The IT Owner

In many ways, the IT owner is the counterpart of the functional business owners. During the project, the IT owner gives direction from the technical side, just as the business owners do for the business side. In the long run, just as the business owners are responsible for the usage of the tool, the IT owner makes sure that the tool is appropriately maintained and enhanced.


The first part of the IT owner's responsibility is to give technical input to the project. Typically the functional managers on the project (the business owners) are quite unaware of the technical aspects of tool selection and implementation. Therefore it's important that they collaborate with the IT owner to make the best overall choices that meet both technical and business requirements. The IT owner provides input about:

  • Architectural requirements. The tool should run on the corporate hardware, use the corporate database, and offer integration possibilities with other tools likely to require integration (or at least incompatibilities should be known upfront and budgeted and planned for).
  • Standards adherence. Being aware of the corporate standards, the IT owner can require them in the selection process and compromise as appropriate. There's no reason to pursue a tool that has good functionality but doesn't fit in the overall corporate standards.
  • Implementation requirements. Although business fit dictates a great part of the implementation complexity, technical considerations can make or break a project. The IT owner can coordinate the requirements including the availability of skilled implementation contractors.
  • Maintenance requirements. Although often neglected during the initial phases, maintenance requirements make an enormous difference in the total cost of ownership (TCO) in the long run. Knowing the IT resources both present and planned, the IT owner can define the maintenance requirements for the tool.

Once the technical requirements are in place, the IT owner ensures that the technical side of the project runs smoothly. This includes vetting the tools being considered to make sure that they match the technical requirements, and if they do not, assessing the extra costs associated with handling the gaps. The IT owner is often involved not only in demos and technical discussions with the vendors but also in reference checking. There's no better way to get the inside story on the technical side than to get the IT owner to talk to the reference's IT owner. The IT owner is also front and center in the selection of the integrator, as business owners are typically not well-versed to what makes a good integrator or a good working relationship with an integrator. The IT owner is likely to have a good rolodex section for integrators, and, barring that, a rolodex full of colleagues who may have worked with the integrators suggested by the vendor. It's critical that the IT owner fully embrace the project, hand in hand with the business owners. Even if the IT owner has doubts about the vendor selection, once the organization has made a choice that meets the functionality requirements and the IT standards, the IT owner must not be a barrier to success. The IT owner is busy during the implementation phase making sure that appropriate IT resources are applied to the project and that the integrator is delivering appropriate deliverables from the technical angle. There is also a great deal of staging work required from the IT staff itself, so a lot of coordination work is required from the IT owner, as, at least for larger operations, a number of separate IT functions need to be involved. During the implementation, the IT owner also plans for the time after the rollout. How will the tool be supported? Does the IT organization possess the proper skills to support the tool? To perform system administration functions? What about enhancement requests? Depending on the situation, the solution may require anything from a simple readjustment to the existing IT processes all the way up to creating a complete support structure from scratch, including hiring dedicated support and maintenance staff members. Just like the business owners, the IT owner remains involved beyond the rollout date to ensure that the new system is appropriately administered, supported, and maintained. It's smart to plan for a period of very high availability from the support and maintenance staff right after rollout, when issues and good ideas are likely to surface, even with a good planning process. Of course support and maintenance will need to be provided throughout the life of the tool.


To be successful, the IT owner needs to have a good general view of current IT capabilities and processes, IT architecture, and future plans. Although the technical details can be handled by the IT staff on the project, the IT owner should know enough to assign the right individuals to the right issues and to estimate the requirements of each assignment. Since the project involves many different IT functions, the IT owner must be able to coordinate with the various groups involved on a project that may entail myriad details over many weeks and months. Because the IT owner role spans functions, and because it requires a strategic vision, there is an argument to be made that the head of IT (let's say the CIO, for the sake of this discussion) should be the IT owner. Indeed, if the project is significant, as CRM projects often are, the CIO should be involved in the requirements definition and the tool selection. However, it rarely makes sense to have a CIO involved in the day-to-day technical management of a CRM project, except in a smaller company where there is no other strategic-level IT owner. Typically the IT owner for a CRM project will have a title such as "Business apps Manager" or something similar. The IT owner does not have the top IT job but must have:

  • The support of the CIO.
  • Enough seniority and experience to bring a strategic technical viewpoint to the project.
  • Enough clout to accomplish the multi-disciplinary coordination required.
  • As much as possible, a direct stake in the long-term support and maintenance of the tool.

The time requirements for the IT owner depends mostly on how much of the implementation work is handled by an outside party. Here's a breakdown of time requirements for the IT owner:

  • Defining the technical requirements for the tool (a few hours to a few days).
  • Evaluating the candidate solutions, which requires several hours for each candidate, plus travel time if required.
  • Evaluating the integrators, which is very much the domain of the IT owners, and which requires several hours per candidate, and several days for the finalists.
  • Defining the implementation requirements, which can take a day to a week for the kickoff workshop itself and another few days to iron out the technical details.
  • Coordinating the IT resources during the implementation, which could be a few hours a week for a simple project handled by an integrator or a full-time job for a complex project done in-house. In any case, much time is required at the beginning of the implementation to make sure that all the IT requirements are covered and to oversee the scheduling of resources, and again near the end of the implementation timeframe to ensure that the app is appropriately rolled out.

In-house deployments and large deployments make for a full-time IT owner's role. But even if the requirements are lighter, it's critical to have an appropriate IT owner on the team, even if there is a strong project manager and a strong integrator. At the end of the day, the tool must become a part of the overall infrastructure of the company. IT participation is required from the start to ensure that the project is actually feasible within the IT architecture (whether it's the current architecture or if the architecture needs to change to accommodate the project). The IT owner also makes sure the appropriate IT resources are made available so that the project is indeed incorporated into the IT offering.