Friday, December 9, 2016

CIOs as Chief Inspection Officer: Have you Misread the Business Requirement?

IT and the business must be partners, must be able to speak the same language, finish each other’s sentences, to solve the well-defined business problems.

Digital IT organizations play a crucial role in enabling business growth and building organizational competency. 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. The digital CIO’s mantra is to run IT as a business like a software startup. It is doing its best to see that the application of IT brings the best business results possible. There is no IT project, only business initiative. However, in reality, 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. CIOs as “Chief Inspection Officers”: Have you misread the business requirement and how to clarify it?

There’s the difference between business requirements and IT requirements: IT has to oversee the full set of the business requirements to ensure the cohesiveness and to determine all the customers, users, and stakeholders and obtain their involvement. When it comes to collect the business requirements, IT needs to take the traceability path of where the requirements come from, IT requirements are allocated to IT from the business requirements, and IT requirements need to be functionally structured to serve each functionality the enterprise needs. It is important to clarify where all the functional boundaries are and who is organizationally associated with each requires a specialized generalist with a holistic perspective and ability.  

The top executives who sponsor the initiative and the managers who take charge of implementation are the keys on the requirement readiness checklist: The important participants for IT initiatives are the executive sponsors who are the one at the top to promote the initiative, and they are skilled at defining the business requirements in a business language describing the business goals, customer needs and personas, competitor offers, current product SWOT and all identified opportunities. Also, the tactical managers who are doing the implementation to show the update and result. They are the key to the requirement readiness checklist. Without both, you cannot get over the "responsibility without authority" barrier. The challenge is to ask the right questions and fitting together different components and mapping the business requirement systematically. It’s important to note this may or may not include any reference to technology or solution approaches, but there are the needs to develop a sound IT Management Framework so the senior IT leaders can run the department keeping him/her informed the processes they need to develop. It will also help the sponsors to understand the specific development plan and consideration such as IT roadmap, resource, skill, etc. If all these are done well, and then a walkthrough of the business requirements and identified opportunities can be done as part of the joint assessment and design review to allow IT to begin shaping system/IT requirements.

Transparency is critical to developing a trusting relationship between the business and IT for clarifying business requirement: IT and business alignment is not just about conformity or order taking, it needs to include a close partnership with interpersonal communication and seamless collaboration, to bridge the gaps and avoid the pitfalls such as misreading business requirement or "lost in translation" syndromes. Whatever term you prefer, it is a persistent and pervasive problem that demands an ongoing reviewing process to ensure that IT and business requirement mapping effectively and efficiently together. 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, to truly run IT as the business. The point is how to develop a trust IT-business relationship and improve cross-functional communication, optimize resource allocation, harness partnership, demonstrate ROIs and engage employees.

To improve IT management effectiveness and bridge the gap between IT and business, IT and the business must be partners, speak the same language, must be able to finish each other’s sentences and feel like members of the same team, and also have complementary skills and capabilities to improve business effectiveness and achieve better business result via seamless communication, relentless collaboration and continuous innovation.


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