Better Together: IT and the Business

Summary Bullets:

S. Schuchart
  • Business and IT have long treated each other with suspicion, to the detriment of both.
  • Ongoing changes to business and IT require a re-structuring that puts the business and IT hand in hand.

Corporate culture by its very nature requires people to specialize in specific areas of the business. People settle into their roles, becoming masters of the tasks, priorities, and policies that define their area of expertise in the company. The theory is that management has the broader overview and can provide the needed information to guide the overall company direction and ensure smooth operations.  The reality is that most managers, including some members of the C-suite, also operate with their domain as their primary concern.

This is nothing new, but the functional isolation is becoming particularly critical to solve when it comes to a corporate IT department. The isolation of IT from the rest of the business is both a human and structural problem. From a structural standpoint, IT is often treated as a pure expense center; and in some companies, it is almost treated the same way as an outside vendor. From the human side, IT by its very nature uses a lot of technical terms and concepts that the less tech-savvy often find incomprehensible or off-putting. This has led to an us-vs.-them mentality all around.

Technology practitioners, IT service providers, and vendors need to recognize that the traditional ‘glass box’ model of IT is counterproductive. But it’s hard for everyone to break old, comfortable traditions. IT needs to have representatives from the business it serves as part of its active planning and operational teams. It has been proven time and time again that IT projects which directly and actively involve the business in every step have more success. It keeps issues that are obvious to the business from becoming show-stopping problems early and ensures the needs of the business are being met.

The benefits to IT are multi-fold as well.  The overall value of the IT function becomes much more apparent, lending line-of-business support to IT budgets. Furthermore, the business comes to understand some of the complexity of IT, from development to infrastructure to ongoing operations and support. Understanding that a seemingly innocent and simple change to a production system isn’t easy or simple makes it much easier for IT to negotiate projects.

With business digitization, we are in an era where the fate of the business and the fate of the IT department are inexorably combined. Neither can afford to treat the other like a necessary evil if both are going to thrive in the long run.

What do you think?

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