Bridging the gap between IT and the Business are really issues of all about change.
IT is better integrated with the business than ever before. However, IT remains quite distinct in terms of performance metrics, structure, career path, etc. there are still numerous debates about “He said, She said” in CIO forums, Is the gap between business and IT shrinking?
1. The Optimistic View: Absolutely, No Question
Business has been becoming more comfortable with IT and IT has come down from the Ivory Towers! A lot has to do with more and more pervasive use of technology, newer generations growing up with technology and Moore's law helps a lot!
- IT is business: IT is an integral part of the business and, therefore, a more apt word to use would be integration. In the 21st century, “The Business” and “IT” are inextricably linked, like a seam of gold running through rock, and need to work in concert together like milk mixed with coffee rather than cream floated on top.
- CIOs as business leaders: CIOs are beginning to focus delivering on business requirements and less on what vendors want to sell. They have yet to become a true business partner. The “agile” methodology initiative certainly helps. This refocus will contribute to the business becoming the decision makers on IT spend where the CIO’s knowledge in business language will accelerate this process.
- Outside-in perspectives: The world has changed and operational process efficiency needs to be on agenda to see economic prosperity return for future generations. Cutting out waste such as shrinking the gap between business and IT as described could make a significant contribution and the sooner it starts the better it will be for all involved.
- Cross-generational workforce management: A whole generation of people coming into the workforce (GenX, Y, Z) that have been raised on technology, and understand its potential. In addition, they expect to see the same connectivity and ease of use with IT as they get from consumer IT venues. To them, IT isn't something that's tucked away in a mysterious server room somewhere.
If business people really understand the issues facing the IT department and the IT people are aware of the business goals, processes, and needs. the gap could be narrowed.
2. The Pessimistic Tone: No, it’s not Shrinking
On one hand, technology trends such as BYOD/Consumerization of IT/social/cloud shrink the gap; however, the mindset, the culture, the accelerated change gap between business and technology is not shrinking.
- Business still does not wish to learn about technology, operate it or deal with the IT department. And IT still does not care much about the many types of business processes and methods. The career path for IT people is still in IT. Nevertheless, technology intricacies are increasingly hidden by smart interfaces that make possible for its direct operation and management by business people, avoiding as such as the IT department involvement.
- The gap between business and IT has actually widened. The reason is that business and IT have evolved at a different pace over the past few decades. While IT has evolved significantly in all aspects - people, process, technology - business has, and continues to evolve faster. Much like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, it is increasingly more challenging for IT to deliver to business what it wants when it wants. By the time IT is ready to deliver functionality to the business, the business needs - "needs" and not just "requirements" - have already changed.
- “Shadow" IT Deepen the Gap: From the perspective of "IT department", the gap is actually splintering: More and more technology investment is being made directly by individual business units with less oversight by the IT dept. Cloud Computing could be deployed by Business departments as a means to bypass IT department and decide about IT Technology without the CIO. It causes governance/risk concerns. Or BYOD could be interpreted by the IT department as chaos and Security threat, but as a must by users.
- It depends on the Organizational Culture. See the a widening Gap between IT and the Business in some enterprises and a narrowing gap in other enterprises. It is not a matter of more IT knowledgeable generations (Y-Gen and Z-Gen). These generations could think that the IT as it is could be out of date because they understand more about IT. When the home user can use advanced features and technologies he could ask why the enterprise can not use yet these technologies and features.
In the end, then, it may be that the right question is not "is the gap shrinking?" but rather "is the gap fine just the way it is?".
3. Is IT Becoming a “CHANGE” Department?
The purpose of the IT department is to enable the business to achieve its strategy and goals. Whilst supporting the systems and the infrastructure they operate within is important, its primary remit is one based on change –implementing, and retiring IT.
- The IT department has been left to run change projects. For many organizations, the IT department has become synonymous with the change department. In today’s world and in most organizations, Technology change tends to be large, complex and frequent and so changing the other parts has tended to become subsumed into the remit of the IT department. However, change consists of one or more of the following:
- People change
- Process change
- Technology change
- IT/Business Co-develop Strategy: What does this mean for IT strategy? It means that anyone in charge of IT strategy has to approach it in a very nuanced way, thinking about setting different kinds of strategy for different layers/domains of technology while attempting to unite the whole by encouraging adherence to some core set of standards and a suitable distributed/federated governance model. And, always think IT strategy as an integral part of business strategy.
- Bridging the gap between IT and the Business are really issues of all about change: The steps, processes, tools and products that organizations use to effect the transformation from strategy to deployment. In essence, the architecture of transformation. changing the processes, people, and technology used for transformation produces no immediate benefits because it merely improves the environment that transformation operates within and it is not until changes in operation happen (with those changes being made in the context of an improved transformation environment) that any benefits can be realized. Thus, the resulting time gap between the costs of changing the environment and getting quantifiable benefit (usually measured in money) makes changing the transformation.
In essence, when we say Business / IT alignment & bridging the gap, we are in fact talking about bridging the gap and aligning change planning with change projects and operations. IT has been very much an “inside out” approach with users on the outside. Therefore, the focus on users has to be the key driver to remove this gap.