The fragile relationship between IT and Business can present a major challenge for multiple organizations. The Business-IT gap is present in almost every organization and is down to Business focusing heavily on running the operations, profits and loss and clients, whereas IT on forcing implementations of new technology and maintaining current on the existing one. Existence of this gap is almost natural, just the size of it can be different dependent on how the organization approaches this topic.
There are quite few items that cause the gap between IT and Business to be bigger than everyone would wish to:
- Business frustrations around the level of service – always too expensive, never as robust and quick as they would like to. Sometimes unrealistic expectations towards the service cause frustrations within IT of never being good enough.
- Business claims that everything has high priority. For IT that means demand exceeding ability to deliver – often without additional funds to cover the gap. Difficult conversations have to take place that are not welcomed by any of the sides.
- IT not being invited to the table (or involved late in the game). By the time when IT is involved in some strategic conversations it’s often too late to make contractual changes, change the approach or withdraw from the idea
- Not enough business involvement and ownership of requirements and testing, causing IT being forced to make decisions without the right context
- IT thinks it does not need to understand the business in order to implement new technology. Technology implementations devoid of business context can result in outages, delays, frustrations and low technology adoption by end users.
- Lack or not enough of change management for IT implementations. Business has an impression of technology being dumped at them rather than given a chance to properly understand, communicate and adopt it.
- Blurred accountabilities – IT making business decisions and other way around
- Lack of long term, joined IT & Business strategy. Causing conflicts in priorities, escalations, requiring ad hoc changes and implementations.
You could say that establishing the right accountabilities should be good enough to fix this: Business to be accountable for the “why” (strategy) and “what” (business requirements), and IT for “how” (the solution) and “what” (IT requirements). However in many cases that won’t be sufficient as often the innovation might be driven from the technology itself and it’s the IT responsibility to enable Business through it. So what is the solution? There’s no one or easy answer, nor an easy way – however here are some things that could be done:
- Understand who is your Business and IT key players. In complex, international companies that can be easier said than done. Multiple roles per region, country, globe are crossing each other often with different people with the same job title delivering a different scope.
- Make an effort to understand each other. What are your capabilities, limitations, challenges, how can you support each other.
- Collaborate. Invite each other to the table early enough to influence the solution.
- Build a trustworthy relationship. Be honest about what’s possible, what is not. Have the guts to say “No” but propose an alternate solution.
- Build long term relationships that can be utilized in every context as you go
- IT should change its language from features and setting towards talking about benefits, costs, risks and consequences. Business, likewise should seek to better communicate in basic IT language.
- Where possible be flexible. Don’t be hang up on schedules and delivery plans if not absolutely critical. A level of flexibility will allow to build a better relationship with your partners.
- Take full responsibility for your area. Own the organization change management, support the solution and drive its adoption.
- Keep each other in the loop. Information is the critical asset in the organization, be the first one to share it well in advance (if possible) to give people time to digest and prepare their areas and teams for it.
- Build a joined roadmap, understand your each other’s priorities, try to match them, discuss and align.
IT-Business is a difficult relationship burdened with multiple challenges, unforeseen circumstances and sometimes even competing priorities. However it’s a relationship that has to work properly for the organization to function in an effective and efficient way. IT has to enable the Business, and in modern times Business won’t survive without new technologies and innovative tech solutions. It is both It and Business responsibility to develop, maintain and protect their relationship. This is more and more being appreciated, therefore mature organizations are investing into business-IT relationship functions. What’s more, it’s a worthwhile investment as the more you put into building strong IT-Business relationship, the more benefit and value you will regain out of it.