Saturday, September 28, 2013

How to Achieve True Business and IT Partnership

The true IT-business partnership is not only possible but the ‘must-have’ in order to build a high-performance organization.

Some say there’s an inherent conflict between business and IT, is it true, why are always so many arguments between business and IT, is it possible to achieve a true partnership between Business and IT? If so, what're the key factors and how to achieve it?

1. Trust is Needed from Both Sides 

There is an inherent conflict if IT views its primary objective as standardization, rationalization, and consolidation, but nowadays at the era of digitalization, IT means innovation, integration, and improvement, etc. Trust is the key, which means IT needs to behave more like an integral part of the business.
  • The cause of most of this conflict is a lack of trust, in both directions: Solve that problem, and a lot of the other problems go away. Why isn't there trust? There’re a lot of reasons technically, economically, politically and cognitively. Once business and IT start talking in more strategic terms that are mutually beneficial, then the trust will come. Trust is earned by business and IT working as a whole, head to head and hand in hand.
  • Trust means how to strike the right balance upon what IT can give up control, and what IT needs to control: The trust between IT and business will enable the business to self-service and do more with the technology, so IT can spend more resources on innovation and come up with even better, more relevant solutions for the business; on the other side, IT shouldn't give up control of governance and risk management, as well as building up a strong long-term relationship with partners to gain purchasing power and dedicated supports. It’s about finding the right balance in order for IT and business aligned as strategic partners.
  • The trust also means IT and business work closely to deliver business solutions with optimal speed. Business gets frustrated about the speed of IT because they can see the ease of delivery and use of easily accessible solutions that fit some of their business needs, they see how far technology has advanced, they see the ease with which new sites and services are deployed on-demand, and then they sit around a table with their internal IT service providers and suddenly everything is impossible because business is being too demanding; IT may also need to educate business upon the complexity of IT integration, governance & risk & compliance management issues, to not allow ‘shadow IT’ put their organizations at risk for the long period of time. 

2. Transparency is the Key 

Transparency is critical to developing a trusting relationship between the business and IT: IT leadership must increase and demonstrate its level of understanding of their organization's business and strategy. This will lead to greater respect and trust from the business leaders. On the other hand, more often than not, information and technology become creative disrupter to business growth and industry evolution, business leaders cross-functionally should stay on the same page when sharpening business strategy and sharing information, the overall business transparency will enable effective communication and build trust.

The key is to engage at the right level and about the right things: It should start at the strategic level, IT, marketing, finance, HR., etc all have its own subsection of the overall business strategy. 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.

3. IT Focuses on Innovation, Integration, and Improvement  

IT should be more integration focused rather than re-inventing the wheel with most custom development that takes place: IT can no longer feel like it has a monopoly on delivering solutions to the business. With the vendors offering cloud and hosted solutions that businesses can utilize directly with almost no IT support, IT should feel competitive pressure. It can drive IT to run more like business as well as understand the business strategies more comprehensively. It can become an internal cloud broker to orchestrate business solutions more smoothly. 
  • Practice design thinking and simplicity principle: It also sometimes seems as if IT has a different agenda than that of its end users. When IT delivers business needed custom developments, there is always extensive training required because so little thought goes into the ergonomics of the design, or the simplicity of the interface, give the business a choice, and IT will have to focus on doing things more collaboratively and more competitively. 
  • At the higher level of maturity, IT is the innovation engine of the business: IT is not limiting the business’s creativity, but encouraging out of the box thinking as well as systematic solutions. IT can improve every critical process of business, as well as digitalize the touchpoint of customer experience, the true IT-business partner relationship can move both business and IT forward, and deliver high-performance results.
Therefore, the true IT-business partnership is not only possible but the ‘must-have’ trait in order to build a high-performance organization. It’s a journey, 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. From alignment to engagement, IT and business can be truly integrated and deliver the optimal business performance.


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