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Midsize Enterprises Need to Share Work to Tackle Digital Expectations

By Vivek Swaminathan | December 05, 2019 | 0 Comments

The very largest companies benefit from economies of scale, preferential treatment by vendors, massive teams and budgets that support growth.  Unfortunately, small and midsize companies (MSEs) don’t enjoy those luxuries. With median MSE IT spend as a percentage of revenue anticipated to be 3.7% in 2020, CIOs struggle to find enough money to support both demand and disruptions coming from all directions (Figure 1).

Figure 1: 2020 Budget Expectations for Midsize Enterprises

The trouble for CIOs lies in the balancing act of spending money on established, low-cost, high-return technologies while also managing demand for new, often unproven technology coming from outside IT. 

When it comes to safe bets for 2019, small and midsize companies are clear that cloud, finance/accounting and data & info security systems are top priorities. (See figure 2).  But beyond those systems lies a long tail of competing priorities, each with a different value proposition.

Figure 2: 2020 Technologies Budgeted for Small and Midsize Enterprises

So what should IT do?  It is impossible for one underfunded organization with limited clout to ‘own’ all tech decisions.  Instead, progressive organizations look for innovative ways to share the responsibilities with others on digital projects.

One best practice comes from a midsized enterprise, the San Francisco International Airport.  The CIO of SFO Airport increased the airport’s ability to execute digital projects by simplifying the technical and governance environments in ways that democratize the ability to develop and deploy technology solutions.

To accomplish this, SFO made four major changes to how IT prioritized and governed technology initiatives:

  1. IT prioritized incoming requests by evaluating whether IT should launch a project to deliver a finished solution or provide other teams with tools that help them tackle the issue more independently. Where possible, it favors the latter option.
  2. SFO required that many new technology purchases enable non-specialist teams to customize, configure and develop solutions independently using the technology.
  3. IT tracked the use of self-service capabilities in existing solutions to identify teams that might be willing and able to use more sophisticated tools that would enable them to build their own solutions, automate their own processes and design their own analytics.
  4. IT staff were regularly sent to external trainings to acquire information on new tools and technologies. Upon their return, IT employees are expected to run workshops on what they learned for employees in the rest of the airport. IT staff now serve as instructors at SFO Academy — the corporate training center.

After sharing the workload involved in digital projects, SFO completed more small projects and execute them faster.  With more non-IT people around to identify, experiment and deploy new technologies, IT can modernize technology with their peers.  Otherwise, the scope of what a midsize company can deploy will be limited to only the most obvious, business critical bets.

Whether you are curious to understand how to deliver against new digital expectations in constrained environments or just looking to become more mature, there is no reason to build that knowledge from scratch. Instead, it makes sense to leverage the lessons and best practices of other midsize companies that have already figured out the best way forward.  Access additional midsize enterprise guidance on or tap into our community of Midsize Enterprise Executive Partners to develop your IT organization.  Can’t access links?  Talk to us about becoming a client.

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