Keeping it Upstairs: The Case Against Delegating Technology Decisions

By November 17, 2011

I am going to go against popular thinking for a minute.

Sometimes, it is better if higher level executives do not delegate.

I am well aware that it is not possible, nor is it smart, for every decision to be made at the C level. Good executives entrust lower level managers with decisionmaking throughout the day and handing off decisions is usually the sign of a great leader (and a necessity).

But when it comes to technology decisions in general, and software development in particular, I think the best decisions are made by the CIO and CTO. Why? Because higher level execs make decisions that are objective, vendor neutral, and big picture, based on the bottom line and what is best for the organization as a whole.

IT managers and developers, on the other hand, tend to make decisions based on personal preferences and past experiences. They will choose solutions they already know; the ones with which they are familiar. IT personnel can get entrenched in a niche and be reluctant to step outside their comfort zone. If they work in Java, they will go with Java. If they have a passion for .NET (or Ruby or PHP or whatever language they favor), that is what they will choose. And instead of selecting a solution that might be cheaper, faster, and better suited for a particular project, they generally stick with what they know.

I lead operations for GeneXus USA, the U.S. distributor of GeneXus software. GeneXus works with customers all over the world, and the approach to decision making has emerged as a significant differentiator between the U.S. and other countries. Be it China, Japan, Central or South America, technology decisions are generally made by the CIO or CTO and based on the bottom line. In the United States, technology decisions are all too frequently delegated to IT managersĀ or developers and ultimately based on personal experience.

IT managers make decisions from the heart. The C-suite makes decisions from the wallet. When it comes to technology choices, common sense and cost savings should prevail over personal preferences. I think CIOs and CTOs in the U.S. can learn from other countries by remaining personally involved in the technology decision making process.