What does the term “IT” mean to you? Today, many organizations are rebranding parts of their IT departments as “business technology” or “Business Systems” –  a concept that describes the ever-increasing reliance of businesses across industries (and the lines of business within them) on technology to handle and optimize processes between the hundreds of apps used in an organization. 

Business Technology teams take a step away from the world of traditional IT. Instead of back office processes and managing infrastructure, they focus on managing everything from the company’s cloud app stack to the processes that happen in and between those apps and databases. 

The idea of Business Technology, or BT, isn’t new. Coined by Forrester CEO George Colony in 2007, BT acknowledges IT’s pervasiveness in the enterprise as well as the relationship between IT and business, a liaison often led by Business Systems teams. So what is Business Technology? “It is pervasive technology that is impacting business results,” says Colony.

How Is Business Technology Different?

Diana McKenzie was Workday’s first-ever CIO. During her tenure, she rebranded IT to Business Technology. On a flagship project after the acquisition of Adaptive Insights, McKenzie tells Forbes that the Workday BT team’s role was to be: “the conveners, facilitators, and to drive clarity around key questions that needed to be answered to meet our goals and see the benefit of them once we finished.” 

The true difference between Business Technology and other departments, though, lies in their critical mission or North Star. The technologists who work on the product are focused on building a great product, and they “typically tend to look at the world through whatever lens their product needs to be,” says McKenzie. The same is true for services functions. Their goal, McKenzie says, is to achieve a 98 percent annual customer satisfaction rating. 

“What is different about my function is that we look across. Our role is to see and improve how the business runs, which is why I am fond of the Business Technology label for my function. I believe that the Business Technology element has helped us differentiate the value we bring,” adds McKenzie. 

“Because we can see across, we see where there are opportunities to connect teams, data, and ideas. We have to bring these perspectives back into the company, along with our understanding of what our customers want to see from us as we continue to grow, scale, and introduce more products. Specifically, from a BT perspective, we have to ensure that we are not only building our business to be successful, but that we are incorporating the perspective that is important for feeling where our products continue to expand, innovate, and evolve.”

This bird’s-eye view across the business is what gives Business Technology a totally new (and critical) function.

How Business Technology Improves Employee Experience (And Business Functionality)

BT is often linked with two other concepts: business-IT alignment and the consumerization of IT, which also speak to the objectives of a business from an IT perspective and how enterprise technology has evolved and should be just as intuitive, easy to use and visually stimulating as consumer products. For many CIOs and executives with enterprises based in the cloud, the need to transition from IT to business technology is essential even within the next 5-10 years.  

“By 2025, about 70% of the workforce is going to be millennial or Gen Z,” said Wendy M. Pfeiffer, CIO at Nutanix, “meaning the at-home consumer-like experience is essential for them. [I’ve been] advocating to enterprise IT vendors to provide the process of making that consumer-like experience for our employees — as well as internally to my team, saying ‘Don’t ever deliver anything from IT that is subpar to the most basic consumer experience that we’d have in our homes or on our mobile devices.”

“That challenge,” she continued, “requires us to think about employee experience in a detailed way, to think about interactive design and adoption and availability across devices. If [what] a tool or a product or a vendor is offering doesn’t meet those criteria, then we’re not going to deploy it.”

Sridevi Pasumarthi, VP of Information Technology at Arlo, thought the same thing. “We don’t call ourselves IT at Arlo. We call ourselves Business Technology services because we bring services through technology,” she said. “The kind of experience you are used to as a consumer is the same experience our employees expect when they are there,” allowing said consumerization of IT to flow through.

“For example, we [automated a workflow] with Workato that allows you to give ‘kudos’ in Slack. If you’ve liked someone’s work and wanted to give them kudos, you previously would have to go to Salesforce, open up a form and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so has done a fantastic job’ and then click submit. With Slack and Workato, all you have to do is [type slash command] /kudos into Slack, write ‘Hey, you’ve done a fantastic job,’ and the entry is then submitted into a pool, where [the person gets] recognized during an All-Hands meeting.” 

“It’s instant, there’s no friction,” Pasumarthi added. “When you have the right toolkit, the right development mind frame and thought process…you can do all this at the stroke of a key or on your mobile phone. It just makes it easier for them.” 

How Business Technology Leads to Happier Customers

As customer satisfaction is inexplicably linked with employee experience, BT can help lead to happier customers. A recent study by Accenture says that 90% of B2B leaders are deploying customer experience initiatives in their marketing strategies, including creating a personalized, omni-channel experience that builds lasting relationships while providing convenient, digital solutions. This also includes a focus on employees. Engaged employees, according to Forbes, are more likely to provide a superior customer experience – and companies that invest in employee experience are 4.2X more profitable than those who don’t. 

In the end, it’s all about making sure that employees feel supported so that they can continue to create amazing customer experiences.

“We want to make it known that we are doing everything in our power to create a seamless experience for them if they need to move from one platform to the next,” said McKenzie in the Forbes article. “We want to be an organization that they [the employees] want to do business with, one that they feel they can share their feedback with, and one that is going to listen and respond to those experiences.”

“If we don’t offer viable technologies and viable tools and viable user experiences, then our people will be less productive,” said Pfeiffer of Nutanix. “We have people in our organizations who tell us that it is less productive, less delightful to do things at work than it is to do things at home.”

“So that has be accounted for and you can’t do that in a traditional IT environment.”

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Pamela Seaton
About Pamela Seaton

Pamela is a journalist and technology enthusiast writing for the growing business systems community.