IT department (or guy, or outsourced company)! But in the real world, it is not that clear. There are many elements that influence this including budget, business strategy, resource allocation, and even shadow IT initiatives. So, who is really in control? To find out how hard you can push your IT team to perform, answer the following questions:

Who’s calling the shots?

Is your business strategy driving your IT strategy, or are your IT capabilities setting the pace for the business?  The accountability for the overall performance is in part dependent upon the person calling the shots. If you are pushing technology advancements down from the top, then you need to make sure you provide all of the necessary resources for IT to perform. This includes defined expectations, goals, people and monies. If these are not provided, it will be very difficult to hold IT accountable for performance. On the other hand, if IT is calling the shots, it can sometimes be a little easier to determine overall accountability, but unfortunately, you sacrifice driving the technology changes through your business objectives.

Do you have the right IT resources?

IT is no longer run by people who liked to tinker with computers in their basement when they were growing up. In fact, Glenn O’Donnell with Forester stated, “if you have administrator in your title, you are a dinosaur,” in reference to IT personnel at the last NexGen Cloud conference. IT is now run by individuals with just as strong business acumen as technical strengths. Additionally, IT departments are equipped with desktop support reps, high-level engineers, software specialists and even development resources. Not all of these people need to be internal to an organization, but if you are running an IT department that is missing critical resources, the accountability of system performance can be cloudy at best. It would be the same as hiring a bookkeeper in your accounting department and calling them the CFO. Then, when your financials are out of alignment, trying to blame the bookkeeper, when we all know it is actually management’s fault for putting the bookkeeper in the wrong role.

Who controls the IT budget?

The person who controls how the money will be spent most likely dictates the performance of the system. In a number of small businesses, the decision on budget is not necessarily driven from the technology requirements, it is driven from the value the executive team derives from that technology. If the company believes the technology is necessary and important, the budget is allocated appropriately. If the company doesn’t value the technology, the budget sways the other direction. If the budget is appropriate to what the IT team needs to function, the responsibility for performance should be on them. On the other hand, when the budget is set below the recommendations from the technical team, the responsibility for performance is actually on the individuals setting the budget.

 Who controls changes?

Are all technology changes within the organization controlled through a change management process? Or do you have departments or individuals bringing in new technologies ad hoc? Shadow IT initiatives, where one person or department identifies, selects and implements new solutions without due diligence from the IT departments, can sometimes do more harm than good — 1) the IT department will now be tasked with helping to manage the system; 2) security and policy compliance are sometimes skipped; and 3) other systems currently being managed are sometimes abandoned creating unneeded management overhead and data silos. If you are making your IT department accountable for all of IT, they need to do proper due diligence on new systems, or at the very least, be notified before they are launched to better manage risk. If shadow IT controls the change, IT is not accountable for performance.

No matter how you look at it, IT performance is not only the IT department’s responsibility. It takes a focused strategy from the top, the necessary team members and resources, and proper change management. If you are struggling defining who is accountable to manage your technology, so is your team. Make sure you are not sending mixed signals, and take the time to openly discuss the above items. It should help you create the right structure to drive performance.