Category Archives: Forrester

Microsoft IT Leadership Summit

Last week (3/22/07) I attended Microsoft’s IT Leadership Summit held at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel near the Galleria mall in Atlanta. This was a nice “executive level” event where they gave each attendee a black portfolio and a book, “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy.” Everything was very well organized with really good food (full breakfast and lunch). They even loaned each attendee an HP IPAQ during the event to access the agenda, check email, view the attendee list, and take surveys…pretty cool.

The summit consisted of morning and afternoon keynotes with breakout sessions in between. Sessions were a little too general for me but I suppose they were geared towards the C level types in which case they were probably OK. The last keynote was outstanding and gave me some eye opening insights.

The speaker was Laurie Orlov, a VP from Forrester Research. Her topic was on the strategic role of IT where IT organizations can be categorized into three types, solid utility, trusted supplier, and partner player.

The solid utility type of IT group basically keeps the lights on and costs down. In order to implement a new application this type of group will always hire outside resources including project management.

The trusted supplier type of IT group is expected to deliver the applications requested by business managers in addition to keeping the lights on. Trusted supplier types often rely on outside contractors/consultants in order to implement new applications but mostly handle project management internally.

The partner player is strategic. IT is expected to find opportunities to apply technology to the business in order to grow the top line. Skills & competencies necessary to implement new applications may or may not be available internally, but often are. Partner Players “lead” the overall organization into applying both existing and emerging technologies in new and innovative ways.

The CIO for solid utility and trusted supplier normally reports to the CFO. While the CIO for partner player typically reports directly to the CEO.

According to Laurie 45% of companies desire their IT organization to be the solid utility type, while 45% desire IT to be a trusted supplier. A mere 10% of companies want their IT group to be a partner player.

I guess it’s my IE background but I always aspire to be a partner player within my organization. After hearing Laurie’s talk I realize that I have been involved with IT groups that clearly had a solid utility mindset and at the time I couldn’t understand their resistance to change and new ideas. Whereas other IT groups seem to not only welcome new ideas but actually thrive on them. Laurie provides a good framework that can be used to categorize these two extremes.

This is good to know and gives me a new way to evaluate members of my chosen IT profession. Now before considering a new job opportunity I will attempt to ascertain which of these categories the new position falls into. I certainly wouldn’t want to get stuck in a solid utility environment and apparently almost half of positions would be in this situation…bummer. On the other hand it would be fun to find an IT group currently operating as a solid utility but aspiring to be more of a partner player.

Thanks Laurie and Microsoft!