For anything IT-related, there seems to be a common perception that the IT department can do anything and everything for anyone, at any time, because IT people know everything.
Now, having spent the entirety of my career in IT-related management, I can tell you with certainty that the majority of IT folks are among the best and brightest companies have to offer. At times, their ingenuity and know-how know no bounds, and what they accomplish is of tremendous benefit to the organization.
But (and this is a very big but) companies need to stop placing the burden on IT people to do things far outside their daily scope, the number-one example of this being eCommerce. The idea that a “build-your-own” approach will work in this instance, especially in this day and age, trends toward the impossible. Unless, of course, you are large enough to have your own dedicated “lab” team.
Take companies like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce that have spent millions upon millions of dollars building their platforms. That includes the infrastructure, planning, and ongoing maintenance that make those companies the largest of their kind in the world.
So, in essence, asking your IT department to build you an eCommerce platform is like asking them to be BigCommerce minus the $100 million annualized revenue, the 460+ employees, and the 5,000+ app and design partners. Does that seem fair? No, it doesn’t. It stacks the odds against IT and places unrealistic expectations that are tough to fulfill—no matter how talented and dedicated your IT folks are.
Especially considering that the maintenance of a modern eCommerce platform is truly daunting. To make it work, and work well, requires a diverse, focused, and very large team of people. From meeting the optimization standards for mobile devices and the ever-changing requirements for browser compatibility, to accessibility compliance, and more, would require a level of full-time effort much greater than should ever be expected from a single department.
In the end, it is important to question the reasoning behind this approach. In all honesty, I believe this misperception is simply a matter of misunderstanding paired with undue pressure and unreasonable expectations. As I said, most companies see IT as an unstoppable force that can do anything. And though that may be true in some ways, that viewpoint has to end.
IT has a new role in the new millennium, one that places it at the epicenter of managing processes and systems, vetting partners, and managing the relationships that we have with the people we do business with. The role of IT is no longer that of the “doer,” it is now the overseer and planner, ensuring the company is on track, remains on track, and is strategically poised for success now, and in the future—a critical role in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.
The moral of this story is simple: in the new millennium, technology is changing at such an alarming rate that it needs to be built and managed appropriately—not homegrown. Instead of focusing on projects of such magnitude internally, engage the professionals and work with them to deliver a solution that truly meets customer expectations and that results in the desired customer experience. Anything that falls outside what the company does is why, in the majority of cases, homegrown solutions tend to fail.
Do what you’re good at, and leave it at that.