Friday, July 22, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning XXXXXXXII: From “IT vs Business” to “IT as Business”

The shift from "IT vs. Business" to "IT as Business," is not only possible, but the ‘must have’ prerequisite in building a true digital organization.

Digital means hyperconnectivity and interdependence. However, in most organizations today, the gap between business and IT still exists, and many think it is even enlarged due to the different parts of the company involve changes with different speed. The chasms between business and IT are caused by silo mentality or isolated process, ‘the ownership vs. stewardship’ political dispute or ‘he said, she said’ miscommunication. So in order to run a holistic digital organization, how can businesses close the gap and improve the organizational maturity from “IT vs. Business” to IT as a business?

The trust relationship between business and IT is a two-way street: The cause of most of the conflict is a lack of trust, in both directions. Trust is earned by business and IT working as a whole, head to head and hand in hand. Why isn't there trust? There’re a lot of reasons technically, economically, politically and cognitively. Businesses need to really gain an in-depth understanding of IT, just like IT has to know the business through. However, most of the business stakeholders are tempted to rely much on an estimation matrix than on IT side practice. Sometimes, the business just underestimates the complexity of technology and information management. For examples, problems arise when expertise boundaries are crossed, either way, a business user thinks he/she knows more technically than the IT specialist and imposes his/her "way" on the project and it could be very counter-productive and it can work the other way around. And dig deeper through the symptom described above, the silo mindset is the root cause which causes the problems as following: IT and business do not share the common understanding of the problem, and such misunderstanding leads to ineffective decisions, and consequently, things get so bad, the project fails, and it’s lose-lose situation for both parties, and the company as a whole suffers.The trust also means IT and business work closely to deliver the business solution with optimal speed. The business needs to understand the change and complexity nature of IT, while IT can lead the charge in improving business-IT relations by simply not taking their customer for granted and focusing on customers as if they were in a competitive market.

First seeking to understand then be understood: Typically, 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. For example, there's a natural friction between the 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 knowledge to understand the nature of the role when they accept it. Top executives also need to have the breadth of business acumen to understand the business as a whole and the digital ecosystem, as nowadays, the territories between functions, companies, and industries are blurring, or often converged. Thus, interdisciplinary knowledge and even transdisciplinary insight would help business leaders to both gain insight and work hard at investing in a positive relationship with their executive peers by first 'seeking to understand then be understood.'

The specialized generalists who understand both IT and business are in strong demand: IT and business must rely on each other's strengths and use each other in the most relevant capacity. The cross-functional teams are given the opportunity to work together, not only learning from each other and tackling the issues together, but striving for the same business goal and achieve high expectation. It should start at the strategic level, IT, marketing, finance, HR., etc all have its own subsection of the overall business strategy, and their own capacity to implement the strategy. What is needed are lots more impartial and independent hybrids who can help businesses define a robust and rigorous set of needs, work with IT to deliver the solution and with both parties to ensure the desired outcome happens. Rather than continuing with the "point the finger" culture, intelligent companies should put the capabilities of both IT and Business personnel to work on building integrated business capabilities and achieve strategic goals seamlessly. It is invaluable for both IT and business to know what's going in each other's space and why. IT and business must rely on each other's strengths and use each other in the most relevant capacity, both parties have to understand exactly how each one operates.

IT and the business need to develop a true partnership and work to pursue the desired outcomes. The shift from "IT vs. Business" to "IT as Business," is not only possible, but the ‘must have’ prerequisite in building a true digital organization. It’s a journey with step-wise approach and practices via effective cross-functional communication and collaboration, in order to reap high-performance business benefits.


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