When is an IT Project not an IT Project?

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When is an IT project not an IT project? Always.

Unless you are a pure IT company, there should be no IT projects. All projects should be business-focused, business-sponsored, and business-driven. When a company implements a new accounting or ERP system, is that an IT project? No. Sure, it relies on IT resources for managing the servers, the software, and the databases as well as the network to reach the system. But it is NOT an IT project.

Some Companies Treat Systems as “IT Systems”

I have worked for companies in many different industries. Some of these companies saw any system as an “IT System.” In fact, a CFO once told me that the IT department owned his SAP system and he had nothing to do with it. Yet his staff processed business transactions with it every day, reported out of its ledgers, and relied on its information. If nothing else, that CFO owned the data in the system. But he and the rest of the business stakeholders who relied on that system “owned” that system. It was a business system, not an IT system.

…and Some Take Ownership of Their Business Systems

There is a stark difference between companies that use “IT systems” and companies who recognize that the IT department provides a service to the rest of the organization. Yes, there are some key instances where IT can make technology a true differentiator for a company. For that to happen, there has to be a partnership between IT and other business stakeholders. I worked for another company that felt it had to create its own software to handle some of its processes in the field. The company created a fantastic set of applications that improved operational efficiency, cut waste, and improved the information used by management. Was this an IT project? No, it was a business project led by IT resources. The system was “owned” by the VP of Regional Operations and was programmed by a non-IT staffer. It was hosted on a server managed by IT (and eventually granted its own budget for support as an Operations/IT partnership.) That system is a differentiator for the company.

The next time you think you’re working on an IT project, think about who really benefits from it. Who owns it. I think you’ll realize that while the business project could not execute without IT resources, it’s clearly a business project.

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