Friday, January 19, 2018

IT-Business Strategic Partnership: Can they Share Glories and Blames all Together

In a high mature organization, business and IT have to work together to achieve their common goals, share the fame and the blame together, and build the long-lasting trustful partnership.

Organizations rely more and more on technology and they become so data-driven and information-intensive, IT needs will only expand. On the other side, some say that the gap between IT and business is actually enlarged because different parts of the company evolve digital with varying speed. From the management perspective, how do you get all stakeholders (IT and non-IT) to encourage the notion that IT and business need to work together to be successful? How do you get non-IT stakeholders to focus on collaboration, transparency, and respect to bridge the divide?

 Further, If IT and business are strategic partners: Can they share the fame and blame altogether, to build the trustful relationship, and achieve higher than the expected business result?

Business executives should change the stereotypical perception of IT as the cost center; and IT leaders should also start changing the mentality of “IT as the controller of the business:
Traditional IT organizations are running inside the box that other departments cannot see it through clearly, and often being perceived as a cost center and back-office support function only. With the increasing pace of changes, IT plays a crucial role in building the backbone of digital business with hyperconnectivity and high-responsiveness, organizations should empower IT to lead changes. Language influences perceptions. IT will be welcomed to the executive table if executives hear the language they understand, the language which is the most beneficial to the top line business result and the company's future. By doing this, IT can change from being perceived as a cost-based transaction department, to a strategic partner of the business. 

In fact, IT becomes so critically, many times, it is a determining success factor for your long-term business strategy to achieve fast growth and long-term sustainability. To change the business perception of IT, IT needs to change its own mentality as a business controller, continue to brainstorm with business leaders about strategic concerns, such as: What are the biggest concerns facing the business today and future? it's important to really listen to top leaders during discussions about strategy development, their top priorities, key business processes, and systems that are well developed and not well developed; what are frictions existing between IT and business; what’re the business’s expectation of IT. From IT leadership perspective, CIOs need to get used to “out of the box” thinking and IT staffs are encouraged to think out of the box and discover the better way to do things. Because nowadays IT plays an important role in interpreting business issues into a technology solution and developing IT-enabled business capabilities.

Not only should IT understand the business, but also non-IT organizations need to understand IT via both formal and informal communication: In many companies, the battles between IT and business are still on, focus on finger-pointing rather than problem-solving. To build a trustful relationship, the CIO has to work with the senior executives to understand the company, the business drivers, long-term objectives, and strategy,  and then ensure that he/she is providing input to support these. They must be able to share the fame and blame altogether, work collectively as a team to co-solve business problems via empathetic communication and coherent collaboration. As “lost in translation” is the key issue to separate IT from the business, it is worth the effort to take better communication approaches. There is a need for formal communications paths for gaining approval, but before that happens, there must be a level of rapport or trust between executives that can only be built through informal communications. A combination of IT briefings and informal conversation helps bring interpersonal communication more effectively. The informal paths are critical in making sure that formal communications aren't misinterpreted. CIOs must learn to speak the business language and business executives must also have the curiosity to gain an understanding of IT, and both parties should become creative and critical in enforcing business and IT communication and collaboration with harmony.

Business needs to be the advocate of IT-driven change or innovation, and IT needs to become the strategic advisor of the digital business: IT sustenance and business innovation are on every CIO's roadmap because the emergent digital technologies and exponential growth of information bring new opportunities for the business growth. CIOs must not preoccupy themselves with operational platforms and process improvements only, the business needs to be the advocate and sponsor of IT-driven change or innovation. IT is business, innovative IT can only happen if IT is regarded as a partner and given the role in catalyzing innovation and driving the business. However, in many organizations with a lower level of business maturity, business and IT work as the silo, fighting for the limited resources or competing for the never-enough budget. To break down old school silos of thoughts, CIOs must have a higher level of influence on businesses changes and innovation. The key rests in getting both IT and non-IT stakeholders to understand what is taking place, what it means to their organization, what the roles must be, and how best to proceed. IT leaders are involved in setting the business strategy and goals of the company, as a strategic business advisor. IT and business have to work closely and provide both business and technical insight into how they bring success to the company as a whole instead of being a support center. IT does not run the show and should not hold up the business and business does not own the goals and own the solution. They need to share the fame and the blame together, to build the long-lasting trustful partnership.

In a high mature organization, business and IT have to work together to achieve their common goals. There are gains and pains on the journey of digitalization. IT management has to become an integral part of business management, running IT as a business advantage and doing more with innovation.


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