A Strategic Alliance is needed…
In the 1970’s, IT or DP (Data Processing) as it was called then, frequently was part of the finance department. Those of us in IT promoted the position that we should view business as “customers” and we (IT) as ”service providers”. In some ways, it helped as most organizations established a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and many now have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) and/or a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). However, I believe this to be a problem in the long run. Why?
Business Analysts and Project Managers are brought into projects after the business has already thought quite a bit about the project – they do the cost benefit analysis and, once approved, they assign a team. That puts IT in the service provider role (order-takers) – simply providing what the “customer” wants. The problem is that the real “customer” is whoever buys the company product, not the business. IT serves the wrong customer. Therefore, the organization loses out because:
- Business doesn’t get input from IT. That input helps with ideas – by enhancing them, expanding them, or enabling them to work.
- IT has many ideas about how to use technology for competitive advantage and the business loses opportunities if IT doesn’t have the chance to bring its own ideas to the table.
- Once a project starts, business often wastes money by going down a path that could have been avoided simply by involving IT from the beginning.
- The relationship between business and IT becomes strained because it remains a “we, they” relationship instead of “us”.
How do we Change this?
Business must involve IT, Business Analysts, Project Managers, and other departments, from the initial germination of the idea to ensure that they are looking at the whole picture. This comes from a holistic approach, System Thinking, i.e., seeing the impact to the overall system. An added benefit is that ideas that help provide a strategic advantage to the business don’t get lost.
Business Analysts and Project Managers should schedule 10- to 30-minute periodic discussions to keep on top of what is happening and how they can participate. IT also must spend time on relationship building by networking and engaging with business.
I recommend that all projects use facilitated workshops to develop scope, schedules, requirements, design, etc., as facilitated workshops produce better results while effectively engaging all.
IT is a strategic partner with business. IT and business need to be on equal footing and work together. Both must be fully engaged in identifying and executing projects. The best way for this to happen is for IT and business to view each other as strategic partners instead of customer/service provider.