Business systems is essentially the glue that holds organizations together. You enable better business processes, procure apps and systems, and lead security and compliance. In addition, you have constant socialization with executive teams who want to see progress, which means nothing you do flies under the radar. Mark Settle, former CIO of Okta, knows the importance of business systems better than anyone. According to the 6-time CIO, business systems in many ways is “the leading edge that creates the perceptions around the credibility and competence of the IT organization.” 

It’s fair to say that the impact business systems has is enormous, but how can you continue adding value as the landscape changes? This was the topic of Settle’s keynote at Biz Systems Magic, the first and only conference for Systems leaders. In it, he stressed that this change is due to functional teams, such as HR, Sales and Marketing, having a larger role in selecting and administering new applications. 

During his presentation, he also broke down the consequences of interacting with these various teams, how to partner with them, and how to advance your career within this evolving landscape. 

More People Are Weighing In. What Does That Mean For Your Business Systems Team?   

Let’s go over a couple of the good, bad, and ugly factors of these partnerships. 

The Good 

The truth is your company’s operations team’s competence and domain authority is a tool you need to utilize, according to Settle. There are certain activities that occur that would be better handled by these teams and can be moved off of IT’s workload.

1. Data Quality

Settle explains that it is difficult for IT to go back and try to “reengineer quality back into the data that’s being collected by applications.” This is where ops teams come in. They have access to the functional executives and can spearhead the quality of data being collected by applications such as Salesforce, Workday and NetSuite and others.

2. Fined Grained Access Privileges & Reporting Requests

Additionally, ops teams know their operating models inside and out. Granting access privileges is a task that they can take on with clarity, giving your team time to work on larger tasks. Similarly, reporting requests do require domain knowledge. Your ops team has that knowledge and is better suited to get that information to the right people fast.

3. Certain Forms of App Configuration 

Settle describes the software WalkMe, which can be configured to guide reps through different applications, such as Salesforce. Instead of IT taking that configuration on, your expert ops teams can take on that task and similar app configurations.    

The Bad 

1. Unanticipated Knock-On Effects

Often functional groups don’t know the effects around moving data, it can be a hassle for you to fix. Settle mentions a conversation with a CEO in Salt Lake City where he mentioned, “Every third executive meeting, we get into this finger pointing exercise about who screwed up Salesforce.” 

2. Data Mastering Issues

Functional groups are often not familiar with security and regulatory tripwires. The also may not understand data mastering issues and sources of integrity. When they are in the dark about these factors, problems can occur quickly.

The Ugly 

1. Technical Debt

Settle says that without proper supervision over these applications, you can accumulate technical debt fast. “I’ve seen a lot of different groups come in with staff or contractors and introduce custom fields and customize the platform in ways that needs to be undone over time,” said Settle.

2. Application Proliferation Issues 

Another common issue is ownership. When a SaaS application comes up for renewal, oftentimes no one knows who bought them, says Settle. This leaves IT scrambling to decide whether or not the application is needed. 

At the end of the day, partnering with various teams has both great and unfortunate factors, but the most important part of your relationship with stakeholders is clarifying where their responsibilities start and stop. “Failure to do so just leads to the creation of bruised feelings, which really are unnecessary and get in the way of progress,” said Settle. 

How Business Systems Can Partner With and Give Value to Ops Teams 

Take a More Holistic View of Business Processes  

Ops teams are experts at what they do – operations – but Systems teams are experts at actualizing larger scale end-to-end processes. Settle gives the example of introducing a new product. Marketing, for example, most often only has a view of what systems they need to get the job done. Your team can add value and provide clarity by helping marketing and other functional teams understand the bigger picture of what needs to be done for that product, cycle, experience or process across the entire company. 

Find New Business Uses of Existing Systems 

Additionally, departments usually get software for one purpose, while there could be several other use cases for it that business may not have thought of. For example, Settle describes the enterprise Autodesk, which uses UiPath to give SDRs a dossier of information on prospects before doing cold calls. Previously, SDRs would have to comb through several lead enrichment websites or tools to get the necessary information.

Autodesk initially bought UiPath for order processing, but with some additional research, its CIO found another more productive use case for the existing system. Settle recommends joining user groups for your existing software to learn more and bring back additional value for your buck. 

Minimize Your Line of Sight to The Paying Customers  

There are many intermediaries between IT and the people paying for your company’s product. In order to avoid customer priorities getting mixed with those of your functional teams, your team needs to spend more time with your customers. “Where IT generates its most value is in that interface with the customer,” says Settle. 

Don’t Exclusively Become an Order Taker 

Your team can become bogged down with 100s of small tasks from operations. Therefore, it is crucial that you’re in close communication with leadership to better focus on larger initiatives that will deliver the most value. 

How Can You Advance Your Career by Interacting With Various Teams?

To be able to work well with all of these teams, you have to develop sort of a split personality, according to Settle, consisting of the following parts:

1. Business Analyst 

In smaller companies, there won’t be a team of business analysts. Understanding how the business runs daily will be your responsibility and will help round out your initiatives.

2. Project Manager 

Customer experience is just crucial as employee experience, says Settle. Taking on employee processes will help you avoid data inconsistencies and rid of the need for them to jump from application to application, thus increasing productivity.   

3. Business Leader 

As a business systems leader, you’ll need to know how to communicate with C-suite and executives. It’s your job to use their time wisely by giving them the exact information they need to move forward in a concise manner. 

Make Sure You’re Always Developing 

At the end of each year, Settle encourages business systems leaders to track their progress across 3 categories:

  • Technical knowledge: Did you broaden or deepen your technical skills?
  • Business knowledge: Knowledge of general business operations is event valuable outside of your current company. Settle believes that operational savvy is one of your most marketable skills.
  • People skills: Settle says it is crucial to develop your skills for influencing and leading other people. Whether that looks like managing a virtual team or participating in a cross-functional initiative, you should ask yourself, “What did you do to better your communication skills with people?”

Increasing Value for Your Enterprise and Yourself Through Business Systems

As stressed by Settle, once called the most experienced CIO in the world, business systems is essential to CIOs being able to do their job, ensuring that an IT organization is in a capable and credible-enough state to be able to function properly. With Systems sorting through the work of business, IT can focus on the tasks that help keep you compliant and secure.

Working with various stakeholders can help teams focus on more transformative projects and steer clear of unfamiliar data territories that’ll keep business systems teams swimming in mishaps. With transparency and communication, you can also get more bang out your buck with existing systems and encourage teams to take action on necessary projects.

With business systems, you have no choice but to grow across teams efficiently, which can only be done if systems teams themselves are empowered to learn all they can about systems.

Watch the entire presentation, including Mark’s sit-down with Coupa CIO Eric Tan > 

Tayleur Hylton
About Tayleur Hylton

Tayleur is a budding technology enthusiast helping to grow the business systems community.