Saturday, June 14, 2014

From IT vs. Business to IT as Business

 First seeking to understand then be understood!


There is nature friction between different functions of the organization. Especially between business and IT, some say business vs. IT, the battle is continually on, and such “he said, she said” miscommunication is an impediment to achieving business effectiveness and agility. So how to develop a true partnership between business and IT, what’re the roadblocks on the way?

Bridging the communications gap: It is vital to the survival and thriving of an organization and its peopleTypically, one starts with communication and a process that allows people to discover that both sides of the business want to achieve the best results, but they see the outcome as something different and expect to achieve it differently. At this point, they begin to look to their senior management for leadership. The point is, if real ‘animosity’ exists between the business and IT, there might be 'animosity' inside the senior management team as well, and that is certainly destructive. Is it truly "lonely at the top" or do those at the "top" purposely isolate themselves from others in their organization because they must make hard decisions at the time for strategic, legal, shareholder, or personal reasons which those downstream must accept one way or another? From both top-down to bottom up, in order to enable the constructive communication, there are leverage point, such as communication of the best tactical actions in support of the business strategy; the sacrifice of a few (products, services, tools, teams) for the advance of the whole; the balance of quick win and long-term benefit, in the face of sometimes wildly variable priorities - and sometimes direction, keeping a cohesive IT Organization.

Everyone should be pulling in the right direction: The bottom line is, for any company to succeed, it is essential for the entire company to be pulling in the right direction, including IT. First, CXOs (including the CIO) must agree on the business goals and then set up metrics and incentives based on meeting those goals for every individual in the company, including the IT folks. If everyone understands the part they play in achieving the company goals, and they are provided the right kind of incentives, in most part, people will do the right things and metrics/checkpoints can ensure proper management of this. It is not a problem exclusive to IT, it exists between different groups in a company and needs a holistic approach to solve. Setting up a visible and easy to understand goals would help achieve this.

“First seeking to understand then be understood”: There's a natural friction between company executives’ business goals and IT leader’s risk management goals, whereas the other CXO roles tend to be driven by growing the business. But at the end of the day, all CXO roles have their crosses to bear - and most CIOs have the depth of experience to understand the nature of the role when they accept it. The good ones work very hard at investing in a positive relationship with their executive peers by first 'seeking to understand then be understood.' IT is integral to the business. IT and the business need to develop a true partnership and work to pursue the desired outcomes. It cannot deign to step off the line and work autonomously. IT can provide valuable insights and tools and should have the vision to do so. However, in many organizations, IT is a cost center, not a business unit. Often, business departments prefer a solution that is most tailored to their needs; but IT often strives to provide a technology platform that serves all business units for the sake of reduced cost. It's difficult to reconcile these two needs without a great deal of trust and communication.

Classify all projects with an IT element into ‘business’ projects: Set an effective PMO function to enforce management principles and governance discipline. Working together in this way help business and IT understand each other better and also reduce conflict and the rate of failure. When IT and Business are not one team, it is the customer that ultimately will feel the pain of a less than stellar service and will take her or his custom somewhere else. It is vital to understand each other. Bring people together at different layers of the organization. This formed the basis for trust. 
·       Have a common set of incentives related to the stability of IT 
·        --Always take the customer view as the basis of measurement of success of either the run or the project delivery 
·        --Reduce the delivery cycle time to the customer.
·        --Reduce the number of "priority projects" and clearly delineate the really critical ones. That information and focus must be apparent throughout the organization. It aids in removing silo thinking and energizes the organization. 
·      -- Have executive oversight – if any project went to status red the senior executives got involved 

Transparent governance: IT doesn't exist to do everything it is asked. Nor does it exist to implement without business justification. It is there to manage a scarce and expensive resource for the business, doing its best to see that the application of IT brings the best results possible. How this resource allocation is determined should be understood by all. There is typically a significant gap between what the business wants and needs vs. what IT is providing. The result is usually a lot of churns until they get it right. If an IT Department isn't delivering on the promise that a company's investment in IT as a single greatest source of increased productivity, profitability and an enhanced employee and customer experience, then the management team should question it. Of course, management needs to make sure that their commitment includes frequent company-wide training on proper use of the IT infrastructure and services and logic behind GRC measures and other "hassles" the IT Department gets blamed for. IT should also be involved in business strategic and operation conversations on the front end, not after the fact when IT gets told, "Here's what we decided, now you need to figure out how to make it work."

Repeatable success comes when IT and business act from 'IT vs. business' to a true partnership. Business needs to have empathy and complexity mindset to understand IT better, and IT value to the business trumps the latest technology. Learn to listen to the business partner's pain points and develop an approach with the business unit. Only through working seamlessly, business as a whole can achieve high-performance results.

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