Apr 18 2017

IT Purchasing Decisions Are Often Made by Business Leaders, Survey Finds

IT decision-makers have influence over major technology infrastructure purchases, but less so in other areas, according to a Spiceworks survey.

Who makes the big decisions about the IT your company buys? Is it the CEO or the CIO?

According to a recent survey from Spiceworks, the online community for IT professionals, it’s usually the CEO and other business decision-makers (BDMs) who actually control the purse strings — with a lot of leg work from IT decision-makers (ITDMs).

The survey, “ITDMs and BDMs: Tech Purchase Superheroes,” found that ITDMs serve as organizations’ primary purchase influencers and technology “gatekeepers.” However, BDMs are more likely to give final approval on technology funds and purchases, according to the survey.

Business leaders and BDMs in sales, marketing and other departments rely on ITDMs for their expertise when the company is considering an IT purchase. The survey results show 86 percent of ITDMs evaluate and recommend technology solutions, while just 48 percent of BDMs do the same. (In North America, those figures were higher: 90 percent and 56 percent, respectively.)

Despite that, the survey found that 47 percent of BDMs give final approval for technology purchases — compared to merely 22 percent of ITDMs. (In North America, those figures were 43 percent and 20 percent, respectively.)

“This dynamic underscores the distinct roles BDMs and ITDMs play in the technology purchasing process, and more specifically, the IT decision makers’ responsibility to determine the technology needs, evaluate solutions and vendors, make the final recommendation, and ultimately implement and manage new technology,” Spiceworks notes in a statement.

The Influence of IT Pros on Tech Purchasing Decisions

ITDMs are key players throughout the technology purchase process, Spiceworks notes. They are more likely than BDMs to be involved in nearly every tech purchase in some capacity, especially for major infrastructure purchases like servers, virtualization, networking and IT security.

ITDMs drive the initial stages of the process, in terms of determining IT needs, evaluating solutions and vendors, and providing the recommendations. However, as the process moves to signing off on recommendations, approving funds and making the actual purchase, the balance of power shifts towards the BDMs.

“ITDMs still play the part of gatekeeper — if a vendor doesn’t make it through the IT filter, they don’t get recommended to the BDM,” the report notes. “The IT department ascertains that the technology works and is compatible with existing systems.”

The report adds: “Crucially, 79% of ITDMs say they’re ultimately responsible for implementing the purchased solution. This could have a knock-on effect and end up guiding renewal / repeat purchases, which (per Spiceworks 2017 State of IT Report) accounts for 61% of spend on hardware purchases. It’s clear the ITDM has a wide domain and sphere of influence.”

Interestingly, while BDMs globally are equally as likely as ITDMs to be involved in purchases related to end-user technology (computers, printers, mobile devices, etc.), that’s not quite the case in North America. The survey found that ITDMs in North America “are significantly more likely than BDMs” to be involved in computer and printer purchases, suggesting that ITDMs in North America have “wider reaching purchase influence than ITDMs in other parts of the world.”

Whose Input Matters on IT Decisions?

Although business decision-makers are the ones who have the power to open the metaphorical wallet (or bank vault, as the case may be), ITDMs are seen as the ones who provide the most valuable feedback when evaluating IT purchases.

“When it comes to whose opinion saves the day, both buyer types agree that ITDMs contribute more valuable input throughout the process,” the report notes. Indeed, globally, 65 percent of ITDMs say input from other ITDMs is either valuable or extremely valuable — and 72 percent of BDMs say the same thing (in North America, those figures are 70 and 79 percent, respectively).

The report indicates that ITDMs “are doing the heavy lifting” on evaluating IT decisions, since “they spend more time in the labor-intensive parts of the decision process.”

“Because they’ve done extensive research, they’re better equipped to implement and manage new tech (no surprise their input is deemed valuable by all parties),” the report says. “ITDMs are much more active during the legwork stage (determining need, evaluating solutions/vendors, recommending tech, and implementing and managing tech). That said, both ITDMs and BDMs are equally as likely to put in substantial or excessive time when it comes to the decision phase.”

The survey was conducted in the fall of 2016 and included 584 IT decision-makers and 305 business decision-makers from North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The respondents represent a variety of company sizes, including small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises, and come from a variety of industries including manufacturing, healthcare, nonprofit, education, government and finance.


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